WASC Senior Five Core Competencies

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission in their penultimate draft of the 2013 Accreditation handbook notes that "... programs must: "ensure the development of [five] core competencies including, but not limited to, written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, and critical thinking" (page 28). WASC Senior refers to the five areas as "a major component of the [accreditation] redesign..."  WASC Senior notes that "...institutions will be expected to demonstrate that their graduates have achieved the institution's stated level of proficiency at least in the following five areas: written and oral communication, quantitative skills, critical thinking and information literacy." WASC Senior is now holding workshops and retreats that focus on the five competencies.

The upcoming revision of the WASC Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges standards will likely integrate the five competencies concept into the revised standards. WASC Vice President Barbara Wright has already written an article that argues the "big five" apply to all levels of education.

To the extent that the ILOs at COM-FSM  reflect the five competencies, COM-FSM will be future aligned. I bring this up because a careful reading of the recently approved seven ILOs I was given do not actually specifically include quantitative reasoning.* One might infer quantitative reasoning occurs under one of the seven, but all seven could be fulfilled without quantitative reasoning.

There is a retreat on the quantitative reasoning competency in October. I wish that a college representative could be there, but the two year college are unwanted by WASC Senior at that conference, "This workshop is designed for 4 year colleges and universities; it is not recommended for 2 year institutions." That is, for me personally, the difficulty I have with the WASC structure, a structure that the USDOE has deemed to be dual regional accreditors. Separate is never equal. I find this a form of institionalism, if you will, exclusionism, and not in the best interest of the students the western association serves. WASC has long argued that their dual structure protects the unique identity of two-year institutions, but this is paternalistic. Elsewhere in the United States two-year institutions thrive and grow, the presence of a single regional accreditor is not harmful to their identities. Were the two year institutions permitted to attend, they too would get a head start on the five "big" core competencies that many would agree a college graduate should possess.

*A. Effective oral communication: capacity to deliver prepared, purposeful presentations designed to increase knowledge, to foster understanding, or to promote change in the listeners’ attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors.
B. Effective written communication: development and expression of ideas in writing through work in many genres and styles, utilizing different writing technologies, and mixing texts, data, and images through iterative experiences across the curriculum.
C. Critical thinking: a habit of mind characterized by the comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion.
D. Problem solving: capacity to design, evaluate, and implement a strategy to answer an open-ended question or achieve a desired goal.
E. Intercultural knowledge and competence: a set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts.
F. Information literacy: the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively and responsibly use and share that information for the problem at hand.
G. Foundations and skills for life-long learning: purposeful learning activity, undertaken on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving knowledge, skills, and competence.

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