FIRE has a source document on its website from the University of Delaware Office of Residence Life. The report is titled “Report #1 on Strategic Change ‘Assessment and Information Sharing’”. Of course, it’s possible FIRE fabricated or edited the document, but I think the university would have pointed that out in its response. Anyways, this is from the document. Apologies for the weird format. It’s a cut and paste from the PDF.
[quote]Our educational priority of citizenship has held firm and shows the capacity to remain
fairly stable over the long-haul. The competencies and complex-based learning objectives
have been another matter altogether. As the competencies are updated, they will play a
heavy role in directing assessment efforts. In fact, we have received a good deal of
feedback that our existing list of 12 competencies is too large and unwieldy, minimizing
effectiveness. It is expected that further clarification and reduction strategies will be fully
underway in Fall 07. The focused goal of assessment will be to improve our ability to
educate students on the competencies we have identified as crucial elements towards
achieving the citizenship outcome. Quality assessment will not wait until we are
completely confident in our competency chart. Quality assessment however will help us
achieve improvements in our chart.
Our centering on student learning is expressed through the competencies. Our
benchmarks and our conclusive assertions (did we accomplish what we set out to
accomplish) are to be exclusively based on measures of individual competencies, with a
“bottom line” examination of “Learn the skills necessary to be a change agent,” and
“Demonstrate civic engagement toward the development of sustainable society.” In terms
of keeping score, it’s all about the competencies and progress toward the final two
competencies on the chart is what we are seeking. Student progress or lack of progress on
the competencies as we have defined them determines whether or not we are successful as
a department. This view categorizes assessment centered on competency-based student
learning as summative and as something distinct from improvement oriented or action
Some significant challenges await us in our efforts to measure success based on student
learning. Much of the literature rightly critiques the use of surrogate or self-reports on
learning gains. Our expertise in more advanced assessment techniques such as use of preestablished
rubrics for use in observation research, testing, narrative story writing,
portfolios, contributions tracking, “sociograms,” problem solving angles and
considerations test, performance, etc. will need to be developed. An unfortunate reality is
that with our steep learning curve needs, we also have a few things to unlearn. Most of us
have practical experience designing surveys, focus groups, and interviews. We must
acknowledge that our experience in designing and implementing these tools was
primarily focused on gathering student satisfaction indicators and essentially conducting
opinion polls. Measuring student learning requires not only new levels of knowledge and
sophistication, but a new platform as well.
In summary, we need two frames of assessment. The action research frame, to be housed
primarily within the Complex Coordinator’s efforts, is well suited to examine lesson
plans, moments of learning, staff and student culture and perspectives, and
training/selection strategies. The summative frame, used to make generalizations and
predictions, as well as to examine the validity of assertions is best suited for examining
the specific competencies and will be utilized heavily by the Residence Life Research
Our “demonstrate civic engagement toward the development of a sustainable society”
competency is considered to be our top attainment. As such, the study or studies designed
to measure this will act as both a point of reference and an anchor to other assessment
efforts. We designate it on our chart as a “senior year” competency, which is somewhat
of a misnomer given our relatively few numbers of seniors living on campus. The
designation is more a testing than treatment point. A (as yet untested) premise is that the
foundational reflections we stimulate in the first two years will act in concert with
academic and other out-of-class experiences to realize this competency. The design of the
civic engagement competency study must also consider all relevant content goals, the
development of which will be one of our upcoming significant challenges. When
assessment is taken in totality, our other competencies, as well as their related learning
goals and lesson plans must be considered building blocks to the eventual civic
engagement competency. Thus the civic engagement analysis must be considered in all
other designs, and this analysis will also inform our progress on the steps.[/quote]
The 12 competencies, as they currently stand, are listed at the bottom of the document as follows. Note that an earlier part of the document (bolded above) recognizes critiques that these 12 competencies are perhaps too numerous.
[quote][b]1. Understand how your social identities affect how you view others.
A. Each student will understand their social identities which are salient in their
B. Each student will be able to express an understanding of how their social
identities influence their views of others.
- Understand how differences in equity impact our society.
A. Each student will learn about the forms of oppression that are linked with
social identity groups.
B. Each student will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society
C. Each student will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression.[/b]
- Understand your congruence with citizenship values:
-Human suffering matters.
-My actions have a global impact.
-What I do and don’t do civically and politically matters.
-Social problems are everyone’s responsibility.
Understand how others influence you.
Understand the impact of your decisions.
Understand the power of an individual in a community.
A. Each student will know how to critically examine their individual contributions
to groups to which they claim membership.
B. Each student will learn how to contribute to the creation and actualization of
[b]7. Understand the knowledge necessary for the development of a sustainable society.
A. Each student will be able to define sustainability.
B. Each student will be able to explain how sustainability relates to their lives and
their values, and how their actions impact issues of sustainability.
C. Each student will be able to explain how systems are interrelated.
- Learn how to connect personal passions to vocational options in order to be able to
contribute to a sustainable society.[/b]
A. Each student will know the resources and the skills needed to pursue their
- Learn how to develop and sustain interdependent relationships.
A. Each student will learn how to develop a peer group that is supportive of their
personal and academic success.
B. Each student will recognize the benefits of relationships with people of other
[b]10. Learn to contribute to the creation and maintenance of a sustainable community.
A. Each student will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change
their daily habits and consumer mentality.[/b]
- Learn the skills necessary to be a change agent.
12. Demonstrate civic engagement toward the development of a sustainable society.[/quote]
I think the bold parts are the most controversial, especially number (2), which could be interpreted as Marxist. The “sustainable society” bit is also suspicious. In general, I don’t have a problem with universities teaching students to create a sustainable society. Better than an unsustainable society, right? But one suspects the lessons might be politically rather than scientifically driven. Will all RAs be qualified to discuss the environment? What if the student disagrees with the RA’s stance on the environment? How about if the student disagrees with the RA’s views on societal oppression? The impact of social identity?
I did some checking around the FIRE website, and they do quote their sources, and provide links to either source documents they have saved to their own server, or directly link to the University of Delaware website. If you want to learn more about the competencies surrounding social identity, oppression, and sustainability, click here. From the oppression document:
[quote]Citizens capable of contributing to the development of a sustainable society must
first develop empathy. This empathy will be developed through an advanced
awareness of oppression and inequity that exists at a local and national level.
Students will become aware of inequities, examine why these inequities exist,
understand the concept of institutionalized privilege, and recognize systematize d
oppression (e.g. individual, institutional, and societal). Students will also examine
forms of oppression related to specific social identities (e.g. race, ethnicity,
gender, sexual identity, SES, religion, and age) and will recognize the benefits of
dismantling systems that support this oppression. By having this knowledge,
students can then learn how to change these systems and other systems which
impact equity of resources.[/quote]
FIRE quotes the Dickinson Complex to prove the program in mandatory, noting the language of “students will” etc. Those quotes appear to be accurate. From the university’s website:
If you look around the websites, it’s easy to see why students (and RAs) would get the impression this program is mandatory. In fact I couldn’t find anywhere except the university’s official response to FIRE to indicate that the program is anything but mandatory.