Validating the Decolonizing Approach to Competency-based Curriculum Design (DA-CBE) in the development of a HESA Graduate Program

With the help of funding from American Institutes for Research (AIR), I’ve spent much of the past three years developing and validating a Decolonizing Approach to Competency-based Curriculum Design (DE-CBE). The DA-CBE is a model that seeks to rebuild the competency-based curriculum design process on a foundation of inclusion with the goal of working to recreate the higher education curriculum design process in a way that promotes equity and diversity. Specifically, our goal was to create a framework that, by expanding the sources of data that inform competency development, the competencies identified represent a broad section of socioeconomic and cultural knowledge(s) and perspective, which expands the relevance of competencies to those traditionally marginalized in higher education and society.

In the fully implemented DA-CBE model, data is gathered with and from stakeholders to understand how underrepresented groups learn in order to inform the selection of teaching methods. This allows CBE to consider culturally-relevant teaching methods and connect methods to competencies. The goal throughout the curriculum design process, as stakeholders are involved and provide feedback, is to make curriculum design an ongoing process that does not end at the conclusion of a course or degree program. The DA-CBE seeks to create a more equitable higher education environment by expanding the competency-based curriculum development process (see Koszalka et al., 2013 for example) to include all key stakeholders, especially those from indigenous and marginalized groups, instead of just those traditionally involved in curriculum design (i.e., faculty and professional leaders). In the validation study funded by AIR, we tested the DA-CBE model to develop a Higher Education Administration graduate curriculum. 

The full technical report, when published, will outline the steps and methods of the DA-CBE model. You can also view an overview of the method and its application on my YouTube channel. In this post, I share the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) Master’s degree program curriculum that resulted from the model.

Validation Study Overview

In this study, we collected data following the DA-CBE model for a Higher Education Administration Master’s program curriculum. To collect that data, I visited Alaska, North Dakota, Arizona, Utah, and Alabama and conducted focus groups and interviews with indigenous and minoritized higher education students, community leaders, and higher education practitioners as well as those who worked with indigenous and minoritized students in order to understand not just what minoritized and indigenous students needed from higher education professionals (e.g., student affairs practitioners, higher education practitioners, faculty). We also sought to understand indigenous knowledge(s) and methods of learning.

From the knowledge collected in the interviews and focus groups, combined with the knowledge(s) of students from underrepresented groups and other key higher education stakeholders (e.g., existing higher education administrators, current Higher Education Administration students and faculty) discussed in the literature, I developed competencies for a Higher Education Administration professional, organized according to role (administrator, faculty, and student affairs practitioner). The competencies developed were informed by (a priori) the NASPA/ACPA list of HESA competencies, IBSTPI instructor competencies (see IBSTPI.org, 2003), the Alberta Indigenous Mentorship in Health Innovation (AIM-HI) competencies (Murry et al., 2021), and the Community Engagement Approaches in Indigenous Health Research (referred to as CEA) competencies (Lin et al., 2020). The AIM-HI list of competencies and CEA list of competencies are specific to working with indigenous communities and students, while the NASPA/ACPA competencies are more broadly focused on Higher Education student affairs and administration competencies and the IBSTPI competencies focused on effective higher education instructional competencies. Competencies were created (in vivo) for any Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes (KSAs) that did not appear in existing HESA professional competency lists.

The competencies developed through the DA-CBE model were used to guide the creation of a Higher Education and Student Affairs Master’s (HESA) graduate degree curriculum. The support of the AIR grant allowed for the creation of a HESA curriculum that reflects the knowledge(s) and ways of knowing of stakeholders not traditionally represented in higher education decisions.

Higher Education & Student Affairs (HESA) Graduate Curriculum

Program Mission: Prepare current and future HESA practitioners to promote equity and diversity and support minoritized and indigenous students in higher education settings.

