Assessing Learners’ Essential Employability Qualities – Assessment Institute Presentation

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Below are the slides from our 2018 Assessment Institute presentation on Assessing Learners’ Essential Employability Qualities, featuring the experiences and practices of two of our EEQ Pilot partners – University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Joan Cook and Brandman University’s Laurie Dodge.

Assessing Learners’ Essential Employability Qualities

We’re grateful to their participation in the design of the EEQ CERT and for sharing their promising practices for developing graduates’ Essential Employability Qualities.

 

 

Teaching Soft Skills in College – A Course for Faculty

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Teaching Soft Skills in College

September 24 – November 9, 2018

With this seven-module online certificate, you will learn how to teach communication, teamwork, critical thinking, and self-motivated learning—four “soft skills” strongly linked to student success. This course will provide college educators and administrators with a strong foundation in the theory, research, and practical applications of these crucial 21st-century skills. You’ll also examine skills frameworks, critiques of these frameworks, instructional design principles, and the science behind each of the four skills.

Course is taught by award-winning author and presenter Matthew Hora.

Learning points

At the conclusion of the course, students will demonstrate:

  • an in-depth and critical understanding of 21st-century skills frameworks
  • a deeper understanding of the research behind teamwork, communication, critical thinking, and self-regulated learning
  • an understanding of how these four skills should be conceptualized and taught in their own disciplines
  • how to incorporate best practices for teaching these skills into their own curriculum and instruction

Learn more and register HERE.

Promising Practices for Developing Essential Employability Qualities

In the 2017-18 academic year, The QA Commons partnered with 27 programs from 14 colleges and universities to co-design the Essential Employability Qualities Certification. As a result of our work together, we identified several programmatic and institutional promising practices to support students’ development of these qualities. Below are brief descriptions of these promising practices.

Employability is the ability to find, create and sustain work and learning across lengthening working lives and multiple work settings.

EEQ Development & Assessment

  • Degree programs intentionally designed to develop, address, and assess expected EEQ exit proficiencies so there is assurance that all students will graduate from the program fully prepared.
  • Applied research projects designed to addresses real problems in a partner employer’s organizations.
  • Course-embedded community service projects that allow students to directly apply their learning to real community needs.
  • Specific assignments designed so that students can learn content while also practicing different EEQs (e.g., written proposals, presentations, team-based formats, etc.).
  • Experiential learning pathways that allow students to apply their learning in work-relevant situations at several points throughout a program.
  • Team-based capstone projects situated in workplaces and co-taught with employers.
  • Classes co-taught with employers; employers involved in directly assessing student work.

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Career Development, Planning, and Support

  • Courses intentionally designed to support students in understanding the world of work and its expectations.
  • Career development programming integrated across the curriculum and over time, such as embedded career planning activities in courses.
  • Guest speakers from industries and organizations embedded in courses to engage students in considering industry or organization-specific career possibilities.
  • A cross-campus integrated approach to career preparedness through civic engagement.

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Student Records

  • Enhanced student records that convey students’ EEQ development and outcomes in visually accessible and appealing ways.
  • Competency-based badging practices that communicate students’ abilities in visible, verifiable ways.

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Employer Engagement

  • Employer engagement models that go well beyond a traditional Advisory Board into authentic partnerships, or even “employer-attached” curriculum and pedagogy (where employers serve as co-faculty and assessors of student work).
  • Employers and programs working together to develop and test new approaches, such as badging, developing talent pipelines through partnerships, and work-integrated learning modules.

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Graduate / Alumni Feedback

  • Use of findings from well-designed alumni surveys, which address not only program satisfaction but also graduates’ sense of preparedness for employment, graduate employment outcomes, and feedback for program improvement.
  • Purposeful inclusion of alumni who employ program graduates into advisory boards or other feedback mechanisms.

We’re grateful to our partner programs for their contributions to this work! Read the full EEQ CERT Pilot Finding Report HERE.

New Resource: Merging Work and Learning to Develop the Human Skills that Matter

We just added a few new resources to our Resource Library. This one in particular will be of interest to programs and institutions looking to redesign their curricular approach and partner with employers to better address the Essential Employability Qualities in their educational programs.

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Merging Work and Learning to Develop the Human Skills that Matter – from Pearson and Jobs for the Future.

