Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Graduate Profile

I am sometimes intrigued at the latitude taken by some institutions and individuals of influence within some institutions around the interpretations of certain academic nomenclature for which a wide degree of interpretation is not intended. At the same time, I recognize that individual institutions must use their own values and vision as a lens through which they view and interpret various philosophies, methodologies and pedagogies and that there is some room for interpretation in much academic terminology.

In my current organization, there seems to be reluctance to adopt a consistent meaning around some very important academic notions, although we are rich in academic philosophy, values, and vision. Given that richness, it seems we should be able to use them in resolving common nomenclature. The most recent sticking point seems to be the concept of a "graduate profile".

So, I went out to seek some definitions of graduate profile and program portfolio using a variety of sources including literary searches, academic policy review, and a couple of internet search engines. In that research I came across many definitions of graduate profile as used by other institutions. Generally they fell into one of the following three general approaches:
  1. An individual graduate student’s profile – a presentation of their learning and competencies, unique to that student. (we may call this a student’s portfolio)
  2. A description of the intended outcomes for a graduate of a particular program including both the specific technical competencies and the workplace skills (literacy, numeracy, collaboration, etc.). This approach where observed sometimes pointed to likely graduate employment prospects. (this may be referred to as the program curriculum or prospectus)
  3. A vision of the graduate of a particular institution – encompassing the general skills of all graduates of the institution regardless of the specific technical skills (also sometimes referred to as college-wide outcomes)

I was particularly taken with a prologue to graduate profile taken by Rift Valley Academic in central Kenya:
At the beginning there were two possible approaches: to develop a document of graduate outcomes that all students should achieve; or to develop a document of the ideal graduate.  The committee chose the second approach.  […]
The ‘Graduate Profile' is:
  • An ideal toward which we direct the student.
  • A tool to assess the extent to which we are accomplishing our vision.
The ‘Graduate Profile' is not:
  • A graduation requirement.
  • A cookie cutter.
  • A  tool to pass judgment on individual students.
  • A student self-assessment standard.

It seems to me that as with most process and systems advancement, the first question to answer is “What do we want this application, process, or system to do?” Once a clear purpose is established the other requirement pieces – regardless of the terminology used – will fall into place. Perhaps we just need to define what we want graduate profile to accomplish at our institution?