Student Description: Current or future higher education professionals (Faculty, Administrator, Student Affairs Practitioner)

Curriculum Overview: All students will take the same core courses and are required to complete a Practicum or Thesis project where they will apply what they have learned to Higher Education Practice. Students will choose a track based on their career goals (Administrator, Faculty, or Student Affairs Practitioner) and have the option to take electives from the other tracks.[1] In total, the programs are comprised of 33-36 credits/11 courses. 

Program Student Learning Goals

By the conclusion of the program, students will be able to:

  1. Understand and examine the structure and organization of higher education through a critical lens
  2. Explore non-Western ways of knowing and incorporate them into personal higher education practices (e.g., programming, curriculum, advising, teaching)
  3. Provide equitable and inclusive support to students, peers, subordinates, and colleagues according to role and responsibility
  4. Understand the nature of systemic marginalization and colonialism and how to mitigate them in one’s current or intended role (administrator, faculty, student affairs practitioner)
  5. Effect individual and institutional systemic change to rectify harms and effect change to promote equity and diversity

33-36 Credits total: 4 Core Courses + Practicum/Thesis (3-6 credits) + Track (6 courses)

Core Courses (12 credits):

  • Understanding higher education through a critical lens (3 credits)
  • Working with minoritized and indigenous persons (3 credits)
  • Epistemology and non-Western ways of knowing and being (3 credits)
  • Understanding Systemic Oppression and Working Toward Organizational Systemic Change (3 credits)

Practicum/Thesis (3-6 credits)

Choose from three tracks: Administrator, Faculty, Student Affairs (18 credits total)

  • Electives chosen from non-selected tracks

Administrator Track (4 req + 2 electives)

  • Leadership in Higher Education I: Leading Individuals and Teams (3 credits)
  • Leadership in Higher Education II: Promoting Systemic Change (3 credits)
  • Civic and Community Engagement (3 credits)
  • Higher Education Management (3 credits)

Faculty Track (4 req + 2 electives)

  • Critical Pedagogy (3 credits)
  • Creating culturally relevant curriculum/Decentering the curriculum (3 credits)
  • Mentorship (3 credits)
  • Research with marginalized and minoritized individuals (3 credits)

Student Affairs Track (3 req + 3 electives)

  • Creating culturally relevant student affairs programming (3 credits)
  • Student Support Services (3 credits)
  • Advising & Support (3 credits)

Full Proposed Curriculum with Course Student Learning Outcomes

Core Courses (12 credits):

Understanding higher education through a critical lens (3 credits)

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the structure and organization of higher education
  2. Understand how higher education curriculum is built on Western knowledge
  3. Understand how power and privilege interact in higher education and society to reify “whiteness,” or the values of White American culture (specifically ethnocentrism).
  4. Explore higher education exemplars in promoting equity and diversity in higher education
  5. Consider ways to radically reimagine higher education

Working with minoritized and indigenous persons (3 credits)

  1. Understand about underrepresentation of minoritized persons in higher education and how that impacts their experiences 
  2. Learn how to support minoritized students, faculty, higher education staff, and administrators
  3. Learn how to serve Indigenous communities and people(s) and understand community needs
  4. Engage in community and civic engagement (adapted from CEA)
  5. Establish and maintain professional credibility and professional knowledge and skills

Epistemology and non-Western ways of knowing and being (3 credits)

  1. Explore different ways of knowing 
  2. Evaluate different ways of knowing 
  3. Engage in different ways of knowing 
  4. Understand Western and non-Western knowledges can support and supplement each other
  5. Understand non-Western ways of being in the classroom 

Understanding Systemic Oppression and Working Toward Organizational Systemic Change (3 credits)

  1. Understand how power and oppression and colonialism lead to different harms (intersectional differences) 
  2. Learn the history of disempowerment of Indigenous people and communities (CEA)
  3. Learn the present state of racism, cisheteopatriarchy, and colonialism and its impact on minoritized peoples
  4. Understand self and how to navigate systems of power 
  5. Identify racist structures, systems, and behaviors (e.g., mascots) 
  6. Engage in organizational systemic advocacy to change racist and harmful structures, systems, and behaviors (NASPA/ACPA)
  7. Understand resistance to social justice goals 

