The Surrey Portfolio Pathway Partnership
Grades Don't Tell Your Story - You Do. Driving Competency-Based Admission in Higher Education.
S3P is KEPIs response to the changes taking place in the K-12 system. The Surrey Portfolio Pathway Partnership, or S3P, is intended to create a pathway through which students from the Surrey School District can be admitted to KPU with their portfolios, which are designed to show a more complete picture of each and every individual's skills and abilities than traditional letter grades. The goal, then, of the S3P project is to bridge the gap that currently exists between the K-12 school system and post-secondary. This goal is in line with the K-16 movement – which seeks to improve the transition from grade 12 to post-secondary study. It is also in line with KPU’s open access mandate, because of which we look for talent that others might not see.
See the S3P in Macleans, University Affairs, the Cloverdale Reporter, Academica Group's Top 10 of the day, and the KPU Newsroom.
See our published findings here:
Competency-Driven Admission Policy:
Conclusions from the Surrey Portfolio Pathway Partnership
See the S3P in Education Canada Network here:
The Surrey Portfolio Pathway Partnership:
Stepping into the future of assessment and Post-secondary Admission
Phase 1 Examples: The Stories of Participants 13 and 15
As part of the phase 1 of the S3P, we analyzed 17 anonymized portfolios from the Surrey School District to see what they could tell us about student achievement. Here, we discuss what these two portfolios can show us.
Participant 15’s portfolio included two pieces under the umbrella of English: a poem and a narrative essay, both created for the same course. The narrative essay, while having vivid imagery and descriptive content, contains grammatical errors (as much early career writing does). The poem, however, is well written, filled with intense imagery and strong, powerfully expressed emotions. It is a display of strong student achievement.
This is not an isolated case. Many disciplines in the K-12 system such as science, math, or social studies, are made up of different sub-disciplines. Like the English example above, which discusses both poetry and essay writing (two topics which in university tend to be separated), a student’s performance may, and often does, vary between them. A student may exceed in creative writing or poetry but only end up with a “C+” in English overall because the course was weighted with greater emphasis on essay writing and not poetry.
Grades are unable to identify a student’s true ability because they aggregate all performances in a class, into a single performance metric. Further, since standardized assessments don’t typically weigh poetry composition equally to essay writing, it is highly unlikely that a provincial-level assessment instrument would capture this ability at all. The result is that, when a university is reviewing the student's transcript for admission, there is no way to know that this potential student is a budding poet. Although the student’s abilities are lacking in terms of the mechanical aspects of their writing, these skills can be taught and improved upon at the post-secondary level. Passion and creativity are much more difficult to teach, which the student clearly demonstrated in their writing. This highlights why cramming the ranging abilities of students into a single letter grade is not only a disservice to the student but a potential loss of talent for a university that cannot see the full picture.
It is easy to imagine similar circumstances within other disciplines, such as Social Studies. Perhaps a student excels at writing intricate reports about WWII with the valuable resources they were able to find through careful research, but has trouble writing a multiple-choice exam in the same Social Studies course. Measuring student ability, then, cannot happen across one plane. The problem is that when we look at that grade, we have no way of distinguishing which of abilities it represents, and to what extent. When all we see is a single grade for each course, we are unable to identify a student’s individual strengths and weaknesses within that subject area. Furthermore, when we take something as complex as student achievement and reduce it to a single data point, we are telling students something about the value of their ability. Students are far more than this single data point, and this should be reflected in how we evaluate and how we admit.
The project we discuss here is a grant proposal, written by a grade twelve student, which serves as the perfect example of a bright and clearly engaged student who may not have been accepted to undergraduate study because of the prerequisite mark required for admission. Through thoughtful, clear, and concise language the student demonstrated their ability to place themselves in the position of the Turkish government and work through complex problems on a range of topics. The aid proposal breaks down the challenges being faced by Turkey, which specific ones are of most importance, and clearly outlines how the funds will be used and how they will have an impact on the issues outlined. Participant 13’s grant proposal is a very informative and dynamic piece of writing, showing the student’s capabilities in interpreting data, supporting a thesis in a persuasive essay, and understanding the complex world of international relations, political science, immigration challenges, and climate challenges. Many of these various topics are covered, and can be easily linked to, university curricula across faculties and even across years of study.
