Core Competency Development & Overview

Introduction

The mission of NODA-Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education is to provide education, leadership, and professional development in the field of college student orientation, transition, and retention (OTR). To that end, the NODA Board has embarked on strategic planning efforts that support their mission and vision of being the premier association for professionals in orientation, transition, and retention.

NODA has a long history of collaboration and communication with the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). The CAS standards for Orientation Programs (2011) have provided the framework for developing and assessing effective and accountable orientation programs and services for many years. Further, CAS provides the Characteristics of Individual Excellence for Professional Practice in Higher Education, which are general professional competencies to practice and apply the programmatic standards and guidelines. However, the orientation programs CAS standards do not provide specific competencies for OTR professionals. The NODA Core Competencies were established to fill the gap and offer direction for guiding individual personal and professional development in orientation, transition, and retention.

The NODA Core Competencies were designed to be the organizational system for knowledge, skills, and abilities of all professionals. Competencies are a “benchmark for defining a profession” (Havice, 2015). Competencies not only provide a common framework and foundation of skills for professionals involved in the Association, they also create opportunities for professional development and help advance the skills and experiences for all levels of OTR professionals.

Philosophical Framework

The field of orientation, transition, and retention is organizationally complex and a practical field which professionals routinely attempt to interpret in simplistic viewpoints. In the viewpoint of organizational theory, orientation, transition, and retention cannot be categorized or understood as a simple issue or approach through simple structures. Orientation, transition, and retention is a highly interconnected context, therefore must be approached through a complex lens (Snowden & Boone, 2007; Chillers, 1998).

The NODA Core Competencies have been written to blur the traditional independent fields known more specifically to orientation in order to address the greater relational context of orientation, transition, and retention. Contemporary professionals in orientation, transition, and retention must recognize the intersectionality of orientation, transition, and retention to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to successfully support students. Orientation Transition Retention

Process

In November 2014, the NODA Board of Directors, in support of the strategic plan, initiated an ad hoc committee to draft the NODA Core Competencies. The ad hoc committee was comprised of seven NODA members ranging from new professionals to those with an advanced level of experience in orientation, transition, and retention.

Throughout the six-month competency development process, the ad hoc committee reviewed key documents including the CAS Standards for Orientation Programs (2011), the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators (2015), peer association competency frameworks, the NODA Task Force report (2012) on the definition of orientation, transition, and retention, the NODA Listserv Data Analysis (Summer 2013) and position descriptions of OTR professionals in many levels at multiple types of institutions. The committee members engaged in a process of discussion and analysis of these guiding documents, formal position description, and other resources (Rode & Cawthon, 2010; Cawthon & Schreiber, 2012; Ward-Roof & Guthrie, 2010; Burkard, Cole, Ott & Stoflet, 2005; National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2013).

From this analysis, twelve foundational areas of the OTR profession emerged as thematic focuses into which the competencies of the field can be categorized. The competencies of the OTR profession have been categorized into foundational, intermediate, and advanced skills within each of the Foundations.

Drafts of the NODA Core Competencies were shared with a series of external and internal (NODA) reviewers. Feedback was evaluated and applied where necessary and appropriate. Internal reviewers included NODA leaders within committees and networks. A special thank you to external reviewers Dr. George Kuh (National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment), Dr. Joe Cuseo (Educational Advisor, AVID for Higher Education), Dr. Cindi Love (ACPA Executive Director) and Kelli McLoudSchingen (KMS Intercultural Consulting).

NODA Core Competencies Ad Hoc Committee:

  • Rebecca Atkinson, Clemson University, Chair
  • Karnell Black, Westminster College
  • Meighan Burke, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Dr. Andrew Cinoman, Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Joyce Holl, NODA Association Office
  • Melanie Payne, Indiana University
  • Allison Prelosky, Case Western Reserve University
  • Shawn Smee, Murray State University

Competency Foundations

The NODA Core Competences are comprised of twelve foundational areas. The ‘Foundations’ are thematic tenets, which provide the framework for the core competencies. The Foundations are highly interconnected and building competence in one Foundation may be contingent on competence in a subsequent one. The Foundations for the NODA Professional Competencies are:

  • Theoretical and Institutional Knowledge
  • Diversity, Inclusion, and Access
  • Campus Collaborations
  • Curriculum and Content Development
  • Program Delivery and Management
  • Organization and Leadership
  • Communication
  • Crisis Management
  • Financial Management
  • Laws, Policies, and Governance
  • Enrollment Management
  • Research, Assessment, and Evaluation

The Foundations are thematic areas in which all professionals in orientation, transition, and retention must build skill and competence. Some tenets addressed in other association competencies may not be reflected as a self-standing Foundation but woven throughout all levels of the Foundations.

