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A Competency-Based Extracurricular Program

Taking education outside the classroom to develop skills in teaching, cultural awareness, leadership and social networking.

Photo of Naman Mandhan
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This idea aims to expand students' learning to include core competencies that could prove to be successful in their future careers. The goal is to have students supplement their academic learning with a semi-structured program that leverages systems already in place at universities.

At the start of their freshman year, students would be given the option to enroll in a four-year, competency-based extra-curricular program. At the start of their second semester, students will take the Gallup CliftonStrengths™ assessment to help them realize their strengths. They will then be paired with a certified coach, who is also a current faculty member of the college/university, to serve as an advisor for the students throughout the length of the program. In addition, students will also be paired with an alum of the university. The faculty member and alum will both serve as mentors with responsibilities for keeping the student on track.

Starting in their Sophomore year, students will develop four competencies each semester and be evaluated on their progress through a "Competency GPA".

Learning for Teaching

  • In their Junior and Senior years, students will pick a course to serve as teaching assistants/peer tutors for.
  • These courses will be core courses that students have an extended interest in and have concepts that students can apply in their future jobs.
  • Goal: Students are likely to learn the material better when tasked with teaching it. Working with a faculty member to develop the course content will also help build an important relationship with someone who has been in the field for a long time.
  • Role of Mentor (Faculty): Meet with students periodically to help them develop learning plans and strategies.

Cultural Awareness

  • Students would take a course focused on culture and also attend a x number of cultural events per semester.
  • Goal: Expose students to cultural diversity to help them develop skills for working with a diverse group of people in their future careers.
  • Role of Mentor (Faculty): Responsible for attending cultural events with students.

Leadership Development

  • At the start of the program, students pick 1-3 student organizations that they would like to be a part of, based on their interests as well as the advise given to them by their advisors.
  • Through the length of the program, students try to move up the ladder of leadership within their organization.
  • Goal: Give students a sense of responsibility and leadership outside the realm of academics, and help them make connections with students across a wide range of majors.
  • Role of Mentor (Alum): Implement a leadership project with the student. For example, this could be creating and executing an event, or leading a team of students to a mission trip.

Social Skills

  • Students will take a Sociology/Psychology class or one focused on developing social skills.
  • They would also be responsible for attending networking events and/or career fairs to broaden their network.
  • In addition, throughout the length of the program, students will be grouped into "communities" of students with similar goals, strengths and interests, to create a core group of students with common paths.
  • Goal: Help students develop a network as well as their "soft skills" that are invaluable within a workplace.
  • Role of Mentor (Alum): Work with other mentors to organize networking events for students.

In addition to the roles described above, the mentors will also be responsible for maintaining the Competency GPA for the students, which could be used by future employers as a tool for evaluating students' non-academic skills.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

This idea is designed for undergraduate students in a college/university. While this idea may be focused on industry jobs, it could also serve as a valuable tool for those looking to go into academia. It presents a model that provides a more holistic approach to learning, while keeping students accountable for their progress.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Educators: Do you think that the competencies highlighted in this idea are relevant to a more holistic approach to education? If not, what are some other areas that would be important to develop students in?

Students: Would you potentially participate in a program like this? What would be your concerns?

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

1. A good start will be to pitch this idea to my mentor who inspired this idea, and gain feedback.

2. Interview Freshman in college and develop a rough framework for courses and leadership positions they can participate in to meet these competency requirements.

Tell us about your work experience:

I recently graduated with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus in decision-making, human-centered design, economic theory and additive manufacturing. I am currently a Design Engineer at an automotive company and a part of the OpenIDEO Detroit chapter.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sarah Saxton-Frump

This is really interesting! I can imagine this being a great way to engage students who want to try new things and develop these skills, but maybe aren't sure how to do it on their own.

As an educator, one thing I'd suggest is determining how you could measure a student's competency at any on of these skills. You've designed some really interesting, thoughtful and engaging activities for students and faculty to participate in - and the next step is getting really clear on how you'd actually KNOW that a student had developed the skills you mention. Portfolios could be an interesting strategy to look at.

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Hi Sarah!

Thank you for your kind words and insights. It's definitely gotten my mind racing.

I think that my idea of measuring a student's competency would be through an application of their skills in projects for each competency. For example, the Learning for Teaching competency could look at how well their students performed relative to the class in past year and evaluations from their supervisor. The Leadership Development competency could be an evaluation based on project-based metrics. For example, if I was leading a project to increase the participation of students at an event, I could track how many students attended, how many of those stayed until the end, through how many different avenues they heard about the event, how many questions were asked at the event, etc.

Portfolios would be another great way for student to showcase these projects, and having mentors in the form of a faculty member and industry professional could help students get feedback on and an evaluation of how well they subjectively performed.

What are your thoughts?

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