The Mastery Rubric for Bioinformatics: supporting design and evaluation of career-spanning education and training

TitleThe Mastery Rubric for Bioinformatics: supporting design and evaluation of career-spanning education and training
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsTractenberg RE, Lindvall JM, Attwood TK, Via A
Date Published06/2019
Keywordsbioinformatics, competencies, Computational Biology, critical thinking, curriculum development, higher education, life science education, training

As the life sciences have become more data intensive, the pressure to incorporate the requisite training into life-science education and training programs has increased. To facilitate curriculum development, various sets of (bio)informatics competencies have been articulated; however, these have proved difficult to implement in practice. Addressing this issue, we have created a curriculum-design and -evaluation tool to support the development of specific Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) that reflect the scientific method and promote both bioinformatics practice and the achievement of competencies. Twelve KSAs were extracted via formal analysis, and stages along a developmental trajectory, from uninitiated student to independent practitioner, were identified. Demonstration of each KSA by a performer at each stage was initially described (Performance Level Descriptors, PLDs), evaluated, and revised at an international workshop. This work was subsequently extended and further refined to yield the Mastery Rubric for Bioinformatics (MR-Bi). The MR-Bi was validated by demonstrating alignment between the KSAs and competencies, and its consistency with principles of adult learning. The MR-Bi tool provides a formal framework to support curriculum building, training, and self-directed learning. It prioritizes the development of independence and scientific reasoning, and is structured to allow individuals (regardless of career stage, disciplinary background, or skill level) to locate themselves within the framework. The KSAs and their PLDs promote scientific problem formulation and problem solving, lending the MR-Bi durability and flexibility. With its explicit developmental trajectory, the tool can be used by developing or practicing scientists to direct their (and their team’s) acquisition of new, or to deepen existing, bioinformatics KSAs. The MR-Bi can thereby contribute to the cultivation of a next generation of bioinformaticians who are able to design reproducible and rigorous research, and to critically analyze results from their own, and others’, work.