The 3 Pillars of a Successful Foundational Skills Development Strategy

Addressing the foundational skills crisis is one of the great challenges for higher education today. While the evidence of the skills gap is overwhelming, and while educators’ belief in critical thinking is sincere, many institutions have struggled to implement successful foundation skills development programs. In interviews with 50+ academic leaders, we learned that the most common barriers included low faculty skill levels in teaching foundational skills (and time constraints), lack of technology for achieving consistent learning measurement and insight, and a lack of student buy-in to the value of such skills. Our research shows that any successful program will depend on 3 Pillars: consistent measurement, faculty/staff activation, and student intentionality.

    1. Consistent measurement:  Without this, it is nearly impossible to provide the insights needed by faculty to improve their instruction and by students to intentionally improve their learning. Such workflows can include shared rubrics adapted across learning environments, shared foundational skills language and vocabulary, and technology that can automate consistent data capture, reporting, and insights.
    2. Faculty activation: Only 33% of colleges require professional development for faculty in support of their understanding and instruction around foundational skills. Our recent spotlight of Lawrence Technological University’s faculty development program is a great starting point to see how faculty development and buy-in can be achieved.
    3. Student intentionality: Make use of all learning experiences to develop foundational skills, and support an employer-facing narrative to explain to students how to utilize these skills. Only about 40% of campuses have dedicated courses or learning experiences in the freshman year that teach students the value of foundational skills to college, career, and life success, so there is plenty of opportunity for growth in this area.

Learn more about the root causes of the crisis and what innovative institutions are doing to correct it in our white paper, Campus Response to the Foundational Skills Crisis. You’ll find the results of our extensive interviews, plus current research, and case studies.