Defining Transferable Skills

March 19, 2017

Recently I have been advising colleagues on how they should write Intended Learning Outcomes across all five educational domains (cognitive, knowledge, affective, psychomotor and interpersonal) and conform to the QAA guidance (UK). This guidance (widely adopted across UK higher education a sector) breaks ILOs into:

  • Knowledge and Understanding
  • Intellectual Skills
  • Practical and Professional Skills
  • Transferable Skills.

I don’t agree with this guidance and would prefer learning designers to identify a balance of outcomes, appropriate to the nature of the discipline, the focus of the module and the modules shape or purpose within a programme. I suggest it makes more sense to do this by using five distinct domains, rather than the existing four vaguely defined catagories. Pragmatically though it is possible to map five distinct domains onto the four existing catagories. This is illustrated below.

Table 1.         Mapping educational domains to QAA categories

 Domain QAA Category Description
Knowledge Knowledge and Understanding Knowledge often describes the scope of the subject intended to represent the ‘nature’ of the discipline with reference to the personal-epistemological and metacognitive development of students
Cognitive Intellectual Skills Cognitive often referred to as intellectual skills refers to ‘knowledge structures’ in cognition, the progressively complex use of knowledge artefacts
Affective Practical and Professional Skills Affective sometimes referred to professional ‘skills’ or attributes perception of value issues, and ranges from simple awareness (Receiving), through to the internalization of personal value systems
Psychomotor Transferable Skills Psychomotor referred to as practical skills refers to progressively complex manual or physical skills. This could be the ability to use a complex piece of software, instrument or paper documentation
Interpersonal  Transferable Skills  Interpersonal referred to as communication skills refers to progressively complex levels in interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, collaboration and cross-cultural communication

As stated elsewhere I think higher education fails to accurately describe the skills, attributes and knowledge that students are intended to acquire through their studies. Creating meaningful ILOs is the beginning of well designed constructively aligned curricula.


Paper: Rethinking personal tutoring systems, the need to build on a foundation of epistemological beliefs.

January 21, 2015

Newly uploaded, here is the final paper that was previewed in blog postings during December 2014.

Atkinson, S. P. (2014) Rethinking personal tutoring systems: the need to build on a foundation of epistemological beliefs. BPP University Working Papers. London: BPP University.

Image of the cover of Rethinking Personal Tutoring Systems

Rethinking Personal Tutoring Systems

My argument is that in order to tailor effective support for students we must understand better their fundamental beliefs about learning; that to have a conversation about ‘our’ values we need to understand how others experience their own.

This was the purpose of the POISE project, an HEA Change Initiative and this paper is a summary of its conclusions.

There is much work to be done to make these insights more accessible to rank and file tutors in higher education but the POISE website is a start. As always I am delighted to hear about any use made of the work and to enter into a dialogue with anyone working on similar initiatives.


Teaching-Research Nexus

March 26, 2011

Part of my role at the LSE that I really enjoy is working with staff to find novel solutions to age-old problems. So a few weeks ago I was invited to discuss with colleagues in a research and teaching ‘cluster’ within a department that perennial question: “what’s the point of an away day?”

The head of department appeared to want the staff to spend the day writing serious funding proposals and yet a survey of the staff suggested they wanted to “have fun, and get to know each-other.” The away-day became a half day and the focus remained a little vague. The fixed points were lunch at noon, a gastro-pub at 5pm, and those apparent polar opposites, ‘research applications’ and ‘fun’.

The result was an off-campus half day at St Martin in the the Fields, in the newly refurbished St Martin’s Hall. I had organised a ‘research-poster workshop’, in which tables of 4 or 5 colleagues, of different grades, backgrounds and discipline focus (socially engineered by the departmental manager), worked from a ‘mock’ European Journal funding call. The funding call, which modelled the ‘real thing’,  invited applications for 12-24 month projects to build research networks with at least three country partners and a particular discipline focus. There was a specification about dissemination, use of technology and so on. The session ran along lines similar to the ‘World-Cafe‘ concept. So each table had to come up with a draft idea, blu-tac their A2 poster to the wall and then circulate around the other four groups’ posters providing feedback in the form of post-its (colour coded for each group).

Workshop Image

Away Day World Cafe model

Research Poster Workshop

The second session then allowed groups to revise their posters, go around and ask for clarification on any feedback received and produce a ‘final’ version of their research network proposal. All the while, the groups had a copy of the ‘marking criteria that would be used at the end, by them, to judge each-others efforts.

Final posters were put up and the groups circulated ‘marking’ the submissions. Each group had to come up with an agreed mark for each of the posters under some time pressure. As the ‘very light touch’ facilitator I went around between each round and photographed the posters, and I threw in a ‘red-herring’ with an envelope for each group suggesting a rumour that “The DG apparently likes…..”.

The effect was to have groups explore:

  • the difficulty of working with criteria which can appear ambiguous and needs careful unpacking;
  • the advantages of collegial review at both the developmental and final stages of proposals;
  • the need to think often ‘outside the box’ to come up with something original;
  • the danger of getting so carried away on a good idea it evades the call;
  • the danger of listening to rumour;
  • and that it is possible to have fun and still talk about research funding applications!

