uOttawa gives students an edge by helping develop important skills

Posted on Monday, August 11, 2014

When studying for a university degree, students are expected to learn about a specific field and are tested on academic knowledge, but they also pick up critical and analytical skills along the way. These skills can give them an edge in the job market and can also helpequip them with the tools they need to lead more productive and fulfilling lives. A recent report shows that uOttawa students performed exceptionally well and were among the top ranked in performance assessments used to test critical and analytical skills.

Pierre Mercier, an associate professor at the School of Psychology and past associate vice-president for Institutional Research and Planning, led this initiative which tested these skills using the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), a well-regarded standardized procedure. This type of testing demonstrates skills, rather than the ability to simply recall information. They evaluated 200 University of Ottawa undergraduate students from various disciplines, 100 in first year and 100 in fourth year. The test measured the difference in performance between these two groups, taking into account the initial skill levels students had.

The report indicates that there is added value in studying at the University of Ottawa. The results from this study reinforce what repeatedly comes out in end of program surveys: that more than 80% of our senior students perceive that their analytical and critical thinking skills have improved over the course of their studies. “The most interesting finding of the study is that the difference between the higher order skills of the senior and the entering students at the University of Ottawa is significantly superior to what is expected in other participating universities. Our students scored 87 points above their expected score,” explains Professor Mercier. Overall, the University of Ottawa is in the top 4% of all institutions for added value in higher order skills.

The study was analysed by a third party, who validated the results. Simon Larose, professor and researcher at Université Laval, states “the report concludes that the University of Ottawa's performance is remarkable and that the capacity of its undergraduate programs to develop its students' higher order thinking skills is clearly superior to that of the reference population's institutions.” His report adds that the initiative provided pertinent and interesting data that allows valid skills measurement of uOttawa students compared to other students in North America. While these results provide interesting data, they also demonstrate that the University of Ottawa allows students to not only receive a degree, but also to acquire important skills that will help them successfully navigate through life long after they've graduated.

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