Practicum/Thesis (3-6 credits)

Choose from three tracks: Administrator, Faculty, Student Affairs (18 credits total)

Administrator Track (4 req + 2 electives)

Leadership in Higher Education I: Leading Individuals and Teams (3 credits)

  1. Develop indigenous and minoritized persons to become Higher Education leaders 
  2. Create opportunities for indigenous and minoritized leadership, involvement, development, and decision-making
  3. Provide institutional structure and support for minoritized professionals and those doing critical work 
  4. Exemplify equitable behavior in all aspects of role 

Leadership in Higher Education II: Promoting Systemic Change (3 credits)

  1. Ensure Indigenous and minoritized identity representation all decision-making about them (e.g., research, support programs, artifacts, representation) (adapted from CEA)
  2. Lead change management and innovation 
  3. Create a plan to strategically allocate resources to promote social justice 
  4. Facilitate radical reimagining of higher education in faculty, staff, and students
  5. Identify and change racist structures, systems, and behaviors (e.g., mascots) 

Civic and Community Engagement (3 credits)

  1. Create official strategic partnerships with local and regional stakeholders (e.g., communities, community partners, organizations, institutions of higher education) (adapted from CEA)
  2. Leverage community partnerships to meet community and institutional goals
  3. Identify and serve community needs (adapted from CEA)
  4. Abide by local protocols and customs including tribal sovereignty, ethical requirements, leadership approval, and guidelines for access (adapted from CEA)

Higher Education Management (3 credits)

  1. Design and use assessment, evaluation, & research to achieve institutional goals (NASPA/ACPA)
  2. Understand and follow relevant laws and legal systems (NASPA/ACPA)
  3. Equitably manage subordinates including supervision, counseling, and interpersonal conflict (NASPA/ACPA)
  4. Provide professional development opportunities to learn, develop, and grow in anti-racist, anti-colonial ways 
  5. Reflect on personal leadership development

Faculty Track (4 req + 2 electives)

Critical Pedagogy (3 credits)

  1. Enable access to course content
  2. Validate and empower individual students and their knowledge(s)
  3. Authentically assess learning and performance 
  4. Stimulate and sustain learner motivation and engagement (IBSTPI)
  5. Tailor and adapt instruction to the individual student

Creating culturally relevant curriculum/Decentering the curriculum (3 credits)

  1. Center indigenous / minoritized knowledges (as primary sources and voices) in curriculum
  2. Correct incorrect information, misperceptions, and harmful processes (disrupt stereotypes)
  3. Create education to meet community and student needs and interests
  4. Include Western and non-Western knowledges in classrooms in ways that show how they can support and supplement each other
  5. Incorporate indigenous and minoritized knowledges throughout curriculum
  6. Provide opportunities to learn, develop, and grow in anti-racist, anti-colonial ways

Mentorship (3 credits)

  1. Encourage self-advocacy (AIM-HI)
  2. Foster positive Indigenous identity development (unpack indigenous identity continuum, facilitate positive identity development) (AIM-HI)
  3. Imbue criticality (AIM-HI: expand research perspective, decolonizing theory, situate oneself with Indigenous/Western thought, subterfuge) 
  4. Help mentee navigate Western systems and processes
  5. Tailor mentorship to the student (AIM-HI: Ensure has foundational knowledge and skills needed to be academically, provide academic support, provide career advising, support transition to higher education)
  6. Create and/or facilitate student communities (AIM-HI) 

Research with marginalized and minoritized individuals (3 credits)

