Accreditation standards are the biggest reason for increased assessment for graduate and professional programs. Regional accreditation includes assessments for all programs, including graduate and professional, but the primary focus has been on undergraduate programs. Disciplinary accreditation is more focused on assessment for graduate and professional programs, and the emphasis on outcomes assessment varies depending on the accrediting organization.
Graduate and professional programs use a variety of assessment frameworks and methods unique to each discipline. The assessments are not standardized across disciplines, and there are no minimum competencies or learning outcomes expected of graduate and professional students. There is also a lack of communication about the achievement of basic competencies for each program or profession. These factors make it very difficult to develop interprofessional competencies between programs.
Public scrutiny of higher education has increased because of the rise in student debt and the decline in employment outcomes due to the economy. New assessment methods will need to be used to justify the value of a graduate or professional degree.
In addition to the focus on accountability, health professions have a growing concern to measure entrustable professional activities (EPAs). EPAs are tasks that a trainee can perform once they attain adequate knowledge and competency so that trainees can carry out the tasks without supervision. EPAs include knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students progressively achieve. Many medical, dental, and pharmacy programs are using EPAs to assess learning outcomes. While EPAs are not currently part of the required accreditation standards, they will likely be required in the future as part of the accreditation process.
Medical, pharmacy, and dental education were some of the first programs that required specific standards and benchmarks to be met for accreditation purposes. Current assessment methods for these professional programs also include competency assessment beyond accreditation to include problem-based learning to assess critical thinking. Gleason et al. (2013) used the VALUE rubric to assess a doctor of pharmacy program. The study found this rubric to effectively assess student growth and achievement in critical thinking and problem-solving.
Graduate and professional programs can become more culturally responsive by integrating real-world experiences that involve people from different cultures and backgrounds into their curriculum and assessment process. For example, understanding different cultures and communicating with patients from different backgrounds and cultures is essential for anyone in a medical profession. The assessment process should include students’ ability to understand other cultures and backgrounds, recognize and address any inherent personal bias, and communicate with diverse populations. As described in the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (2016), establishing core competencies for interprofessional collaboration creates a taxonomy that health profession schools can share to guide curriculum development.
Association of American Colleges & Universities. (n.d.) Global learning VALUE
Gleason, B. L., Gaebelein, C. J., Grice, G. R., Crannage, A. J., Weck, M. A., Hurd, P., Walter, B., & Duncan, W. (2013). Assessment of students' critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities across a 6-year doctor of pharmacy program. (Links to an external site.) American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 77(8), 166.
Hundley, S. and Kahn, S. (2019). Trends in assessment: Ideas, opportunities, and issues for
higher education. Stylus. Sterling, VA.
Interprofessional Education Collaborative. (2016). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice: 2016 update (PDF). (Links to an external site.)Washington, DC: Interprofessional Education Collaborative.
I am a higher education administrator with over 15 years of experience in communications and operations. The views in my blog are my own.