Foundational Skills Innovation Spotlight: Davidson County Community College

In this series, we will highlight exceptional responses we’ve seen on the part of higher education institutions to the many challenges endemic to America’s foundational skills crisis. We’ve interviewed dozens of provosts and chief academic officers as part of our research into this area, and these are some of the most noteworthy practices we’ve come across.

Our first profile looks at Davidson County Community College, where administrators developed program-embedded rubrics in an innovative effort to support skill progression.

Key Player: Margaret Annunziata, Vice President of Academic Affairs

Dr. Annunziata has built a campus-wide approach for more consistently measuring key foundational and workforce skills. She joined the staff of DCCC in 1997, and before taking the role of Vice President of Academic Affairs, held a number of different positions. She has served as the Director of Student Success Initiatives & Institutional Assessment, professor of Teacher Education, coordinator of continuing education programs, and director of the campus Child Development Center.

The Challenge: How to Develop Foundational Skills Beyond Gen Ed

As part of DCCC’s most recent accreditation review, the campus needed to develop a consistent way of measuring and reporting on key General Education skills like written and oral communication, critical thinking, information literacy, and global interdependence. Additionally, their goal of preparing students for the world of work meant carrying these skills beyond Gen Ed, and into their program courses. The team needed a way to connect Gen Ed to program learning, and to hold faculty accountable for offering “skill refreshers” around these areas so integral to career success.

The Innovation: Using Rubrics to Consistently Align Instruction and Assessment

To create a more consistent pathway for career skills development, Dr. Annunziata and her team asked faculty in each program to identify both first and second year courses where critical thinking, information literacy, communication, and other key career skills would be explicitly taught. It was imperative that as students progressed, the expression for each skill area also deepened. To best align instruction and assessment, the team built a series of common rubrics by skill area with the campus Learning Management System (LMS).

The common rubrics helped create a more consistent understanding of learning and teaching requirements across faculty in different disciplines, Gen Ed, and program courses. It also helped track student skill developments and identify strengths and gaps. Having addressed consistency and skill progression, Dr. Annunziata and her team are now looking for ways to structure the LMS-based workflow to better pull and analyze data in a more meaningful way.