  1. Understand laws and legal systems including ethical protocols, tribal sovereignty, and process(es) for obtaining permission (adapted from CEA)
  2. Create research to meet community needs (adapted from CEA)
  3. View research as co-creation of knowledge and collaborative
  4. Incorporate and include Indigenous and minoritized persons (including civic/community leaders) in decision making (adapted from CEA)
  5. Maintain ethics of outsider role, make sure credit and ownership of Indigenous and minoritized person’s stories remain with the people telling them 
  6. Support or enable tribal sovereignty and ownership/management of resources and artifacts (adapted from CEA)

Student Affairs Track (3 req + 3 electives)

Creating culturally relevant student affairs programming (3 credits)

  1. Create education to meet student needs and interests 
  2. Create opportunities for collaboration and collaborative learning (e.g., peer mentoring)
  3. Include and equally value all cultures in institutional and ceremonial practices 
  4. Include cultural events and activities where people can learn about Indigenous history, knowledge, and culture of Indigenous and non-dominant peoples 
  5. Include faculty in co-curricular spaces and events 
  6. Provide opportunities to learn, develop, and grow in anti-racism, anti-colonial ways 
  7. View students through a strengths-based lens

Student Support Services (3 credits)

  1. Support transitions to higher education 
  2. Create and/or facilitate student communities 
  3. Use assessment, evaluation, and research to support students 
  4. Ensure resources and support and equal and equitable for all students across groups 
  5. Create student centers and spaces for minoritized students 
  6. Create student support services that are specific for / tailored to population serving
  7. Provide academic support

Advising & Support (3 credits)

  1. Help to navigate Western systems and processes 
  2. Partner with others (e.g., professionals, offices, counseling, faculty) to meet student needs (NASPA/ACPA) 
  3. Provide career advising 
  4. Support transition to higher education 
  5. Understand the academic context, background, and history of those serving 
    1. Understand the past and present impacts of historical trauma (adapted from CEA) 
  6. View students through a strengths-based lens

[1] This format also allows for this to transition to a PhD/EdD program as students can take courses from the other tracks plus a methods core.

We’d love to hear what you think. What is missing? What should be revised? What should be removed?

And, if you are interested in possibly implementing this curriculum in your HESA program or creating a program based on this curriculum (or informed by it), I’d love to help, and I would be happy to consult and provide any materials that would be helpful. To reach out, or for a downloadable version of the curriculum, contact me.


For more about research that let to the model and competency-based curriculum design

Parson, L., Childs, B., & Elzie, P. (2018). Using competency-based curriculum design to create a health professions education certificate program the meets the needs of students, administrators, faculty, and patients. Health Professions Education, 4, 207-217. DOI: 10.1016/j.hpe.2018.03.008 

Parson, L. & Weise, J. (2020). A Postcolonial Approach to Curriculum (re)Design. Teaching & Learning for Social Justice in Higher Education: Re-visiting the Foundations of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning. Palgrave-MacMillan.

Parson, L., Weise, J., Tatum, K., Allison, M., & Farrell, J. (2019). Evaluating and Assessing the Ethical Leadership Framework for Air Force Ethical Leader Development. Journal of Character & Leadership Development, 6(2), 50-63. https://www.usafa.edu/app/uploads/JCLD_Vol06_Issue02.pdf  

References

IBSTPI.org. (2003). Instructor Competencies. https://ibstpi.org/download-center-free/

Koszalka, T. A., Russ-Eft, D. F., Reiser, R., Senior Canela, F. A., Grabowski, B. L., & Wallington, C. J., (2013). Instructional Designer Competencies. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Lin, C. Y., Loyola-Sanchez. A, Boyling, E., & Barnabe, C.Community engagement approaches for Indigenous health research: recommendations based on an integrative review. BMJ Open. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-039736

Murry, A. T., Barnabe, C., Foster, S., Taylor, A. S., Atay, E., Henderson, R., & Crowshoe L. (2021). Indigenous Mentorship in the Health Sciences: Actions and Approaches of Mentors. Teaching & Learning in Medicine.

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