Noncognitive Skills Gap Among Medical Assistant Students: A Quasi-Experimental Design

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Employers blame higher education for not preparing graduates for the demands of the workforce, while additional factors streamline education that phases out noncognitive skills development. The problem is graduates of medical assistant programs of Central State Technical College (a pseudonym) are deficient in noncognitive skills such as critical thinking, communication, and professionalism. The purpose of this quantitative ex post facto study was to test for statistically significant differences in employment rates, employer satisfaction of noncognitive skills development, and overall employer satisfaction of medical assistant graduates between service-learning participants and non-service-learning participants. Grounded in Kolb’s experiential learning theory and Bandura’s self-efficacy theory, the study contributes to underdeveloped quantitative research of service-learning and fills gaps related to the use in medical assistant education. The research questions evaluated the effect of participation in service-learning on dependent variables associated with program outcome data. Selection criteria were limited to graduates of an accredited program. The treatment group used service-learning and included 13 medical assistant graduates from 2019. The control group did not use service-learning and included 13 medical assistant graduates from 2014. Fisher’s exact test, Chi-Square tests, and Mann–Whitney U tests were used to test for statistically significant differences in the means of the two independent samples. The data analysis demonstrated an increase in employment rates but did not demonstrate differences of statistical significance. Educators are encouraged to integrate diverse learning activities that promote the development of noncognitive skills. Recommendations to support collaboration between educators and employers are discussed. Keywords: non-cognitive skills, experiential learning, service-learning, program outcomes, employer satisfaction, Medical Assisting Education Review Board (MAERB)