Towards Equitable Achievement: Helping Students Become Experts In Your Course

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session Equity and Inclusion

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Brief Abstract

As companies increasingly value competence over credentials, institutes of higher education must ensure achievement for all students. This discussion will help participants: a) define equitable achievement, b) explain the relationship between equitable achievement and expertise, and c) describe the role of instructors in supporting equitable achievement in their classes.

Extended Abstract

We are in the midst of disruption.

Major companies, such as Google and Starbucks, that once required college degrees are now favoring competence over credentials (Forbes, 2017).

Demand was already shifting for higher education (Grawe, 2018), but at the tailwind of the COVID-19 pandemic's interruption of higher education, prospective students (and their parents/guardians) are increasingly questioning the value of traditional 4-year degrees.

Forces from both within higher education--cheaper and faster degree alternatives from reputable institutions--and outside it--widely accessible and insanely affordable job-ready certificate programs--are exerting often ignored but ultimately unstoppable forces and trends that will "snowball as more and more talented and motivated Millennials and Gen Z-ers opt out of a system that is unnecessarily lengthy and costly" (Craig, 2018).

The implications of these changes are many. But one specific area of concern--an area that institutes of higher education can lean into and leverage--is achievement.

Not that it was ever a preferable approach, but give the challenges to its core value proposition, institutes of higher education can no longer rely on a model that sorts students based on perceived aptitude determined by problematic assessments. That is, for their students and for the marketplace that might hire them, it is woefully insufficient for institutes of higher education to distribute grades from Cs to As as students matriculate through a curriculum and then ultimately to award them the same degree at the end--a degree representing a comprehensive?, majority?, partial?, limited? ability to demonstrate competence at any individual skill to say nothing of the curriculum as a whole.

What internal and external market forces are showing is that credentials count for something, but competency can count for a whole lot more. And what this means for institutes of higher education is that they need to focus on ensuring that all their students are able to demonstrate competence at all the skills the curriculum sets forth to develop.

And, what this means at a very fundamental level, is that institutes of higher education must retrain their focus on equitable achievement.

In this interactive conversation--where participants will share ideas, opinions, and experiences using a responsive discussion platform to help identify key themes and summarize emerging ideas--we will explore: a) what it means to aim for equitable achievement; b) how thinking about education through a lens of equitable achievement can help us understand more clearly our role as educators as helping students become experts in our courses, the curriculum, and eventually their field of study; and c) some practical strategies we can use to begin shifting our courses to support equitable achievement.