Evaluating Professionalism in College Courses

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This post was collaboratively written by Nancy Nelson and Joel Beaupré, Teaching and Learning Consultants

Background 

Many college educators aspire to teach, reinforce, and assess professionalism in their courses, though they may approach this objective in different ways, using different language. The grading category of ‘professionalism’ generally relates to skills and attitudes that are transferrable, non-technical, and essential to many workplaces. Examples of professionalism can include attendance and punctuality, communication skills, organization, and interpersonal skills to name just a few. Some refer to these categories as “soft skills,” but considering how hard they can be to teach and learn, this term might be misleading.  

To encourage the formation of good habits and the demonstration of essential workplace behaviours within a course, more and more course outlines are including ‘professionalism’ as an evaluation component (commonly valued at 5-10% of the overall course grade). With this, evaluation tools (such as rubrics or checklists) must be designed and distributed for the purpose of grading professionalism.   

Below are examples of professionalism categories and criteria that, based on an initial scan of tools already in use, are being measured by college educators. No single course can be expected to teach, reinforce, and assess all the dimensions of professionalism listed here, so when designing an evaluation tool, educators should select only those items that are most meaningful and manageable for their context.  

Examples of Professionalism Categories and Criteria 

Accountability and Reliability 

  • Demonstrates punctuality  
  • Comes to class/lab/shop prepared 
  • Actively engages in the course  
  • Takes responsibility for own work, including problems or issues 
  • Respectfully uses college facilities, resources, and equipment for intended purpose 

Ethics & Integrity 

  • Demonstrates respect for diversity of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, intelligence and socio-economic status 

Non-verbal Communication 

  • Respects personal space including physical, touching and social distancing  
  • Dresses in a manner appropriate to the context, which includes following professional guidelines and workplace safety expectations  
  • Behaves in a way that respects diversity, equity, and inclusion 

Reflection, Self-improvement, and Adaptability 

  • Seeks appropriate help as required  
  • Accepts and provides constructive feedback  
  • Incorporates feedback to make changes in behaviour as required  
  • Demonstrates commitment to ongoing competency and professional growth  

Other 

  • Follows other program, course or organizational rules, policies and procedures including _________________.  

Sample Evaluation Tools 

By choosing a manageable quantity of criteria that are most meaningful to their course, evaluators can adapt this list into a useable evaluation tool that both supports learning and measures performance.  

Below are examples of evaluation tools that can be downloaded, modified, and used to grade professionalism: 

Additional Considerations  

It’s important for professionalism marks to be issued at timely intervals (2-4 times over the span of the course) so that students have opportunities to receive, reflect on, and respond to feedback related to their progress. When students are continually aware of their strengths and needs, they are better equipped to grow in the categories of professionalism over time.   

Joel Beaupré

Joel Beaupre holds an Honours B.A., a B.Ed. and M.Ed., and brings experience as a communications professor and curriculum consultant to his role as Teaching and Learning Consultant, as well as experience as a high school teacher in Sandy Lake First Nation, Ontario and Kuwait. Joel is available at the Doon and Guelph campuses. He is a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), and specializes in matters related to translating curriculum into teaching strategies.

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