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Competency Maps: an Effective Model to Integrate Professional Competencies Across a STEM Curriculum

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Curricula designed in the context of the European Higher Education Area need to be based on both domain-specific and professional competencies. Whereas universities have had extensive experience in developing students’ domain-specific competencies, fostering professional competencies poses a new challenge we need to face. This paper presents a model to globally develop professional competencies in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degree program, and assesses the results of its implementation after 4 years. The model is based on the use of competency maps, in which each competency is defined in terms of competency units. Each competency unit is described by a set of expected learning outcomes at three domain levels. This model allows careful analysis, revision, and iteration for an effective integration of professional competencies in domain-specific subjects. A global competency map is also designed, including all the professional competency learning outcomes to be achieved throughout the degree. This map becomes a useful tool for curriculum designers and coordinators. The results were obtained from four sources: (1) students’ grades (classes graduated from 2013 to 2016, the first 4 years of the new Bachelor’s Degree in Informatics Engineering at the Barcelona School of Informatics); (2) students’ surveys (answered by students when they finished the degree); (3) the government employment survey, where former students evaluate their satisfaction of the received training in the light of their work experience; and (4) the Everis Foundation University-Enterprise Ranking, answered by over 2000 employers evaluating their satisfaction regarding their employees’ university training, where the Barcelona School of Informatics scores first in the national ranking. The results show that competency maps are a good tool for developing professional competencies in a STEM degree.

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  1. In some contexts, the terms “hard” and “soft” skills are used. We consider the term technical and professional (also called generic or transversal) more appropriate.

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  14. Although the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-BarcelonaTech has two schools teaching the Bachelor’s Degree in Informatics Engineering, the Barcelona School of Informatics provides more than 90% of graduates and scientific production, so authors assume the results from Table 1 are mainly based on the Barcelona School of Informatics statistics.

  15. The professional competency grades means the following: A competency acquired with excellence, B good, C sufficient, and D deficient acquisition of the competency. The grade can be NA (not applicable) in some cases (for instance, if the student drops the subject).

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We would like to thank Erik Cobo, Rafel Farré, Pere Marés, and Luis Velasco for their contribution to this work.

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Correspondence to Fermín Sánchez Carracedo.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Sánchez Carracedo, F., Soler, A., Martín, C. et al. Competency Maps: an Effective Model to Integrate Professional Competencies Across a STEM Curriculum. J Sci Educ Technol 27, 448–468 (2018).

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