This report showcases promising practices from the US and UK to suggest a forward looking agenda for education and training, moving from uncertainty to the economic advancement of all learners. Some of the strategies profiled include:

  • competency-based education, which allows learners to show what they know as soon as they know it and move quickly to the next level;
  • employer and industry-led models, which radically lower the opportunity costs of education by providing further training on the job;
  • the latest labor market intelligence tools and techniques, which provide educators with powerful insights into the changing skills marketplace;
  • dynamic and work-based pedagogy, to instill the critical skills needed for the future of work; and
  • new pathways and business models that support access and completion for learners at any point in their career and at virtually any income level.

 

Integrating 21st Century Skills into the College Classroom – A New Course Offering

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In response to growing interest in teaching “21st century skills” at the postsecondary level, Matt Hora (author of Beyond the Skills Gap) has developed an online 7-week survey course at UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies on the topic.

Check out the course info HERE.

The course is designed to give faculty and instructors an introduction to the research behind four skills – communication, teamwork, self-regulated learning, and critical thinking – and practical tips on how to integrate them into college courses.  The course also takes a critical look at the skills discourse surrounding 21st century skills, and emphasizes disciplinary approaches to curriculum design and instruction.  Through video-taped lectures, course readings, online annotation, and case study problems, the goal of the course is to help learners transform an existing lesson plan or course syllabus to prominently feature one of the four skills.  They hope that the course will be a valuable resource for faculty developers, instructors hoping to improve their teaching, and for anyone interested in skills-related issues.

 

EmployABILITY – New Resources

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Thanks to Flazingo Photos for allowing use of this photo.

Two new resources have been added over on our Resources page – check them out:

Developing EmployABILITY:  EmployABILITY is the ability to create and sustain meaningful work across the career lifespan. This is a developmental process which students need to learn before they graduate. The Developing EmployABILITY Initiative is a collaboration involving over 20 higher education institutions and over 400 scholars internationally. Our goal is to enable and embed employABILITY thinking in the curriculum. The Initiative is led by Professor Dawn Bennett at Curtin University. New collaborators are always welcome. The Developing EmployABILITY website for educators is full of resources to support developing employability qualities in students.

Engagement and Employability Integrating Career Learning through Cocurricular Experiences in Postsecondary Education – A NASPA publication, which provides a discussion and numerous examples of how to identify, measure, and assess employability skills as an outcome of cocurricular experiences.

Developing Employability: A Beyond-Disciplinary Transformative Approach to Higher and Postsecondary Education

The QA Commons recently co-presented with Jeff King from University of Central Oklahoma and Niesha Ziehmke from Charles and Stella Guttman Community College (two of our 27 EEQ CERT co-design partners) about the EEQ CERT co-design process and transformative learning at the 2018 Transformative Learning Conference, March 8 and 9, 2018, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Here are our slides:

 

And HERE is the extended abstract of our presentation.

Enjoy!

 

 

Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work

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Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work just received the Ness Book Award at the 2018 AAC&U conference. I attended the authors’ session at the conference and learned quite a bit about their research and work in Wisconsin, and the connections to the Essential Employability Qualities Certification that we are developing. It was an informative and provocative session, with some critical considerations for higher educational programs seeking to make sure their graduates are prepared not just for their first jobs, but for a lifetime of employability in the changing world of work they will encounter. 

BOOK SUMMARY:

Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work explores how educators can ensure that graduates are adequately prepared for the future, challenging the argument that sluggish economic growth is due to a higher education system insufficiently attuned to workplace needs, with the solution being more specialized technical training and fewer liberal arts graduates. The book’s authors challenge this conception of the “skills gap,” highlighting instead the value of broader twenty-first-century skills in postsecondary education. In the book, the authors advocate for a system in which employers share responsibility along with the education sector to serve the collective needs of the economy, society, and students. Beyond the Skills Gap emphasizes the critical role of educational practice and design in preparing students for the workforce and ensuring that future employees develop robust technical expertise, cultivate problem-solving and communication skills, transfer abstract knowledge to real-world situations, and foster a lifelong aptitude for self-directed learning.

HERE is a link to the session slides posted by Matt Hora, one of the book’s authors and the key presenter at the session. Take a look at slide #14 about classroom methods. Also, check out the “Six things we need to do” at the end. Many of these actions align to our Draft Criteria for Certification – Version 2.  What do you think? 

How Is Your Institution Preparing Students for Careers and Employability?

by Melanie Booth

Last week I attended a Lumina Foundation convening called Next Generation Work-Based Learning, during which we engaged with five colleges and universities that are addressing work-based learning in a variety of ways. The institutions, represented by small teams (which included students!), were:

This convening  had as its main intention the sharing of current work and challenges related to work-based learning, and laying the groundwork for a potential multi-institutional project focused on enhancing and expanding equity in work-based learning opportunities. If you’re a follower of our work, you will know this is right up our alley, so it was great to be invited to participate and to learn.

