Higher education has really got to grips with the idea of every student acquiring a set of demonstrable personal attributes during their course of study. It goes to the idea of education developing and presenting the person and not just the skills. Greenwich University is a case in point who have 13 of them, split into three groups, Scholarship and Autonomy, Creativity and Enterprise and Cross-cultural and International Awareness.
It is evident that FE is behind the curve on this one and the Sector has only a few examples of creating attributes of any kind. South Devon College is an example of attempting this with students, using Moodle communities that student are enrolled on, but in FE it appears as a ‘taught’ process rather than an ‘acquisition’ process.
Having a set of attributes every student can demonstrate is made possible with the advent of personal technologies and personal learning space in particular. FE has not been slow in providing personal space, but the portfolio model that we found so well developed in FE is a mapping one, where 200 plus competencies are linked to evidence, marshalled and stored, drawing on the efficiencies of a database approach to learning and it is no surprise that these mapping portfolios are seen as examples of the efficiencies (saving of time, cost, effort, weight of folders etc.) of using technology rather than helping develop the student ‘in the round’.
By this mechanism every student can discern their own unique learning journey from their classmates but it is only currently by categorising and evidencing the ‘hard’ competencies, so it is the learning journey and not the personal journey that is captured. There are a few exceptions to this such as in the health and social care qualifications that contains values based Units that goes some way to addressing this based on the nature of professionalism in this sector.
One more promising area of development in FE employability practice is the development of an ‘audience’ of prospective employers courted through a Twitter following and connections made through LinkedIn. These technologies do encourage ‘work readiness’ attitudes as illustrated at St. Helens College on Merseyside. In FE, this ability to demonstrate a more rounded, accomplished student is very appealing to employers who tell us they are looking not just for skills, but for the ‘right’ person; someone able to represent the employer with polish to their customers. One category of attributes for example could be around the notion of ‘work readiness’, a factor FE is often criticised by employers for not achieving.