Each subject, of course, is comprised of sub-topics or disciplines in which students may perform to dramatically differing levels of achievement. This is something that grades are unable to identify because they aggregate all performances in a class, such as English, into a single performance metric. Since both of the student’s assignments were done in English, the classroom grade given to the student would presumably reflect both the relative weakness of the former and the strength of the latter. The impact of this poem, as well as the competencies shown within it are likely to be subsumed within the final grade. Further, since standardized assessments don’t typically weigh poetry composition equally to essay writing, it is highly unlikely that a provincial-level assessment instrument would capture this ability at all.
The result is that, at the time of admission decisions being made, it is unlikely that we would know that this incoming student is a budding poet. While the student’s abilities might be lacking in terms of the mechanical aspects of their writing, these are things that can be taught and improved upon at the post-secondary level. Passion and creativity are much more difficult to teach, and the student clearly demonstrated both in their writing. It is easy to imagine similar contexts within other subject areas. One could, for example, imagine a student who is able to write intricate analytical essays about WWII using rigorous sources, but who nonetheless has trouble on multiple choice questions in exams in that same Social Studies course.
Student achievement takes place across many different dimensions. When we take something as complex as student achievement and reduce it to a single data point, we are telling students something about the value of their achievement. The value of their achievement should be reflected in how we evaluate, and how we admit.
How does this connect to KPU?
Below is a list of some of the courses for which participant 15's project could be a good fit:
POLI 1100- Ideology and Politics
POLI 1125- Introduction to Political Science
POLI 1150- Introduction to International Relations
POLI 2100- Sustainability and Government
POLI 2155- War, Crime, and Violence: Contemporary Political Conflict
POLI 3170- International Peacekeeping
POLI 4145- Cross-Border Politics
POLI 4330- International Human Rights
POLI 4335- The Politics of Radical Islamism
POLI 4420- Issues in Public Policy and Administration
ANTH 1100- Social & Cultural Anthropology
ANTH 2120- Cross-Cultural Women's and Gender Studies
ANTH 2160- Culture and the Environment
ANTH 2163- Culture, Health and Well-Being
ANTH 2190- Non-Governmental Organizations in Context
ANTH 4500- Culture, Community, & Well-Being
GEOG 1101-Human Geography
GEOG 3130- Society and Urban Space
GEOG 332- Environment and Resources
ECON 1100- Making Economic Sense of Life
ECON 1250- Principles of Macroeconomics
ECON 2255- Globalization in an Economic Framework
ECON 2260- Environmental Economics
ECON 3100- Economics of Sustainability Policy
ECON 3251- Women and the Economy
ECON 2262- Natural Resource Economics
ECON 3555- Economic Development
ENVI 1121- Environmental Issues
ENVI 2310- Solid Waste Management
ENVI 2410- Water Resources Protection
HEALTH AND NURSING
HEAL 1100-Mental Wellness and Communication
NRSG 2112- Nursing Applications 1: Complex Episodic Health Challenges
NRSG 3242- Nursing Practice 6: Public Health
NRSG 3244- Nursing Practice 6: Community Development
POLI 2100- Sustainability and Government
POLI 3110- Economics of Sustainability Policy
SOCI 3220- International Migration and Ethnic Communities
SOCI 3240- Gender in Global Context
SOCI 3270- Education, Nation-Building and Globalization
SOCI 3310- Conflict Analysis and Resolution
SOCI 3220- Sociology of Global Inequalities
SOCI 4230- Advanced Topics in Race/Ethnicity: A Global Perspective
SCOI 4310- Terrorism, Globalization, and Social Justice
Phase 2: The KEPI Institute
In phase 2 of the S3P, we worked with a small group of Grade 12 students from the Surrey School District to create exemplary portfolios to be admitted to KPU with. Each student was paired with a veteran undergraduate researcher, as well as an instructor, from KPU to mentor them through the process. The portfolios were completed in June of 2018, and are currently in the late stages of analysis. This analysis aims to develop a method for identifying competencies within artifacts.