CORE ABILITIES
Source: Based on Core Abilities: Bringing the Mission to the Classroom by Judith Neill, Project Director for the Wisconsin Instructional Design System.

Core abilities are essential workplace skills that cut across occupational and academic titles. Identifies as such by Wisconsin Technical College System, the core abilities align with other abilities, skills, or outcomes identified in Worplace Basics: The Skills Employers Want, the SCANS Report, and other other studies. They are broad, common abilities that students must possess to be prepared for the work force. They are "the broadest outcomes, skills, or purposes that are addressed throughout a course." (Neill)

Although educational institutions typically reflect the core abilities in their mission or philosophy statements, and although good teachers recognize the importance of communication, employability, information management, interpersonal, and problem solving skills, "core abilities are not stated at the course level and therefore not planned into the curriculum. ... As a result, these essential skills, which may be the most important educational targets, have been overshadowed by content-specific competencies and objectives." (Neill)

Core abilities are different than course competencies in that they are not course-specific. They are not taught in "lessons." Instead, they are broader skills that run through courses and lessons. They "enable learners to perform competencies."

Core abilities may be stated differently, and the number of abilities varies somewhat depending on how they are formulated in statements. Even the community colleges involved in the Wisconsin project defined the abilities differently from one college to another. The Moraine Park Technical College model may be the most popular, however. It identifies seven core abilities:

  1. WORKING PRODUCTIVELY -- "an individual possesses and applies effective work habits and attituides within an organizational setting." (Mielke)

  2. LEARNING EFFECTIVELY -- "an individual possesses necessary basic skills in reading, writing, and computing; applies skills in acquiring information; and uses learning tools and strategies." (Mielke)

  3. COMMUNICATING CLEARLY -- "an individual is able to apply appropriate writing, speaking, and listening skills in order to precisely convey information, ideas, and opinions." (Mielke)

  4. WORKING COOPERATIVELY -- "an individual is capable of working with others to complete tasks, solve problems, resolve conflicts, provide information, and offer support." (Mielke)

  5. ACTING RESPONSIBLY -- "an individual recognizes an obligation to self and others for his or her decisions and actions." (Mielke)

  6. VALUING SELF POSITIVELY -- "an individual applies the principles of physical and psychological wellness to his or her life." (Mielke)

  7. THINKING CRITICALLY AND CREATIVELY -- "an individual applies the principles and strategies of purposeful, active, organized thinking." (Mielke)
Mielke, Ann and Weber, Dave. Core Ability Project. Fond du Lac, Wisconsin: Moraine Park Technical College. May 31, 1989
Performance Evaluation Sheet

The rating sheet that follows may be useful in suggesting how the core abilities can be incorporated into coursework.

Performance Evaluation Sheet

Student: ______________________________________ Teacher: __________________________

Class: ________________________________________ Date: _____________________________

Rating Scale -- Level of Achievement
3 = Always demonstrates this characteristic 1 = Meets minimum standards
2 = Demonstrates this characteristic in most situations 0 = Not satisfactory

Working Productively
Means that an individual possesses and applies effective work habits and attitudes within a classroom setting 3 2 1 0
1. Manages time and work load.



2. Recognizes and applies quality standards in performance.



3. Handles responsibility in a dependable manner.



4. Carries out instructions.



Learning Effectively
Means that an individual possesses necessary basic skills in reading and writing; applies skills in acquiring information; and uses learning tools and strategies 3 2 1 0
1. Listens carefully.



2. Uses learning resources appropriately.



3. Organizes information productively.



4. Demonstrates appropriate reading strategies.



5. Asks questions.



Communicating Clearly
Means that an individual is able to apply appropriate writing, speaking, and listening skills in order to precisely convey information, ideas, and opinions 3 2 1 0
1. Applies the English language correctly (spelling, grammar, structure).



2. Writes and speaks understandably.



3. Checks for accuracy.



4. Writes legibly.



5. Demonstrates ability to listen effectively.



6. Uses language appropriate to situation.



Working Cooperatively
Means that an individual is capable of working with others to complete tasks, solve problems, resolve conflicts, provide information, and offer support 3 2 1 0
1. Plans and works cooperatively with others.



2. Applies conflict management skills.



3. Applies group problem-solving strategies.



4. Establishes productive working relationships.



5. Demonstrates respect for others through word and action.



6. Provides feedback.



7. Receives and accepts feedback.



Acting Responsibly
Means that an individual recognizes an obligation to self and others for his or her decisions and actions 3 2 1 0
1. Applies appropriate work standards such as attending class regularly and punctually.



2. Assumes responsibility for own performance by completing assignments.



3. Performs assigned tasks to the best of his or her ability.



4. Shows concern for proper work habits.



5. Works productively and stays on task.



Thinking Critically and Creatively
Means that an individual applies the principles of purposeful, active, organized thinking 3 2 1 0
1. Demonstrates willingness to recognize others' points of view.



2. Exhibits perseverance in accomplishing tasks.



3. Recognizes the difference between facts and opinions.



4. Articulates rationale behind ideas and opinions.



Grade: ______ Absences: ______ Tardies: ______

Comments:


Student's Signature: ____________________________________ Date: ___________________

Teacher's Signature: ____________________________________ Date: ___________________

Associated Studies and Recommendations

  1. "... schools must return to practices that promote good work habits and develop such positive traits as responsibility, self-discipline, and self reliance." (Owen Butler, Chairman of the Proctor and Gamble Company)

  2. "... more than in the past, individuals will need to be able to acquire, organize, and interpret information. Workers will also have more direct interaction with their co-workers, and therefore will need more experience in general social skills such as problem-solving and negotiation." (Sue Berryman and Thomas Bailey, authors of The Double Helix of Education and the Economy)

  3. "At a minimum, teachers desiring to impart generic skills and work related attitudes to students must include them as instructional goals, along with domain-specific knowledge and skills." (Cathleen Stasz, et. al., authors of Classrooms that Work: Teaching Generic Skills in Academic and Vocational Settings)

  4. The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) identified essential competencies associated with the use of resources, interpersonal skills, information systems, and technology. The importance of problem-solving, reasoning, writing, speaking, reading, behaving responsibly, and other generic skills were strongly emphasized.

  5. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) stated the importance of basic skills including "organizational effectiveness/ leadership, interpersonal/negotiation/teamwork, self-esteem/goal setting- motivation/personal and career development, creative thinking/problem solving, communication: listening and oral communication, reading/writing/ computation, and learning to learn." (Anthony Carnevale, et. al., authors of Workplace Basics: The Essential Skills Employers Want)

  6. The MidAmerica Vocational Curriculum Consortium identified skill groups -- foundation skills (reading, writing, math, science), communication skills, adaptability skills, personal management skills, group effectiveness skills, and influence skills -- and recommended that these academic and workplace skills be included in curricula.

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