Appendix A

Why ‘proficiency’?

Most critical to the DQP is an understanding of a continuum of knowledge and skills, leading from acquaintance with a field of study to summative mastery and expertise appropriate to the degree awarded. Although “competence” has become a widely acknowledged descriptor for demonstrated educational attainment, this version of the Degree Qualifications Profile is organized in terms of student “proficiency.” As noted in the box on Page 8, this term reflects the DQP’s emphasis on summative learning for the degree as a whole, while the term “competence” usefully points to formative objectives within a specific course or learning experience. This distinction aligns well with the advancement of “competency-based education” and the direct assessment of competencies irrespective of how students have attained them. Unlike “competencies,” none of the proficiencies addressed in the DQP can be developed in a single learning experience. Rather, the DQP describes broad, crosscutting areas of college-level accomplishment and the interrelationships among them recognized by the award of the degree.

Moreover, while the DQP anticipates that students will generally demonstrate proficiency through completing course or other program requirements such as a practicum, the DQP also emphasizes the importance of students’ frequent and progressively more challenging work on assignments and projects across many courses or learning experiences in order to develop the expected proficiencies. For example, a student who demonstrates a qualifying level of proficiency on a specific assignment related to “analytical inquiry” or “applied learning” is deploying knowledge and skills that have been practiced and developed across multiple learning experiences.

“Competency” remains a useful term for defining course-level or course-equivalent learning outcomes, and institutions using the term to define degree-level outcomes may wish to continue doing so. However, in addition to its emphasis on the degree, the DQP seeks to set a high bar of attainment for degree recipients who present not only “a certain standard of skill” but also a demonstrated commitment to further learning, i.e., “progress or advancement.” In sum, the DQP affirms that degree recipients should be proficient in their fields of study and, more generally, as students, not simply competent.