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Hirokazu Hirano

Hirokazu Hirano [profile]

Rubric-based Competency

Hirokazu Hirano
Professor, Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University
Areas of specialization: Structural Engineering, Seismic Engineering, and Environmental Simulation

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In 2006, the founding spirit of Chuo University “Fostering the Ability to Apply Knowledge to Practice” was passed down in the form of a new university motto “Knowledge into Action.” In 2008, the Executive Committee of the “Knowledge X Behavioral Attributes” Study Program was established under the direct leadership of the President as a university-wide organization which aims to achieve tangible results in promoting a university education fit for global society. The motivation behind this decision was to restore the “ability” described in Chuo University’s founding spirit in a way that is applicable to modern society as well. Specifically, by allowing all students at the university to combine knowledge (specialist knowledge and skills) with outstanding behavioral attributes (competency), we have set out an educational approach that embodies our founding spirit of fostering and producing human resources equipped with “knowledge into action,” and we are offering diverse study programs, both curricular and extracurricular. In this paper, I will introduce some of the initiatives pursued at Chuo University through our “rubric-based competency” program, which aims to measure “Knowledge into Action.”

Measure of Global Higher Education

“Competency” is a psychological terms first used more than 40 years ago in the United States to explain the differences in results between diplomats with similar academic backgrounds and intelligence levels. In the 21st century, as globalization has rapidly advanced, it has become clear that the behavioral attributes once required of diplomats are now required of ordinary people in other walks of life, and in recent years “competency” has attracted attention as a measure for standards of higher education. In response, at the end of 1997 the OECD [1] developed a research program entitled “Definition of Selection of Competencies” and compiled a final report in 2003. The report stated: “A competency is more than just knowledge and skills. It involves the ability to meet complex demands, by drawing on and mobilising psychosocial resources (including skills and attitudes) in a particular context.” This is nothing less than the “ability” described in Chuo University’s founding spirit of “Fostering the Ability to Apply Knowledge to Practice,” which is also applicable to modern society.

The OECD Report defined “Key Competencies” [2] as those competencies selected for having the following characteristics: (1) Contribute to valued outcomes for societies and individuals; (2) Help individuals meet important demands in a wide variety of contexts; and (3) Be important not just for specialists but for all individuals. Three main categories were set out for competencies, each of which is composed of a further three sub-categories of abilities.

(1) Using (social, cultural and technological) tools interactively (mutual relations between the individual and society)
a) Use language, symbols and texts interactively
b) Use knowledge and information interactively
c) Use technology interactively
(2) Interacting in heterogeneous groups (mutual relations between the individual and others)
a) Relate well to others
b) Co-operate, work in teams
c) Manage and resolve conflicts
(3) Acting autonomously (self-discipline and independence of the individual)
a) The ability to act within the big picture
b) The ability to form and conduct life plans and personal projects
c) The ability to assert rights, interests, limits and needs

Competency at Chuo University
—Development of Rubric-based Competency—

Chuo University’s competency initiatives began five years after the OECD Report with trials at some faculties in 2008. The program was later expanded to all faculties from 2011. This was the first time that a university in Japan had made a full-scale introduction of “competency” into university education. In other words, one of the main characteristics of Chuo University is the “rubric-based” framework it developed from the outset of the program based on the assumption of use by an educational institution. Currently, six levels have been established from Level 0 “No action or incorrect action” to Level 5 “Action that utilizes diversity (culture, customs, values, etc.) to create new value.” There are seven categories, with each category containing a number of keywords (competencies), and 31 keywords in total.

If we equate Chuo University “competencies” to the OECD Key Competencies, the question of what we need to study from the perspective of higher education within a social context and what we need to study from the students’ perspective becomes clearer.

  • Interacting in heterogeneous groups = Ability to carry out organized behavior
  • Acting autonomously = Ability to achieve self-realization
  • Using (social, cultural and technological) tools interactively = Ability to create diversity

In Japan, the importance of the “ability to carry out organized behavior” and the “ability to achieve self-realization” have been emphasized through the country’s past. In contrast, it is clear that the “ability to create diversity,” which is what was meant by the OECD under (1), a) to c) above, does not simply imply knowledge (specialist knowledge and skills). It goes without saying that a higher education institution should seek to promote the acquisition of specialist knowledge and skills described under a) to c). However, the most important thing is the “ability to utilize” this knowledge and skills that is common to (1), a) to c), or in other words “the Ability to Apply Knowledge to Practice.”

Meanwhile, the key to higher education in a global society lies in “the ability to create diversity.”

  • Diversity:
    Respond to diversity (cultures, customs, values, etc.) in an appropriate way and at the same time increase your own presence and obtain new value by creating synergistic effects between the two.

