NOVA's Core Learning Outcomes
- Civic Engagement
- Critical Thinking
- Professional Readiness
- Quantitative Literacy
- Scientific Literacy
- Written Communication
5,399 NOVA students participated in the 2018-2019 assessment of Civic Engagement. 3,635 students were assessed in 100-level courses while 1,764 students were assessed in 200-level courses. At the 200-level, 73.6% of students met or exceeded the set target scores while the 26.3% did not meet the set target scores. NOVA assessed civic engagement primarily as civic knowledge, civic responsibility, ethical reasoning and integrity, community diversity, and social justice.
Civic Engagement is a core competency for all public colleges and universities in Virginia, including NOVA. Belonging to a community is a central human need. Being engaged in your community means contributing at the local, national, and/or global scale. Civic Engagement demands an awareness of important events and debates related to your community at all levels (local, national, and global). Engaged individuals contribute to the civic life and well-being of their diverse communities. The following are aspects of Civic Engagement:1
Civic Perspective: Reflecting on and understanding one’s perspective and how it differs from others in the community helps us figure out how we fit into our community.
Civic Knowledge: Understanding the fundamental principles and debates concerning government, democracy, and citizenship at local, national, and global levels.
Civic Discourse: Discussing current concerns with community members to come to an agreement/position or determine a course of action.
Diversity in Civic Life: Recognizing that diversity is a key element in civic life due to the various feelings, perspectives, and life experiences that shape who we are and how we think.
Ethical Reasoning: Examining the ethical implications of community and civic actions and decisions.
Civic Responsibility: Considering and responding to civic, social, environmental, or economic challenges at all levels (local, national, or global).
Social Justice: Identifying personal and collective actions that could be taken to address injustices in society.
Assessment of Civic Engagement
4,603 NOVA students participated in the 2017-2018 assessment of critical thinking. 3,137 students were assessed in 100-level courses while 1,466 students were assessed in 200-level courses. At the 200-level, 76.2% of students met or exceeded their target scores while 3.2% partially met, and 20.5% did not meet their target scores.
As a Core Learning Outcome, NOVA encourages critical thinking and self-awareness. Critical thinkers gather relevant information, ideas, and arguments in order to make sense of complex issues and solve problems. To embrace critical thinking, a person must develop their analytical skills, have a sense of creativity, be open-minded, and solve problems. Critical thinkers possess:
Analytical Behaviors: Critical thinkers ask thoughtful questions and carefully examine information and data to reach well-researched conclusions.
Creativity: Creative thinking allows us to make abstract connections: synthesizing and conceptualizing information, making inferences, and predicting outcomes.
Open-Mindedness: Individuals who are open-minded reserve judgment and analyze information using reason, rather than relying on preconceived ideas. They embrace cultural differences and a variety of perspectives from a wide range of people, avoiding ageism, sexism, homophobia, racism, etc.
Problem Solving: Problem solvers analyze a concern, generate and implement a solution, and assess the success of the action. Problem-solving is considered crucial to critical thinking because it involves systematically viewing information and coming up with a practical solution.
Assessment of Critical Thinking
Professional Readiness is a Core Learning Outcome for all Virginia Community Colleges. At NOVA, we seek to prepare students for the next step in their life plan—whether it is joining the workforce or transferring to a four-year institution. “Soft skills” are traits and behaviors that guide interpersonal relationships in the workplace and college environment. Below are soft skills that are outcomes or components of Professional Readiness:
Oral Communication: Persons possessing effective oral communication skills share ideas and express opinions effectively on a team, one-on-one, and during a presentation.
Digital Technology: Individuals with skills in digital technology adapt to new and emerging trends to create effective digital projects.
Teamwork: Maintaining constructive interpersonal relationships is essential to working effectively in groups or teams. This entails negotiating and managing interpersonal conflict among team members with diverse perspectives.
Ethical Reasoning: Ethical reasoning requires people to assess their own and others’ values and behaviors inside a given social context, think about how diverse perspectives may be applied to those settings, and consider the ramifications of alternative actions.
Leadership: Leadership skills entail three essential abilities:
- Effective interpersonal skills to coach and develop others’ professional skills and utilize the strengths of others to achieve common goals.
- Emotional intelligence, which is the ability to assess and manage one’s emotions in order to guide and motivate others.
- Effective management skills to organize, prioritize, and delegate work.
