Soft Skills and Enterprise Skills

Within one to two weeks, systems, schools and communities across the country will engage with the media frenzy of examination results and ATARs.

Excellent HSC results (in New South Wales) are promoted by many as indicators of success and they often form part of a school or system’s marketing campaign. One of Catholic education’s leading data analysts, Dr John DeCourcy, continually reminds us that test scores are in fact, lagging indicators of success. We keep reading about the need for students to develop their ‘soft skills’, their ‘enterprise skills’ or their ’21st century skills’ so they can function in, and contribute towards a changing world. However, there will be very little heard or read about these skills  when HSC results and ATARs are released in a few weeks.

Education leaders are now challenged to bring soft skills and enterprise skills to prominence because they are leading indicators of success which will assist students to function in and contribute towards a rapidly changing world, not just in the future, but today!

The good news is that within NSW syllabus documents there are outcomes which directly relate to soft skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationships. Furthermore, there are enterprise skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity found within Key Learning Area (KLA) outcomes.  I acknowledge the measurement soft skills and enterprise skills is more difficult than identifying growth of literacy and numeracy or exam results. However, if we deepen parent, student and teacher understanding of how soft skills and enterprise skills develop over time, and what that looks like, together we will increasingly develop our ability to observe, reflect and critique the skills which are not easily measurable.

Although many soft skills are ‘hidden’ within a KLA outcomes approach as part of an ‘A to E’ reporting environment, the NSW syllabus documents are a great starting point. Further to this, the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities are also an excellent reference point.

general-capabilities
Australian Curriculum General Capabilities

Given that all seven domains support the development of soft skills and enterprise skills, there are three domains which are particularly relevant. They are:

  • Information and communication technology – using technology to access information, create products and solve problems.
  • Critical and creative thinking – learning how to think and find ways to approach problems.
  • Personal and social – recognising others’ emotions, supporting diversity and working together.

These domains are expressed through learning continuums. The Critical and Creative Thinking continuum, the Personal and Social continuum and the Information and Communication Technology continuum are excellent reference points for teachers, parents and students. Given the opportunity, I know students can rise to the challenge of finding evidence to demonstrate their progress along these continuums. Maybe that’s the problem, there are not enough policy makers and education leaders who trust students to drive and understand their own learning through self assessment and reflection.

It will be a watershed moment for schools and education systems when the prominence of soft skills and enterprise skills are as mainstream as KLA assessments and public test scores. Due to the disruptive changes to our world, some of which have already arrived, the focus will change, it has to! For the sake of our students, hopefully that time will arrive sooner rather than later.

As always, your feedback and comments are more than welcome as they assist with my learning.

Greg

Bringing social skills to prominence

There are numerous articles and many research papers which argue for the focus of schooling to shift from high stakes testing to a greater development of social skills and enterprise skills for a changing world. One such article written by Bill Lucas in 2016 stated,

“Too often we focus too narrowly on literacy and numeracy when these are only the beginning. We become obsessed with school subjects rather than thinking more broadly about the capabilities which will be valuable in the real world.” 

The importance of social skills and enterprise skills are reflected through the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum.The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) requires schools to develop a number of capabilities in young people in addition to literacy and numeracy. These include

  • information and communication technology (ICT) capability,
  • intercultural understanding,
  • ethical understanding,
  • personal and social capability, and
  • critical and creative thinking.

Those capabilities, as ACARA states, “play a significant role in the Australian Curriculum in equipping young Australians to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century.”

We know that the social skill development and the enterprise skill development are foundational to the work of educators across early learning, primary and secondary schools. We also know that students with well developed social skills and enterprise skills are increasingly hopeful, resilient and engaged participants in their local and global communities. Such dispositions are credible leading indicators for life success as compared to the lagging indicators such as HSC, VCE, ATAR and NAPLAN test scores.

As part of establishing any new school, foundation staff are presented with a blank canvas to deeply consider ‘what matters’. Social skills and enterprise skills matter! One of the challenges we have taken on at St Luke’s is to ‘bring to prominence’ the social skills and enterprise skills students need for a changing world.

As such, at St Luke’s Catholic College, staff have engaged with a process which aligns the ACARA General Capabilities with our ‘6 Pillars’ of learning. These pillars are:

  • WITNESS by living the Good News as revealed through the Gospel of St Luke
  • MANAGE self
  • RELATE with others
  • COMMUNICATE and COLLABORATE with peers and experts
  • THINK CREATIVELY and CRITICALLY through deep and rigorous reflection
  • Be DIGITALLY LITERATE.

Each pillar

  • has a rationale with reference to the Australian Curriculum and explains its importance in our context
  • contains a number of elements from various General Capabilities, and
  • adopts the continuums from those elements to describe the relevant attitudes, behaviours, skills and dispositions relevant to each stage of learning.

Here is a sample…

relate-pillar-sample

Overall, the ‘6 Pillars’  assist teachers to plan for the development of social skills and enterprise skills as students engage with the curriculum. The ‘6 Pillars’ figure prominently when preparing and evaluating student learning and are priorities when we provide feedback to students. Furthermore, there is the commitment for students to increasingly self reflect and peer assess the ‘6 Pillars’, as well as provide real time feedback to parents about each child’s development along the ‘6 Pillar’ continua. This work will not be easy but it will be worthwhile!

As always, comments, feedback and questions are welcome.

Until next time.

Greg