The feedback was gratifyingly positive and I’d suggest it’s an excellent model for a half-day workshop that recognises the need for junior staff to benefit from the experience of more seasoned researchers whilst bringing creatively and innovation to the process. It was also fun! Any workshop where people willingly stand-up and start moving is good to see!


An ‘expert’ on how not to present

January 31, 2011

It’s always a strange thing to find oneself positioned as an ‘expert’. Today I found myself addressing 20 wide-eyed third-year statistics students on the art of the presentation. I was, it seems, the expert on presentations, and provided advice and guidance based almost entirely on what not to do, based on the cumulative experiences over educational technology conferences and educational media conferences over the last 10 years. Curiously, and worryingly, effective.


Catch-up – 5 weeks flown by

August 24, 2009

It’s been five weeks since I got back to New Zealand from a brief conference visit to the UK. Amazing how time flies.
I had some fantastic conversations around attendance at both the JISC Digitisation Conference (Gloucester) http://www.jisc.ac.uk/jdcc09 & European LAMS Learning Design Conference (Milton Keynes)
http://lams2009.lamsfoundation.org/

The UK education sector has invested very heavily in recent years in the digitisation of museum, library and University collections for tertiary teaching and research purposes. Following completion of Phase 2 of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) Digital Content Conference 2009 discussed what was working with respect to the sustained integration of digitised content. Primarily focussed on UK universities, although other tertiary providers were represented, I would guess some 200 people attended over the two day event. The thematic strands revolved around: Managing Content; Content Development Strategies; Content In Education; User Engagement; Looking Into The Future. Kevin Burden, a colleague from the University of Hull, and myself had been invited to present the results of our Phase I assisted take-up project developing a framework of engagement activities (www.DiAL-e.net). Our 90 minute ‘workshop’, was concerned with mechanism for getting take-up of these rich digitised resources. It’s clear that there is till a hige range of practical and logistical issues facing the broad spectrum of users. It’s hard in fact to address an audience when some are still unsure ‘why’ you would use a digital resource and others are concerned with new rich blends of multi-media in immersive environments. A real challenge. But we got some great feedback and there’s a good write up of the session on the JISC digitisation blog

The following week I attended the one-day 2009 European LAMS Learning Design Conference at the Open University. As a former employee it was great to see familiar faces in the audience and to be able to identify people by name during Q&A. The conference, attended by less than 100, was a rather specialist affair. My rearranged presentation followed is a series with some really interesting perspectives including one from Diana Laurillard on a large project run by the IoE in London on online learning design tools. My personal highlight was a stimulating insight into the OU’s OpenLearn initiative (what people access and why) from Patrick McAndrew. This gave me a good deal of food for thought. I again presented the DiAL-e framework and current work to make learning designs more accessible to practitioners. The two events demonstrated a strong philosophical move towards freely available open digital content (OER – Open Educational Resources), but a clear recognition that content needed to be interpreted, evaluated and reused effectively if the challenges of the massification of higher education were to be met with quality learning experiences.

Now I just need to work out how to get traction of the academic professional development side of the equation.


Must learn to focus…

April 20, 2009

My own writing has been the focus the last couple of days. I’ve been struggling with a personally tendency towards the theoretical and philosophical ramblings of a prematurely aging ‘whatever I am’ and the need to develop something more substantial. I have memories of my primary school teachers telling my parents “Simon would do well if he could just focus”, so here I am still very unfocussed and just to damn interested in everything! In recent days I’ve been codifying the DiAL-e learning designs in PowerPoint with a view to sharing them through Slideshare and through the DiAL-e Wiki.

It’s an interesting process trying to establish how much guidance and support each individual teacher is likely to need. Can we assume that they can deconstruct a learning object for themselves or should be give it them in a form which essentially lists the manifest like a contents page. I’m thinking about how this relates to the professional development (PD) programmes I need to run here at Massey to support the uptake of the institutional Moodle implementation. How does one walk that fine line between patronising the insightful and leading the blind. I’m still inclined to give individuals a toolkit, some kind of ‘take-away’, but one still has to make sure ‘they get it’. My concern today is ‘how do I get staff to think about using Adobe Presenter effectively when I’m not sure their PowerPoint is up to the task’.


Anybody Out There?

April 20, 2009

snapshot-2009-04-20-13-52-012

I’m re-engaging with Second Life. Why? Well partly I like torturing myself in a slightly masochistic sense by visiting all these mammoth University Campus islands with their beautifully designed (empty) lecture theatres and marvel at the idea that so many bright people could have so spectacularly missed the point. But I also feel that I should be giving Vision FLux (yes, that’s my SL name) a little bit more of a run. I fancy Vision is getting somewhat wide around the waist and needs a little more exercise. I have been in SL on and off since 2006 and I still don’t think I’ve quite come to terms with that identity. Needs work.


%d bloggers like this: