Co-op Best Practices > Evaluating Student Learning Through Co-operative Education

Evaluating Student Learning Through Co-operative Education

posted on October 2, 2003

The Demise of the Work Term Report:

Over the past three years, the Co-operative Education Department at Camosun College has been working to bring the ‘education’ back in to the processes and procedures in our Co-op programs. One by one, we reviewed, renewed and revised each element of the college’s Co-op process to ensure its focus on student learning until, eventually and inevitably, we had to face the elephant in the room….the Work Term Report, that sacred bastion of the Co-op work term, and the bane of the existence of the majority of Co-op students and Co-op practitioners everywhere. At the conclusion of every work term, we hound half-hearted students to submit them, and then grumble as we read through hundreds of them, marking grammar, syntax, style, content, technical expertise, presentation and design, regardless of whether or not we are qualified to evaluate any or all of these elements. And in the end, we ‘grade’ a report that measures…what?

Through many emotional and informative discussions, we faced our personal attachments to, and aversions to, the Work Term Report. Why do we require them? What are they measuring? Why do the majority of students not see any value in them? Why do we not see any value in them? Camosun’s Learning Outcomes for Co-op Work Terms refer to a student’s ability to transfer learning between the classroom and the workplace, to set and pursue learning goals, to demonstrate appropriate professional behaviors, to develop new skills and knowledge in their career field, and to articulate their personal growth and learning between the classroom, the workplace, and the community. We concluded that the traditional work term report, as we were assigning and evaluating it, did not adequately address these learning outcomes, or enhance and support student learning and reflection. Our mission was to create a new concept in work term reporting that would help students to see the threads of learning that tie together their academic terms, their work terms, and the activities that they undertake in their ‘extra-curricular’ life, instead of viewing each ‘term’ in their schooling as distinct and finite periods with little connection to what came before and after.

The Birth of the Co-op Learning Portfolio:

Beginning with the September, 2002 intake of Co-op students across all programs at Camosun College, we introduced the Co-op Learning Portfolio. The Co-op Learning Portfolio is a student-prepared document that: provides Co-op students with the opportunity to build a robust portfolio that documents their learning and development throughout their program of studies; assists Co-op students in developing their ability to present their knowledge, skills, goals and achievements in a manner that reflects their commitment to the professional standards of business and industry; demonstrates the threads of learning and development through successive academic and work terms; and forms the basis of the post graduation work search employment portfolio.

The Co-op Learning Portfolio is a personal tool that helps students to document their academic and work term learning throughout their time at the institution. It is their primary resource for reflecting on their progress toward personal goals; preparing for interviews for Co-op work terms, graduate employment, or further education; and demonstrating to themselves and others the transfer of learning between the classroom, the workplace, and personal life. The Co-op Learning Portfolio is also the Co-op Coordinator’s primary tool for coaching, facilitating, and evaluating student learning and development.

The recommended contents of the student’s Co-op Learning Portfolio include the following:

  1. Co-op Learning Expectations Form
  2. Personal qualities & employability skills assessments completed in Co-op Seminar
  3. A copy of the final resume prepared during Co-op Seminar
  4. Samples of work done in each academic term
  5. Samples of achievements in volunteer work, recreational activities, part-time job, or other ‘extra-curricular’ involvement
  6. A summary of work search for each Work Term which could include:
    1. list of contacts and communications with them
    2. list of prospective employers 
    3. additional information interviews 
    4. additional employment research
  7. Job description for the position accepted for each work term
  8. Work Term Learning Plan for each work term
  9. Mid-Term Reflection on Learning for each work term
  10. Samples of work done during each work term (reports, projects, commendations, training, certificates, etc.)
  11. Employer Performance Assessment Form for each work term
  12. Student Assessment of Learning Form for each work term
  13. Work term summary for each work term

It will be another year before we see the result of students engaged in developing Co-op Learning Portfolios from registration to graduation. The feedback that we have received so far though, from students who are submitting Learning Portfolios now, at the end of their winter work term, and from the Co-op Coordinators responsible for evaluating them, is very positive. Students say that it has been a meaningful experience for them, helping them to better understand and articulate their growth and learning over time, and to build a tool that will be useful after graduation. Coordinators are finding the marking process considerably less arduous, and feel that the Learning Portfolio is a much more effective measure of a student’s success in achieving Co-op learning outcomes.

For more information on Camosun College’s Co-op Learning Portfolio, please feel free to contact any of our Co-op Coordinators! Co-operative Education & Student Employment Camosun College, B.C.