Discussing the theoretical value of authentic assessments is one thing; proving its efficacy in real-world scenarios is another. And that’s precisely what Credo Education, in partnership with Authess, has started to do.
Credo Education is a small, Boston-based company with big aspirations: to change the way higher education institutions prepare students for the workplace. They do so by selling foundational skills instruction and assessment solutions to those institutions. This summer, Credo will pilot a study using Authess’ authentic assessments to track and evaluate the skills development of 45 interns from various companies. These companies belong to sectors including educational technology, data and technology, digital media, and accounting and consulting. The real value of this pilot study will be revealed when foundational skills teaching and assessment is proven to be relevant across a wide range of sectors.
The Pilot Study
The process is straightforward. At the beginning of the summer, interns and their managers attend a 1-hour-long orientation. The interns then take a foundational skills-test on the Authess platform and their performance is assessed on a baseline (established by other employees) before their internships begin. The Authess assessment evaluates real-world problem-solving skills, critical thinking, reading comprehension, communication, and organization. Over the course of approximately 8 weeks, interns go through the foundational skills program for an hour a week in addition to their internship tasks. At the end of the internship, the intern is assessed once again on the Authess platform to measure progress relative to their initial assessment, and a survey by both interns and managers is carried out. Credo then delivers a full report to employers.
Evaluating Foundational Skills
What are foundational skills and why do they matter? According to the National Foundation Skills Strategy Project, they are “employability skills, such as collaboration, problem solving, self-management, learning and information and communication technology (ICT) skills required for participation in modern workplaces and contemporary life.” Other examples of foundational skills include the ability to work in a team, to communicate professionally (both verbally and in writing), and to critically evaluate evidence. Time and time again, employers state how important these skills are, but for which many colleges fail to prepare their students. Most importantly for employees and employers, foundational skills are portable: they can be transferred from company to company and role to role. Employees with these skills are much more desirable to employers than those with purely hard skills (the skills specifically required to do a particular job, like knowing how to write CSS code, or speaking French). And just like hard skills, foundational skills can be learned.
Interns taking part in the study will learn these foundational skills throughout their 8-week internship and incrementally start applying them in the workplace. Interns who integrate the hard skills they learn in classes with the foundational skills they learn in the Credo coursework will have the best chance of success in real-world scenarios.
Benefits to Employers
The employers taking part in the study have much to gain from these authentic assessments. The obvious benefit is that their interns develop foundational skills much faster. A whopping 93% of employers surveyed by Hart Research Associates agree that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.” But in addition to having more qualified interns, employers receive quantitative reports from Credo on the interns’ performance before deciding which interns they plan to offer full-time positions to. Because the students are responsible for their own foundational skills learning throughout their internships, employers are not required to devote time and effort to teaching them these valuable skills.
Benefits for Interns
Naturally, the interns taking part in the study will also benefit greatly from the experience. Interns will finish their internships significantly more career-ready than they were two short months before – and they do not have to pay for this additional experience. Interns will receive a progress report on different areas of growth and be able to compare their performance with that of other participants in other companies. The certificate of completion they receive will serve as an added achievement on their resumes.
One of the greatest benefits of Authess’ authentic assessments is that they serve to identify and develop crucial foundational skills, which are transferable to any undertaking. It is precisely because they are transferable that results are expected to remain repeatable, regardless of industry sector. This pilot study will be completed by the end of summer 2017 with published results to follow. It will be interesting to evaluate the impact these authentic assessments will have on interns’ foundational skills development, and learn more about the value employers stand to gain.