Sunday, August 03, 2014

Day 25 - Educating about transferable skills

Yesterday, this little story appeared on the BBC News website, and I posted it on Facebook.
Telling me that employers are looking for general academic skills rather than job-specific skills is rather like telling me that the earth is round or that dogs are cute. I have known this for some time.
But in the context of the rhetoric of some of my colleagues across my Institution, this article makes for interesting reading.

What is a university degree for?
I've already said on another day that I think that education for education's sake is a very good thing.
But I also think that university education can unlock potential for many sorts of employment that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the specific modules that they study or skills that they pick up - it's all to do with how they process information, and the skills that they use to find that information
But I've also been talking for some time about how some elements of a music degree give students really useful transferable skills - team work, non-verbal communication (think how much time you spend following cues in your peripheral vision, or learning to breathe with an another player), self-discipline, etc.
Learning when it is appropriate to follow a leader, and when it is appropriate to stick your neck out and do something different is something that you learn playing in chamber music. You might not call it that, but that is (or should be) what is going on there.

And, for me, there's the main problem. I have always expected my students to be able to recognise and diagnose and celebrate these skills. I think that this was drilled into me during CV classes at secondary school. Since then, I've read some articles and chapters in books expressing the relationship between music and attractive transferable skills a bit more explicitly and just assumed that everyone else was doing the same.

I think that we have a way to go in making students learn the value of what they can learn at university. Not just from the lecturers, but from the experience of playing, writing, conducting, discussing, reading, etc. I guess one could cite Derrida here, and talk about much of what goes on at university as a form of destructive/creative writing - only instead of writing words, we are writing ourselves. I have a few ideas how to go about making this more apparent, but it's difficult to get around the rather doctrinaire approach of giving them handouts or lecturing at them. I think that they need to engage with the idea and take it on themselves.

Of course, if they all get the hang of this, we might have some other problems. But, then again, that might not be a bad thing either.

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