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Concurrent direct assessment of foundation skills for general education

Anthony Rhodes (University College, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Maurice Danaher (College of Technological Innovation, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Ashley Ater Kranov (Deanship of Electronic and Distance Learning and the College of Computer and Information Sciences, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 16 July 2018

Issue publication date: 22 October 2018




There is considerable agreement around the foundation skills required by employers that will enable graduates to integrate and devise promising solutions for the challenges faced by knowledge and globalized societies. These are life skills (communication skills, teamwork and leadership skills, language skills in reading and writing and information literacy), transferable skills (such as problem-solving, including critical thinking, creativity and quantitative reasoning) and technology skills (search for knowledge and build upon it). Foundation skills, however, are recognized to be difficult both to teach and assess. This paper aims to describe a performance assessment method to assess and measure these skills in a uniquely concurrent way – the General Education Foundation Skills Assessment (GEFSA).


The GEFSA framework comprises a scenario/case describing an unresolved contemporary issue, which engages student groups in online discussions, and a task-specific analytic rubric to concurrently assess the extent to which students have attained the targeted foundation skills. The method was applied in three semesters – during 2016 and 2017. These students were non-native English speaking students in a General Education program at a university in the UAE.


Results obtained from the rubric for each foundation skill were analyzed and interpreted to ensure robustness of method and tool usability and reliability, provide insight into, and commentary on, the respective skill attainment levels and assist in establishing realistic target ranges for General Education student skill attainment. The results showed that the method is valid and provides valuable data for curriculum development.


This is the first method in published literature that directly assesses the foundation skills for General Education students simultaneously, thus providing educators with valuable data on the skill level of the students. Additionally, repeated use of the method is a valuable way of teaching skills.



This research study is funded by the Zayed University Research Incentive Fund – R15128.


Rhodes, A., Danaher, M. and Ater Kranov, A. (2018), "Concurrent direct assessment of foundation skills for general education", On the Horizon, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 79-90.



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