Monday, November 25, 2019

Rio Salado Wins 2019 WCET Outstanding Work Award for Assessing Student Soft Skills & Ensuring Equitable Instruction

Kate Smith presenting to staff
Rio Salado College Interim President Kate Smith

Recent studies and news stories make it abundantly clear today’s employers value “soft skills” as much as— or more than “hard skills.” 

Assignments, tests and GPAs can help colleges and employers gauge students’ hard skills like technical knowledge but quantifying soft skills like listening, communications, problem-solving and teamwork has been much more difficult.

Rio Salado College created a technological solution to address this issue, a proprietary dashboard called the Dynamic Assessment Data Display (DADD), which was designed by faculty and staff to identify and document every student’s achievement, over time— in each course they take, across all platforms— from the time they begin taking courses until graduation.

The college was recognized for its efforts by WCET (the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies) as a 2019 WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award-winner. WCET, which is a leader in the practice, policy and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education, has presented its WOW awards since 2014 to recognize “outstanding efforts by member institutions and organizations in applying an innovative, technology-based solution to a challenging educational need.” Rio Salado is one of three 2019 awardees.

Dr. Angela Felix and President Smith accepting 2019 WOW Award

“Our faculty and staff have developed a data-driven solution to assess students’ soft skills and overall performance through this dynamic dashboard, which in turn gives us the means to determine if there are any achievement gaps and quickly assess the effectiveness of curricular interventions,” said Rio Salado Interim President Kate Smith, who accepted the WOW award on behalf of the college at the WCET annual meeting award ceremony, Nov. 6 in Denver, CO.

How does the DADD work? “Our faculty subject-matter experts in the areas of Critical Thinking, Writing, Reading, Information Literacy, and Oral Communication "tag" assignments across the curriculum that align with one or more of these skills,” said Rio Salado Faculty Chair for Languages Angela Felix, a key member of the DADD development team.

Snapshot of DADD


According to Felix, “the DADD displays the results of this backend work so faculty and instructors can see how their students are performing in these key areas. The results can be sorted by student group to help ensure that all populations have an equal chance to succeed. If instructors see that results for one or more groups are lagging, they can focus their efforts on modifying their instructional practices to narrow the gap and improve overall student performance. The DADD puts critical data directly into the hands of faculty who can then quickly check the effectiveness of interventions.”

Photo of Angela Felix working with out Rio Salado faculty


“Data available via this dashboard helps ensure we are providing equitable instruction to all students,” continued Smith. “If soft skills are in high demand in today’s workplace, then we have a responsibility to make sure all students have an equal chance to acquire them and intervene if there are achievement gaps. The DADD helps us do just that with real-time data that’s available on demand to all faculty and instructors.”  

Check out this related video to learn more. 

By Rio Salado College Media Relations Manager Annette Flores