P. Schmidt

Western Governors University (UNITED STATES)
Western Governors University (WGU) was created approximately fifteen years ago through a cooperative agreement of nineteen Western State Governors in the United States. The primary reason for the development of this University was to find ways to provide high-quality undergraduate and graduate education opportunities for residents of the rural Western States in high-need areas of the curriculum, such as Teacher Education (with emphases on the preparation of Science, Mathematics, Special Education, and Second Language teachers); Nursing; Information Technology; and Business. From the outset, it was determined that all undergraduate programs would contain strong liberal arts and sciences components and that all master's degree programs would require the completion of a thesis (or written capstone) project.

From the start, it was determined that WGU should be fully competency-based. To this end, the University has developed a one-of-a-kind database of all National, State, and Industry standards. From this data set, WGU has constructed sets of competencies for each degree program. From each set of such competency statements, the University has developed assessments. Students must pass each assessment in their degree program in order to receive the WGU degree.

Each student matriculating at WGU is assigned a Faculty Mentor who is charged with guiding the candidate as s/he proceeds through the academic program. Additionally, each assessment area is aligned with a Course of Study, a web-based document that details for the student how best to prepare, with appropriate Learning Resources, for the required assessments. Each Course of Study is attached to a Course of Study Mentor, a Faculty member whose role it is to assist students academically. The Course of Study Mentors are, in essence, academic coaches. Of particular interest throughout the Science and Nursing Programs is the implementation of online, digital, and home-delivered science laboratories. It is important to note that all Teacher Education programs require the successful completion of field-based preclinical and clinical experiences.

In this presentation, I will focus on each of the following:

1. The teacher education learning resources;
2. The assessments in the teacher education programs, both objective and performance-based;
3. The rubrics for the various assessments;
4. The science laboratory assessments (including the science virtual labs);
5. The preclinical and clinical experiences;
6. The teacher education capstone experiences, both undergraduate and graduate;
7. The assessment of capstone experiences;
8. The grading of performance-based assessments; and
9. The student projects in the teacher education programs.

Throughout the presentation, the emphasis will be on how to develop assessments and how to evaluate the efficacy of learning resources in a competency-based education system.