I gleaned several take-aways from this convening, including some ways that institutions might reflect on how they are structured and resourced to support their students in preparing for the complex world of work in the 21st century.

1) What is the ratio of career services staff to students? 

Of the five institutions represented, the ratios of career services staff to students were all over the board, and of course this basic metric is by no means an indicator of quality or effectiveness. For one thing, it depends on how you count career services personnel — in some cases, some were career counselors situated in career centers, some were departmental faculty engaged in career-oriented student support (such as internship placements), and some were staff embedded in an academic advising unit or another existing office.  However, it could be useful for institutions to consider the potential of this information as a baseline for what they have in place. Then they could consider how (and how well) career services in all forms are deployed at the institution.

2) Where, how, and how well are career services deployed organizationally?

Some institutions had a designated career support team for individual schools, such as the school of business, and then a career services office for, well, everyone else. Some institutions had faculty charged with advising, including career and internship advising, while a career services office was charged more with helping students prepare for the job search process. Some had career services centralized; others had career services totally decentralized; and of course there are mixed models. Institutions wishing to self-assess might want to first inventory their existing organizational structures, talk to their students to understand the benefits and challenges of the existing structures, consider how to best deploy career services support for all students, and then consider what would be their most useful evidence of effectiveness.

 3) How are institutions addressing inequities in networks that students have?

Coming to college with well-established and helpful networks for career preparation is a particular challenge for low SES and first generation students. To address this inequity and the need for student support in this area, some institutions have designed intentional programs (e.g., alumni mentor housing arrangements for summer internships) that can support network development and networking skills. Likewise, each institution at this meeting was considering how they supported all students in their “professional socialization.” With the new majority students attending higher education, the traditional suite of career services offerings may no longer be sufficient for serving all populations.

4) Do students have on-campus jobs, and if so, to what extent are they intentionally designed as learning opportunities?

On-campus jobs for students can be leveraged as learning opportunities with intentional planning and support structures. For example:

  • Do positions have job descriptions and learning outcomes? Do students know what they can expect to learn from an on-campus job?
  • Are supervisors trained in developing work-based learning in their units and assessing it?
  • Do supervisors give students feedback, and is student performance recorded anywhere?
  • Do students reflect on their experiences and make meaning from them in regard to their professional preparation?
  • Are students engaged in substantive work projects they could add to a portfolio or cite on their resume or LinkedIn profile?

5) How are off-campus jobs leveraged?

58% of students work while enrolled in college. Whether this is full-time or part-time employment, how is the institution intentionally integrating or leveraging these off-campus work experiences for students to connect with their academic learning and to build on professionally?

6) What is the overall coherence of career and professional development programming to support employability preparation across an institution? 

Is the campus as a whole directed not only at academic learning, but at work-based learning and employability preparation? What are the intentional practices in place to support this for all students, and how effective are they as a cohesive approach? Again, these are just a few questions institutions could use to self-assess their own approach and determine any areas to improve.

7) What do students say?

As represented by the students participating in the convening, students themselves (as well as recent alumni) can offer valuable feedback and ideas to better support their professional development and career preparation. It’s worth partnering with students to determine what’s working, what could be improved, and how to go about best supporting students in this area.

On this note, I will conclude with this statement from one of the students represented from these five institutions during the student panel session of the meeting:

Students need to have opportunities to put our ideas into practice, to test, to experiment, to apply, and to deepen our learning and prepare for our futures. Colleges need to provide these opportunities for us; we are not all positioned to get them on our own, or even to know we need them. 

Connecting Academic Learning with Workplace Learning: The Connected Curriculum Framework

This newly published resource – A Connected Curriculum for Higher Education, published by UCL press – has as one of its dimensions the idea that students should have opportunities to connect their academic learning with workplace learning. Here’s an overview of this idea:

Students need to be able to connect academic learning explicitly with the areas of knowledge, skills and approaches needed both for professional work and for lifelong learning. Their programme of study, as a whole, should equip students for life and work in a world in which technological innovations are the norm, and in which social and organisational needs change rapidly. Students also need to become increasingly aware that they are developing a rich range of understandings, skills, values and attributes to take with them into their professional lives, and be able to articulate these effectively. They can also be empowered to engage in critical dialogue with others about the evidence-based application of knowledge to society (Chapter 6).

Table 6.1 starting on page 89 has a great collection of strategies for engaging students in making these connections. We recommend this as a resource!