It is also necessary to build the following three abilities, all of which are essential.

  • Identity:
    Have a correct understanding of the culture, customs and values, etc. you are familiar with, decide what you want and what others want from you, and act.
  • Harmonization:
    Obtain mutual understanding alongside people in possession of other cultures, customs and values, respond in an appropriate way, and continue to learn from one another.
  • Synergy:
    Obtain new value by creating synergistic effects through collaboration with numerous and diverse people (culture, customs and values, etc.)

Expanding “Rubric-based Competency”

Education that utilizes competency at Chuo University has the following three characteristics: first, there is a self-appraisal system called C-compass through which students are able to carry out a self-appraisal of their own competency levels at half-yearly intervals and set targets for the succeeding half-year period by comparing with past data; second, “projects” composed of lessons and extracurricular activities are carried out on specified themes with the aim of improving competency levels; and third, there is a C-search function to allow students to search for projects based on the categories they wish to improve. Results for 2013 were as follows: the percentage of students completing C-compass across all six faculties was 73.5% for first-year students and 52.5% for third-year students, and the number of projects was 156. Chuo University has continued to work hard to increase the number of users of the system, providing an English language version of the rubric-based competency chart and allowing graduate students to utilize the system.

Chuo University has published a guide to competency education Competency Development as a Model of Scientific Global Education [Kagaku-teki Gurobaru Kyoiku Model toshiteno Compitenshi Kyoiku] (March 2012). The University has made the guide freely available via Japan’s first university-run electronic book distribution application Hakumon Shobo with the aim of sharing its experiences as widely as possible and returning value to society.


In terms of future initiatives, Chuo University will focus on the following three areas. First, we will introduce and develop learning appraisal methods based on the dual axis of knowledge (academic performance [GPA]) and behavioral attributes (competency level) as a measure of “Knowledge into Action.” Second, we will use this dual appraisal system to establish a cycle of improvement at three levels—students, teaching staff and organization. Third, we will promote international joint research into learning appraisals in university education using dual axis appraisals or competency.

There are huge expectations for Chuo University as an institution that will educate young adults with responsibility for the global society of an increasingly interdependent 21st century and retrain adults aspiring to work in front line roles in society. Chuo University has introduced the new perspective of “rubric-based competency” to learning appraisals as an educational method that embodies “Knowledge into Action,” and currently we are in the process of establishing it. As the university that founded under the concept of “applying knowledge to practice,” it would be no exaggeration to say that Chuo University’s mission in international society is to utilize competency as a higher education institution.

Lastly, as proof of the high level of interest from society in Chuo University’s project-led courses utilizing the rubric-based competency development program, in January 2013 the program was selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as a “particularly outstanding project for which a ripple effect is expected” (GP within GP) in the Projects to Promote University Education & Student Support [Theme A]: University Education Promotion Program (Education GP). In August 2013, we received the “Engineering Education Award” from the Japanese Society for Engineering Education, and in March 2014 we were selected for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s “30 Courses for Cultivating Fundamental Ability in Working Professionals.” In addition, we have attracted the attention of organizations such as IPA, JABEE, the Transdisciplinary Federation of Science and Technology and Seminarhouse, and we have already launched personnel exchanges with more than ten universities both in Japan and overseas.

  1. ^ “Guide to OECD Key Competencies” [OECD niokeru Ki Compitenshi nitsuite], Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
  2. ^ Japanese translations of key competencies follow the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s “Guide to OECD Key Competencies” [OECD niokeru Ki Compitenshi nitsuite]
Hirokazu Hirano
Professor, Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University
Areas of specialization: Structural Engineering, Seismic Engineering, and Environmental Simulation
Professor Hirano was born in Tokyo in 1955. He graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering (currently the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University in 1979. After Completing the Master’s Program of the Chuo University Graduate School of Science and Engineering with a major in civil engineering, he joined Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. He worked as a Part-Time Lecturer at the Chuo University Faculty of Science and Engineering and as a Full-time Lecturer/Associate Professor at the Faculty of Policy Studies before assuming the current position of Chuo University Professor in 1998. He served as Dean of the Graduate School of Policy Studies, Chuo University from November 2009 to October 2011, and he was appointed Director of the Center for Information Technology and Computing Services in April 2013. He holds a PhD in engineering.
Professor Hirano conducts experiments and numerical analyses for the purposes of research into the prevention of swaying in structures due to factors such as wind and earthquakes. In addition to authoring research theses, he has developed various types of vibration control devices that use simple mechanisms for preventing swaying. Such devices are used at companies such as Metropolitan Expressway Company Limited, and he received first royalties from his patent at Chuo University.