The One Hit Wonder – Veronica Brown

For several years now, all Ontario degree programs have been expected to demonstrate their students’ fulfillment of degree-level expectations as part of their program review process. There are different requirements at the undergraduate (UDLEs) and graduate (GDLEs) levels (more info is available in the Program Review area of the CTE Curriculum site). There are six UDLEs, which institutions could choose to use, adapt, or create their own and demonstrate how their own fulfilled the six required. At Waterloo, we adopted the six required UDLEs.

  1. Depth and breadth of knowledge
  2. Knowledge of methodologies
  3. Application of knowledge
  4. Communication skills
  5. Awareness of limits of knowledge
  6. Autonomy and professional capacity

But wanted to capture other elements that uniquely define Waterloo and added two more.

  1. Experiential learning
  2. Diversity

Consider the UDLE, “Awareness of limits of knowledge”, which is defined as

… an understanding of the limits to their own knowledge and ability, and an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits to knowledge and how this might influence analyses and interpretations. (Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents in University of Waterloo, n.d.)

How do you measure “an appreciation of uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge”? I don’t think you can, not as it is stated here. You need to better define this UDLE as it relates to the experience your students have had and what you might expect them to experience. I find Eisner’s suggestions for expressive activities that will lead to expressive outcomes (see my February 18 blog) more and more appealing. Every student might have a different limit of their own knowledge but we can provide experiences that help them explore what those limits are. We can expose them to examples where a lack of knowledge has led to serious analysis and interpretation issues. We can give them labs or problem sets or case studies, etc., that have no single, right answer to help them gain comfort or an appreciation of uncertainty. The final outcome for each student might not be the same but we can control and define the activities that lead to that outcome.

The challenge, however, is to ensure that these experiences are scaffolded throughout the degree rather than being a one-hit-wonder. How can a student gain an appreciation of uncertainty if every question they are asked to answer has a single answer? How is that comfort or appreciation demonstrated by questions like “Will that be on the test”? How do we gauge student’s limits of their knowledge if we gather no evidence of the reflective process they use to review (or not) their performance in our class?

Next week, as I conclude this blog, I’ll explain why I posted the images throughout these blogs. Have a look at the images and try to guess where they are from, why I posted them, and what they have to do with the affective domain.



University of Waterloo. (n.d.). The degree level expectations. Retrieved from on March 4, 2014.



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Veronica Brown

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum & Quality Enhancement, Veronica Brown provides oversight and facilitative support for departmental and Faculty-wide curriculum planning initiatives. She also leads the development and implementation of the Centre’s assessment plan for understanding the impact and quality of our work.