Example: Technology

Technology is a vital knowledge, skill, and ability to the success of OTR professionals. Technology, however, is a competence area that transcends and supports all of the Foundations reflected in the NODA Core Competencies. Technology is rapidly changing and affects the work of all OTR professionals. Technology is addressed within the twelve Foundations but in a supportive lens within each specific Foundation.

Intended Audience and Implementation

Professional competence is built through the context of knowledge, skills, and abilities, which are attained through both formal and informal ways of learning. The three influence one another creating a cycle necessary for professionals to engage in and ultimately be successful within the field. Professional and personal experience combined with education, however, influence an individual’s competence within a Foundation.

Within each of the Foundations, the competencies are outlined in foundational, intermediate, and advanced sequence. Foundational, intermediate, and advanced levels are drafted in the context and framework of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956). Bloom’s framework provides professionals with a progression of knowledge, skills, and abilities which could be measured or documented through professional evidence or success criteria (Adelman, 2015).

The levels are not intended to be tied to a positional or job level, but rather to focus on a progressive building of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Job duties and responsibilities differ widely from institution to institution, depending upon the institutional type, the organization of OTR programming or offices, or even the institution’s host country. In addition, experienced professionals who take on new positions with different responsibilities may need to build competence at a foundational level in a Foundation area outside of their experience and expertise. Therefore, it is imperative OTR professionals recognize professional competence does not correlate with job level/status, position title or educational attainment.

The NODA Core Competencies are not meant to be a checklist of professional attributes but should be thought of as a guide to develop one’s professional growth. OTR practitioners should challenge themselves to be honest in their self-reflection regarding the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to obtain and seek opportunities to learn and advance themselves in that area or competency. Development in certain competencies may be for personal or professional reasons; for example, to provide experience for a job search or professional advancement opportunity.

The ACPA/NASPA professional competencies offer the knowledge and skills for student affairs professionals. The authors suggested the ten established competency areas “lay out essential knowledge, skills, and dispositions expected of all student affairs educators, regardless of functional area or specialized within the field” (2015, p. 7). The NODA Core Competencies reflect further knowledge, skills, and abilities of higher education professionals specifically practicing in the field of orientation, transition, and retention.

While the ACPA/NASPA competencies offer knowledge, skills, and abilities for all student affairs educators and CAS Orientation Programs standards suggest programmatic guidelines, standards, and assessment, the NODA Competencies complete a holistic approach to OTR practice.

The graphic below illustrates the blending of several frameworks, including the NODA Core Competencies, for OTR professionals to strive toward. As scholars and educators, professionals must seek out opportunities from multiple sources to establish evidence-based practices and professional experiences.

An example of how a professional may use two or more frameworks to build competence would, again, be in the realm of technology. Technology is a freestanding theme within the ACPA/NASPA competencies. OTR professionals can turn to the ACPA/NASPA competencies to assess their knowledge, skills, and abilities specifically in technology. Professionals can then utilize the NODA Core Competencies to frame the technological knowledge, skills, and abilities within orientation, transition, and retention.

NODA Core Competencies

The NODA Core Competencies are highly complementary of and intertwined between the Foundations. Competence in one Foundation may be contingent on competence in a subsequent one. As some competencies are interwoven, OTR professionals are reminded the NODA Core Competencies are not a checklist of knowledge, skills, and abilities, but are a framework to build comprehensive competence in the field of orientation, transition, and retention.

What follows are the competencies based on the categories:

Theoretical and Institutional Knowledge

Diversity, Inclusion, and Access

Campus Collaborations

Curriculum and Content Development

Program Delivery and Management

Organization and Leadership

Communication

Crisis Management

Financial Management

Laws, Policies, and Governance

Enrollment Management

Research, Assessment, and Evaluation

Revision History

2023 Revision

NEED Revision Summary

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