DR. MATTHEW STAFFOR
To date, the vast majority of developmental programs have had to be satisfied with assessing students’ learning within the confines of their programs. There were opportunities for indirect assessments, with graduate surveys or surveys of supervisors/employers but response rates have tended to be low and the translation of feedback from non-experts in education and training has often proven difficult. The United States (US) Air Force has, however, decided to attempt what other learning institutions have not – arguably cannot.
Because of the closed nature of this learning environment, where students graduate from US Air Force programs and go on to work in US Air Force jobs, there is a unique opportunity to assess learning as it is actually being applied in the workplace. Leveraging a competency-based force- development paradigm, the US Air Force has constructed an institutional competency model for common knowledge, skills and abilities, complemented by occupational competencies specific to individual jobs, positions and specialties. These competencies are mapped to performance descriptions that determine levels of mastery. These descriptions are, in turn, mapped to rubrics that guide performance evaluations. Shortcomings in performance can be identified and fed back to the developmental program for potential program modification or, for special updates to the force, to ensure proper performance and desired levels of mastery
This approach has been approved but is not yet in place. The competency model is being validated now through a criterionsampling methodology and the assessment mechanisms are being built to facilitate ease of use and centralized data-gathering.