Vol. LXXV (2017) - No. 266 Evaluación por competencias: la perspectiva de las primeras promociones de graduados en el EEES [Competence based evaluation: The perspective of the first cohorts of graduates under the EHEA].

Cano García, E. and Fernández Ferrer, M. (Eds.) (2016).

Evaluación por competencias: la perspectiva de las primeras promociones de graduados en el EEES [Competence based evaluation: The perspective of the first cohorts of graduates under the EHEA].

Barcelona: Ediciones Octaedro. 156 pp.

Spanish universities have now turned out their first cohorts of graduates educated under the terms of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). As is stated and argued in the prologue to this work, this makes it an ideal time to collect information about the competences these students acquired on these new degree programmes based on their per- ceptions, those of graduates from the old licenciate degrees, and those of academic staff, programme coordinators, employers, and experts. The preface to this work also describes the hypotheses presented, the main aims of the study, the common framework of competences created for all participating universities and qualifications, the methodological perspective or paradigm, the research methodology, the data collection instruments, and the par- ticipating respondents.

Starting from data collection, this book is arranged in nine chapters, where the authors use quotes and references to guide the reader clearly through the topic of skills-based evaluation and the main results of the research performed while also providing explanations.

In chapter one, Ibarra and Rodríguez introduce some basic questions about developing competence-based evaluation, this topic currently being of interest given the need to move from a model focussed on evaluating knowledge to a model focussed on evaluating competences. In this way, they frame the object of study and make an important contribution concerning the use of technology in evaluation processes.

In chapter two, Pons, Barrios, and Iranzo set out a statistical analysis of the data from the questionnaire sent to new graduates from the four courses analysed at the seven state-run public universities that participated in the research. The results are compared with other previous studies (PROLEX, REFLEX, and others) in the categories analysed.

In chapter three, Giné, García, and Halbaut try to answer the question of how evaluation contributes to learning and the development of competences. In this case, the results are displayed organised by the students’ discussion groups to delineate possible explanations for the de- velopment of skills-based evaluation processes (especially cross-cutting ones) and what the new graduates associate with them. In other words, students’ voices are collected with regards to where we should attribute the effect of evaluation on the development (or not) of competences. This chapter also presents, among other elements ordered from most frequent to least frequent, the characteristics combined by the strategies that, in their view, are most closely connected to the development of competences.

In chapter four, Fabregat, Guardia, and Forés set out the opinions of academic staff regarding evaluation. Based on the open-ended and closed questionnaires and a comparison with other studies that consulted university teaching staff, the current state of play is described according to the opinions of the teaching staff from the universities and courses participating in the project. Their voices, alongside the views of the graduates, can offerclues to the eventual opportunity to introduce changes in the evaluation process and, where appropriate, introduce ways of achieving them.

In chapter five Tierno and Ion, based on a lexical-metric analysis of the interviews with programme coordinators, present their opinions and suggest what the role of these academic leaders is and could be in the university setting. In fact, these authors refer to specialised literature on teaching collaboration and coordination in the university and refl with the voices of the academic leaders consulted, on what trends are apparent in the competence evaluation process.

In chapter six, Cabrera, Portillo, and Padres build on the results of the interviews held with employers, attempting to interpret the distinguishing elements that they supply regarding competence evaluation processes and instruments. The employers’ view about the what and how is analysed in this chapter: what competences are most highly valued in graduates and how they should be evaluated, both in universities and in selection processes.

In chapter seven, Benedito and Parcerisa present the opinions of experts in university pedagogy about the process of competence-based evaluation. This chapter covers the positive aspects of competence-based design and the risks and difficulties that can be encountered when applying it. In other words, the authors of this section review the strong and weak points that teachers from the field of pedagogy see in the competence-based focus, and set out their proposal for future lines based on this analysis, asking where these might lead, to improve the quality of higher education.

Chapter eight is especially valuable as it offers an overview of the findings of the work, setting out the convergences and divergences in the perspectives of the different agents who participate in the project. In this chapter, Fernández provides an overview and an organised and verified joint holistic analysis of the collection of information that has created explanatory results based on the previous six chapters. She provides a possible triangulation of the various agents from the seven universities and the four courses consulted who participated in the project, with the aim of making suggestions to improve future evaluation processes. In effect, Fernández indicates that this triangulation could be a key element to ensure that future designs result in a graduate profile that is closer to and in line with the demands of all agents involved in higher education.

Chapter nine is important as it offers an overview of the book’s content. Cano provides an exhaustive and in-depth analysis of the future challenges in competence-based evaluation, based on the results of this book’s research. Here, the reader can find a diagnosis of challenges and a list of proposals that might contrib- ute to improving evaluation processes for developing competences.

In my opinion, this book enables a reflection on evaluation in higher education, defined as the corner stone of the system, making new contributions regarding the paths that competence development and in-depth and authentic learning by students should follow. It combines a recent theoretical corpus with substantiated documentation and the findings this research reveals, allowing for a good overview of the state of the question for the topic under consideration.

In particular, from chapter two to chapter seven, the authors participating in the research provide the reader with the findings of the project, organised according to the six types of respondent (recent graduates, licenciate degree holders, teaching staff, programme coordinators, employers, experts in university pedagogy), using textual quotations from the narratives produced by the different data collection tools used. Also, each of these six chapters is complemented by the analysis of other studies based on consulting current literature, allowing for a deeper understanding of the state of the art in the topics covered. Finally, these results are combined in chapter eight where an organised and tested overview of them is provided, allowing for a better understanding of the topic being consideration.

In short, this book is highly recommended. It offers an analysis of the impact of educational evaluation on the development of competences in the university setting, of ways to advance the design and practice of competence-based focuses in higher education, and provides a better understanding of the impacts of competence-based designs (fundamentally in relation to evaluation methodologies). Consequently, it will of use to teachers and researchers, as well as schools and scholars and researches who are interested in higher education.

Laia Lluch Molins