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Assessing and Communicating Professional Competency Development Through Experiential Learning

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Cooperative and Experiential Education Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education

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Paper Authors


John H. Callewaert University of Michigan

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John Callewaert is Director of Strategic Projects in the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, College of Engineering, University of Michigan. He previously served as a program director with the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute, Director of the University of Michigan-Flint's Office of Research, and the Director of the Institute for Community and Environment at Colby-Sawyer College. He completed doctoral study in Resource, Policy and Behavior at the University of Michigan. His undergraduate degree is in Agricultural Engineering Technology from Michigan State University.

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Joanna Mirecki Millunchick University of Michigan

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Professor Millunchick has two distinct areas of research. The first is in Materials Science and involves manipulating matter on the nanoscale in order to enable the design of new electronic materials for optoelectronic and photovoltaic applications. Specifically, she is fascinated by the details of atomic surface structure of compound semiconductors, self assembly of epitaxial nanostructures, and in situ characterization. The second area of research is in Engineering Education, and studies whether student participation in engineering co-curricular activities confers any benefits, and how to transfer those benefits to attract and retain students typically underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. She is also currently developing virtual and augmented reality learning tools to help students learn concepts in the physical sciences.

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Cassandra Sue Ellen Jamison University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Cassandra (Cassie) Jamison is a PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan. She is pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering (BME) with an Emphasis in Engineering Education. Her research interests involve experiential engineering out-of-class experiences and the professional, personal, and academic outcomes of students engaged in these experiences. She is also involved in student outcomes research in the BME Department and with the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Office, College of Engineering at Michigan. Cassie received a B.A. in Engineering Sciences at Wartburg College (Waverly, IA) and a M.S. in BME from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).

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Kevin Cai Jiang University of Michigan

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Kevin Jiang is a staff member in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan where he works on the design, development, and change of experiential learning, first-year programs, and biomedical engineering curriculum. He also leads a team of undergraduate students engaged in curriculum design and development. He received a BSE in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan in 2018.

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This is an abstract for a work-in-progress paper.

A new experiential learning initiative at a large R1 institution seeks to provide students with a framework to intentionally explore learning opportunities, meaningfully engage in experiences, iteratively reflect on their learning, and clearly communicate their development of one or more key professional competencies (communication, creativity, empathy, entrepreneurial mindset, ethics, global/cultural awareness, grit/persistence/resilience, leadership, lifelong learning, risk management, systems thinking, and teamwork). Although most students at this institution participate in experiential learning, the framework aims to provide students with richer, more meaningful experiences through intentional engagement and reflection. Through several informal conversations, both students and employers have expressed the need for students to reflect and be able to better communicate the value of their experiences in relation to their technical skills and career aspirations. This point is reinforced by recent industry reports which emphasize the difficult time employers have in finding employees with the professional skills needed for the workplace.

An objective of the experiential learning framework is to support reflection and competency development at scale. With several thousand undergraduates, it is understood that multiple pathways (existing courses, new courses, online modules, etc.) will need to be available to students. Over the past year, two new framework elements with an emphasis on competency development have been designed for students to more directly reflect on and communicate their experiences. The first is a pre/post assessment of a faculty identified set of competencies in an existing project-based, discipline-specific technical course. The second is the creation of a new 400-level, reflective, professional course that aims to develop students’ understanding and communication of competency development.

The pre/post assessment effort is a partnership with a faculty member leading a course on systems engineering and business leadership processes. The faculty member selected a subset of the key competencies (leadership, risk management, systems thinking, and teamwork) which aligned with course objectives. The pre/post assessment provides an opportunity for students to self-assess and reflect on their competency development by focusing on the course and their specific project. The new course takes a retrospective approach and asks students to leverage their experiences to create a set of values and guiding principles, a vision for their future, and a professional document grounded in one or more competencies and informed by feedback from peers and alumni mentors.

This paper will start with an overview of the experiential-learning initiative and a description of the key competencies being used to guide reflection and communication efforts. Next, detailed descriptions will be provided for both the new course and the pre/post assessment effort including deidentified samples of student work. This will be followed by an initial assessment of student outcomes, a review of student feedback, and plans for modifying these efforts in the future. Finally, a description will be provided for how these efforts are also helping to inform the creation of a new online tool that will provide additional support for delivering content at scale to students around competency development, reflection, and communication.

Callewaert, J. H., & Millunchick, J. M., & Jamison, C. S. E., & Jiang, K. C. (2021, July), Assessing and Communicating Professional Competency Development Through Experiential Learning Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36703

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