This page focuses on the element ‘skills and attributes’. It provides a description of the element, highlights its relevance, and provides examples of skills and attributes in the curriculum. Description Through the choice of learning, teaching and assessment methods, provision of a curriculum that enhances students’ non-technical skills and attributes in a coherent and developmental way. Relevance for student development, employability and careers Beyond the valuable knowledge and technical skills they gain from their degrees, ensuring that students have developed and are aware of a range of skills and attributes is critical to supporting their employability, but also their studies and their role within society. Designing each attribute’s development to be progressive over a student’s degree programme can help boost the effectiveness, strength and flexibility of these attributes. Tips and things to consider Below you will find some key tips and guidance to consider when incorporating skills and attributes into curricular provision. Practical tips Start with the end in mind When designing any programme or course it can be valuable to think about what skills, mindsets, and attributes you want your students to have once they finish the degree or course and then ensure they will have effective chances to develop them. The University’s Graduate Attributes describe the qualities all our students should have the opportunity to develop while studying with us. These attributes will be interpreted differently by context, level and discipline. Graduate Attributes website The Careers Service has researched the literature on the future of work and produced a summary of the skills and mindsets needed. The glossary provides definitions of the skills, explains their importance and gives examples of how they can be developed. Information on future of work skills Have a plan (what, when and how) Developing skills and attributes is similar to developing disciplinary knowledge in that having a plan for what, when and how is essential. Planning can ensure that students will develop a range of skills and attributes across their degrees while being purposeful about when these are introduced, used and further developed. This can be done at a programme level as well as within and between courses. Doing so allows coherence and scaffolding through the degree; for example skills essential at Honours level are ideally introduced in some form at pre-Honours. As with a lot of learning, starting small and progressively building up can be valuable. Create overall diversity (teaching strategies, assessment methods, and skills and attributes) Each teaching or assessment method requires students to use slightly different skills and attributes. For example essays, discussions, group work, presentations, or reports for external audiences all demand different skills but can explore similar disciplinary knowledge. Actively choosing a diverse range of teaching methods and assessments in courses or across a degree, not only can provide a richer student experience, it also supports students in developing a broader range of skills and attributes through the curriculum. Aim for strength and flexibility for each individual skill Wherever possible and appropriate, support the robust development of any specific skill by identifying or designing opportunities for students to use the skill in multiple contexts and multiple ways. This will produce a stronger, more flexible skill that students can draw on in the future. Think about support If a skill is required for success in your curriculum, it is important to support its development. This can be through multiple routes, including: formal inputs, providing low-risk opportunities to develop it, and signposting resources or references. Be explicit about what skills are developed and why Often our teaching practices inherently develop a range of skills, but students often do not recognise this. Help students see the added value of their experiences by being explicit about the skills needed and developed. For example, when introducing the learning outcomes for a course, also share what skills and attributes are developed and required for success in your course. The Careers Service has researched the literature on the future of work and produced a summary of the skills and mindsets needed. The glossary provides definitions of the skills, explains their importance and gives examples of how they can be developed. Information on future of work skills Examples There is diverse practice across the University that can be used to stimulate thinking about what is possible in your setting. The Teaching Matters blog highlights a range of relevant practice. The examples come from multiple parts of the student experience and relate either partially or substantially to this element. New articles are automatically added so check back in the future to discover some of the latest practice. Teaching Matters: relevant articles Further reading and external perspectives The references below provide some background on this element as well as some of the external drivers and motivations for including it. Overview These references set the context for why developing skills and attributes is important for employability generally, as well as for students’ future careers. The references explore how it is becoming increasingly common for graduates to go through a range of careers, and that employers tend to look for students with strong ‘soft skills’ as people will often find careers outside their degree discipline. This puts an increased emphasis on developing a wide range of skills that can ‘future proof’ students and allow them to succeed in different contexts; for example, skills such as adaptability and learning how to learn are seen very favourably. Further reading Reference Description The Scottish Government (2010). Skills for Scotland: accelerating the recovery and increasing sustainable economic growth. Report (2010) The Scottish Government has set out a strategy which focuses on skills development of the general population. The focus is that students and non-students alike should build and develop robust skills that can contribute to the development and sustainability of the Scottish Economy. The original 2007 report states that 'all of the constituent parts of our education and learning systems can contribute to giving Scotland a skills base that is world class' (p.III). Yorke, M. (2006). Employability in higher education: what it is – what it is not. The Higher Education Academy. This publication discusses the concept of employability and sets a context for why skills development is important in developing employability. ‘Employers generally see a graduate’s achievements related to the subject discipline as necessary but not sufficient for them to be recruited. In some employment contexts the actual subject discipline may be relatively unimportant. Achievements outside the boundaries of the discipline (such as the possession of so-called ‘soft skills’) are generally considered to be important in the recruitment of graduates’ (p.2). Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (2015). Falling short? College Learning and Career Success. Report This report found that a broad range of skills and knowledge is important for recent college graduates to find long-term career success. Moreover, 'When it comes to the types of skills and knowledge that employers feel are most important to workplace to success, large majorities of employers do NOT feel that recent college graduates are well prepared. This is particularly the case for applying knowledge and skills in real-world settings, critical thinking skills, and written and oral communication skills—areas in which fewer than three in 10 employers think that recent college graduates are well prepared' (p.11). While the survey was conducted in the US and therefore graduates’ readiness may differ in the UK, it is likely that organisations and employers are looking for the same or equivalent skills. Moreover, these findings are echoed in the UK. National Centre for Universities and Business (2014). Career portfolios and the labour market for graduates and postgraduates in the UK. Report The report highlights a series of relevant points regarding skills and attributes. It reiterates the importance of highly-skilled graduates and how the UK economy can thrive through a skilled graduating cohort. This is followed by the realisation of an uncertain job market and therefore an increasing need for skills such as adaptability, critical thinking and learning-by-doing for long-term success. Moreover, employers recruit widely beyond subject disciplines and students are likely to end up in positions outside of their subject areas, where the ability to learn quickly and be adaptable again proves important, and potentially even more so than subject-specific knowledge. Abrami, P.C., Bernard, R.M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M.A., Tamin, R., & Zhang, D. (2008). Instruction interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: a stage 1 meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 1102-1134. and Abrami, P.C., Bernard, R.M., Borokhovski, E., Waddington, C., Wade, A., & Persson, T. (2015). Strategies for teaching students to think critically: a meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 43(2), 275-314. These meta-analyses explore the effects of explicit interventions on critical thinking skills in education settings. They found that students developed better critical thinking when time was taken to teach critical thinking skills specifically in contrast to hoping that students would learn the skills without direct input. It was also found that larger effect sizes were achieved when viewing and stating critical thinking as a course objective. This highlights the importance of thinking about skills development and the likely value of protecting time and explicitly addressing skills development in the curriculum. Young, R. (2018, 13th July). Soft Skills: The primary predictor of success in academics, career and life. [Blogpost] Retrieved from https://pairin.com/2018/07/13/soft-skills-primary-predictor-success-academics-career-life/. This blogpost is by a psychologist working with PAIRIN, a social enterprise whose mission is to make education relevant and hiring equitable. The blogpost works through some of the research on the importance of 'soft skills' in success. This includes research from Stanford Research Institute International and Carnegie Mellon Foundation who interviewed 400 Fortune 500 CEOs. There was a broad consensus among the CEOs that majority of success comes from soft skills. Other research points to similar conclusions: ‘soft skills’ significantly predict success above subject expertise. Kettle, J. (2013). Flexible pedagogies: employer engagement and work-based learning. The Higher Education Academy. This resource explores references around employers’ needs and the reality of graduates’ situations. ‘Graduates are now much more likely to have multiple employers and even to move from one employment sector to another. Increasingly they are leaving the context suggested or determined by their undergraduate degree studies. In addition, organisations, particularly in the STEM sectors, are increasingly looking for so-called ‘T-shaped’ people who have capabilities to solve problems, demonstrate expertise, and qualities and attributes to be effective across trans-disciplinary teams and networks.’ (p.8). Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., & Norman, M.K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching, Chapter 7. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. This book explores research-based approaches to teaching and highlights the following about skills: 'To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practise integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned. Students must develop not only the component skills and knowledge necessary to perform complex tasks, they must also practice combining and integrating them to develop greater fluency and automaticity. Finally, students must learn when and how to apply the skills and knowledge they learn. As instructors, it is important that we develop conscious awareness of these elements of mastery so as to help our students learn more effectively.’ (p.5). Barrie, S.C. (2007). A conceptual framework for the teaching and learning of generic graduate attributes. Studies in Higher Education, 32(4), 439-458. In this paper Simon Barrie, one of the leading international researchers on graduate attributes, sets the context for such attributes and examines the perception of academics’ role in developing these. He finds two general categories of academics’ attitudes: either graduate attributes are viewed as relatively unrelated to the general university experience and might be something that is taught in a separate supplementary curriculum; or graduate attributes are seen as important and as interacting with other learning outcomes of university education. It is critical to recognise the consequences of these distinct perspectives, to acknowledge our own and colleagues’ perceptions of what is developed at university, and to develop a shared understanding that we can build from.