Cultural Awareness/Sensitivity: Cultural awareness allows people to recognize the implicit norms and rules of their society which in turn allows them to understand that differences in behaviors stem from differences in culture.” Cultural Sensitivity also involves the ability to value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures and groups (e.g., age, gender, race).
Assessment of Professional Readiness
1,880 NOVA students participated in the 2017-2018 assessment of quantitative literacy. At the 200-level, 67.3% of students met or exceeded their target, while 13.8% partially met their target, and 18.8% did not meet their target.
Individuals possessing quantitative literacy perform accurate calculations, interpret quantitative information, apply and analyze relevant numerical data, and use the results to support conclusions. It entails familiarity with research methods used to gather and analyze data so that an individual can assess the validity of data using a critical eye. The following are components of quantitative literacy:
Confidence with Mathematics: Individuals who are quantitatively confident routinely use mental estimates to quantify, interpret, and check other information.
Interpreting Data: Reading graphs and figures, drawing inferences, recognizing sources of error, and presenting data in clear and useful ways.
Making Decisions: Using mathematics to make decisions and solve problems in everyday life. For individuals who have acquired this habit, mathematics is not something done only in mathematics class but in the real world.
Number Sense: Having an understanding about the meaning of numbers, confidence in estimation, and common sense in employing numbers as a measure.
Prerequisite Knowledge: Having the ability to use a wide range of algebraic, geometric, and statistical tools that are required in many fields of postsecondary education.
Symbol Sense: Being comfortable using algebraic symbols and reading and interpreting them and applying the appropriate order or operations.
Assessment of Quantitative Literacy
Persons demonstrating scientific literacy apply the scientific method and related concepts and principles to make informed decisions and engage with issues related to the natural, physical and social world. Additionally, students grasp scientific content, understand science as a way of knowing, and conduct scientific inquiry based on pre-existing knowledge. It is not just knowing scientific facts; it is understanding how science works and we can apply scientific facts and processes into everyday decision-making.
The National Research Council (1996)2 breaks down scientific literacy into five components:
- Knowledge of scientific facts, concepts, principles, and theories.
- Ability to apply relevant knowledge in everyday life.
- Ability to utilize the processes of scientific inquiry.
- An understanding of general ideas about the characteristics of science and important interactions of science, technology, and society.
- The possession of informed attitudes and interests related to science.
Individuals display their scientific literacy in different ways, such as appropriately using technical terms or applying scientific concepts and processes. Individuals often have differences in scientific literacy in different domains, such as more understanding of life-science concepts and less understanding of physical-science concepts.
2 The following information comes from: Ogunkola, B. “Scientific Literacy: Conceptual Overview, Importance and Strategies for Improvement.” Journal of Educational and Social Research, 3 (2013).
Assessment of Scientific Literacy
4,801 NOVA students participated in the 2018-2019 assessment of written communication. 3,860 students were assessed in 100-level courses while 941 students were assessed in 200-level courses. At the 200-level, 70% of students met or exceeded their target, while 8% partially met and 21.8% of students did not meet their targets. NOVA assessed written communication primarily as explanation and description, supporting material, organization and structure, writing mechanics, conceptual understanding, analysis/interpreting, and tone.
People who possess written communication skills can effectively develop, convey, and exchange ideas in writing, as appropriate to a given audience and context. There are four main components to effective written communication3:
Central Idea: Good writing involves constructing a clear, manageable idea, argument or thesis. From a clear central idea or purpose, an individual can then develop subordinate ideas that support and reinforce the main idea.
Organization: Good organization is both logical and sequential. It keeps the reader oriented to the central and subordinate ideas. It guides the reader between divisions of the material. Well-organized writing has an introduction to orient the reader to the central idea, clearly defined supporting ideas, transitions to divide each idea, and a conclusion that summarizes the argument, central idea, and “ties everything together.”
Supporting Material: Effective supporting material includes examples that are CRISP (Credible, Relevant, Informative, and Specific). Explanations, examples, statistics, and quotations should reinforce the main idea, answering the “how” and “why” of the main argument and make the ideas and information presented meaningful and memorable for the reader.
Tone, Perspective, and Wording: Effective written communication uses language that is clear, specific, accurate, and appropriate to the audience, purpose, and material. Individuals who use variety in both sentence structure and length exhibit fluency in writing and maintain the attention of the reader. This includes correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.