Identifying, developing and grading 'soft skills' in design and technology education: a methodological approach.
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Abstract Soft skills (Professional skills) complement hard skills to enhance an individual's relationships, job performance and career prospects. Strategically targeting the development of these skills requires the recognition of key qualities, the capacity to discriminate between qualities (Orsmond, Merry, & Reiling, 2000; Sadler, 2009) and a mechanism that will validly and reliability reward acquisition. Educators and learners must take cognisance of the sophisticated relationships between acquiring content knowledge and professional skills through specific ways of working and thinking. This research, which is part of a three year longitudinal project funded by the European Commission, frames the initial challenge of untangling Hard and Soft skills for the purpose of explicit development and assessment. Understanding the nature of evidence that is suggestive of soft skill acquisition is central to this research. Key design considerations are presented in this paper and outline the potential use of information and communications technology (ICT) to enhance teaching, learning and assessment tailored for the recognition of soft skills. The paper proposes an assessment architecture that acknowledges the importance of educator, peer, and self-appraisal when adjudicating on subjective and often personal data. The proposal has the capacity to balance, weight, and triangulate the objective and subjective evidence of soft skill acquisition ensuring the validity and reliability of resultant digital accreditation. The work presented in this paper outlines a conceptual framework for the assessment approach that has been designed for implementation in the initial pilot phase of the GRASS project. On completion of the pilot phase data will be analysed for the validation of the assessment approach which will be presented in future work.
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