My courses utilize a competency-based evaluation system. Throughout the semester you will perform self-evaluations of your learning and overall course performance based on the provided course competencies. You will then discuss your evaluation with me and get feedback based on my own observations and evaluation of your learning. The overall evaluation process is not grade-based. Learning is not quantified by the accumulation of points on assignments. A final course grade is determined based on the competency-based on your self-evaluations with instructor feedback.

This document explains the course competencies and how to use them as the basis for a critical self-evaluation. Determining grades from self-evaluations is briefly discussed in the course syllabus and will be further discussed during class and as part of the self-evaluation process.

Competency = Task + Knowledge + Skill + Disposition

Along with the syllabus, you were given a competencies document for my course. On this document you’ll see four things.

  1. Task-Based Competencies - Something you’re learning to accomplish through completing course.
  2. Knowledge Areas - The knowledge needed to perform the task.
  3. Skill-Levels - How adept you need to be at utilizing the required knowledge in order to successfully complete the task.
  4. Dispositions - The attitudes and mannerisms you need to embody while performing the task.

As the above descriptions imply, there is a clear hierarchy at play here. You want to learn to complete a task with competence, but to do that you must possess certain knowledge, be able to apply that knowledge with a certain level of skill, and all this while displaying desirable dispositions. By encapsulating knowledge, skill, and disposition within a task, we’re acknowledging that while knowledge and skill might let us achieve a successful result, going about that work with sufficient maturity, responsibility, and professionalism is just as important. Before we move on to the details of a competency based self-evaluation, let’s look just a bit closer at each of the four parts of our competencies.


Tasks are relatively straight forward to understand. Each competency begins with a simple task statement and a more generalized statement of competency. For example, here’s a competency from COMP235:

Task: Assess the performance implications of cache memories in your application. Competency: Critically analyze the performance of an application concerning caching issues and produce a report summarizing key results. The task is straight forward and provides a context in which you apply your knowledge and skill. The competency statement sheds more light on the skills needed to complete the task. In general, we look to tasks and their related competency in order to describe what we’re doing, who we’re doing it with, and why we’re doing it.

Knowledge Areas

Knowledge areas are the obvious content of the course. The competencies list key, required knowledge areas, but our goal is to engage in the complete list of knowledge listed in the document. You’ll spend a lot of your self-evaluation time evaluating which knowledge areas the current material and assignments are addressing, the level of skill you need to complete an assignment, and the level of skill you displayed during while completing the assignment.


We use skill-levels to assess the depth of your understanding and ability to make use of of each knowledge area. Our skill-levels are adapted from Bloom’s Taxonomy. Each level of skill includes and builds upon the level below it. That is, you must achieve the first level of skill in order to reach the second, and so on. There are four levels of skill. Below you’ll find them listed with verbs typically associated with that level of skill.

  1. Explain - define, describe, discuss, enumerate, express, identify, indicate, list, name, select, state, summarize, tabulate, translate
  2. Apply - backup, calculate, compute, configure, debug, experiment, install, iterate, interpret, manipulate, map, measure, predict, randomize, restore, schedule, solve, test, trace
  3. Evaluate - analyze, compare, classify, contrast, distinguish, categorize, differentiate, discriminate, order, prioritize, criticize, support, assess, choose, defend, rank
  4. Develop - combine, compile, compose, create, design, generalize, integrate, modify, organize, produce, rewrite, refactor, write

To help you interpret these skill-levels in a more computing centric environment, let’s look at them in terms of a classic programming task:

  1. Explain - You recognize a for loop and could explain some basic examples when you see them in code. You struggle to write all but the most basic loops and literal copies of loops you’ve seen before.
  2. Apply - You are more adept and writing your own loops but often need to manipulate existing loops to get started. Without a loop to adapt, you might not be able to complete your code at all.
  3. Evaluate - You can write a working for loop and can talk about how it executes given different data. So, not only do you have it working but you understand the nuance of how it will work and perform under specific conditions.
  4. Develop - You’ve got your for loop on lock but also see some ways to optimize loop performance by either modifying the loop control or the code in the body of the loop. repetition in the code by another means and still produce the same result.

Early stages of our self-evaluation process will focus on getting you comfortable assessing skill-levels in the context of our course and course competencies.


Dispositions are listed separate from the competencies as they apply to all competencies and not just a select few. A professional disposition describes the attitudes and mannerisms you should bring to the table while carrying out the task. Again, building these into the self-evaluation process reinforces the idea that it’s not just about what you accomplish but how you accomplish it. You should be practicing responsible, professional behavior now so that it’s second-nature when you’re on the job. In general, you should think of dispositions as covering things like in-class participation, attendance, meeting deadlines, contributing to groups, and generally taking a active role in the course and your learning.

How to do a Competency-Based Evaluation

Our evaluations have two parts. The first is what we’ll call the report card. This is an assignment by assignment accounting and evaluation of your work with respect to knowledge areas and skill-levels. The second part is a deeper reflection focused on tasks, competencies, and professional dispositions. During this reflection you’ll be asked to comment on your overall progress and take a closer look at key entries from your report card. Overall, the reflection lets you add context and background information to the report card while mapping what’s reported there to the course competencies.

Self-Evaluation Part 1: The Report Card

You’ll be given a report card starter. It’s just a spread sheet with a row for each of the course knowledge areas. Official course assignments will then cover two columns each. In the first column you’ll list the skill-level needed for the assignment. In the second column, you list the skill level you actually achieved when working to complete the assignment. Ideally, you’ll do this for each knowledge area covered by the assignment, but you can also choose to focus only on the most essential knowledge areas.

Assignments and exams are the obvious things to put on the report card. You can also add class activities. An activity can include interactions in class (asking and answering questions), in lab (collaborating with a partner or another group, asking answering questions of the professor), with a tutor, or extra practice work you do beyond official assignments. The idea is to use the report card to develop a body of evidence that you are meeting or exceeding all the class competencies. Towards that end, activities let you supplement and compliment what happens on the official assignments.

A Note on Skill-Level Assessments

The skill-levels you see on the course competencies are aspirational. They are what we hope to achieve by the end of the semester. You will not necessarily need or reach those skill-levels on each assignment. Be honest with yourself about the skill level you displayed. Your reflections and our post-reflection meetings will often look closely at your evaluation of skill-level needed, skill-level displayed, and any difference between the two.

Self-Evaluation Part 2: The Reflection

Throughout the semester you’ll be given a series of prompts to guide reflective self-evaluations of your current report card. These will result in a one to two page “letter” that you submit to me. Each reflection builds on the previous reflections and will allow you to contextualize your report card, identify things that are going well, areas for improvement, and evaluate your overall success. Early reflections will ask you to focus on smaller parts of the report card in order for you to hone and develop your self-evaluation skills. The later reflections will ask you to take a more holistic view at the report card and begin the grading process by self-assigning a grade. After submitting each reflection, you’ll have a one-on-one meeting with me in which we discuss your report card and your reflection.

The key thing to remember is that reflections are your opportunity to tell me the story, as you see it, behind your report card, connect your knowledge to tasks and dispositions, and otherwise engage in a larger dialogue with me about your progress in this course.