When I read articles like Job Skills Expectations Unmet (Inside Higher Ed, August 28, 2014), I immediately start to wonder—do students need to develop new job skills or is the challenge that they need to know how to recognize and appropriately apply the skills they already possess?
The article linked above states that:
“Nearly nine in 10 presidents said an emphasis on ‘critical thinking’ skills and personal development is very important throughout college in order for graduates to get jobs. But only about 40 percent of the presidents think their own institution is very effective at providing students with those skills and that kind of development.”
Knowing the structure and nature of college courses, it seems to me that critical thinking is built into the core of most college courses. This can be evidenced by terms in assignments and syllabi like—assess, evaluate, compare, conceptualize, critique, theorize, reason, etc.
I think the challenge is that when we ask students to develop those skills, we often forget to teach students how to apply those skills beyond the classroom.
As an example, imagine a class where students are asked to critically assess an article that is core to their field of study. That is critical thinking. Now, imagine if the second part of that assignment were to reflect on their assessment of the article and to relate it to their developing philosophy toward their field of study. That is critical thinking with real life application.
At Seelio, when we work with faculty to integrate portfolios into the curriculum, we emphasize how they can be useful tools for getting students to reflect on their learning as a part of their professional growth. Portfolios allow for students to constantly take stock of what they have done, to consider what best represents them as a developing professional, and to refine their professional identity over time.
When I look at student portfolios, I find myself gravitating towards those that create connections between their life experiences and what they are learning in the classroom. Just today, I read a profile of a student, Karessa, that starts with…
“College can be extremely tough when you are a full time mom, employee, and wife. Frankly sometimes college can be a big challenge because of those three things.”
And ends with…
“I am very thankful to CTU for helping me to develop not only as a student but also giving me the skills to apply that knowledge to my personal and professional life!”
Students just like Karessa are the ones that make me believe in the value of helping students tell their stories and helping institutions shape their curriculum to make it possible.
Dr. Tiffany Marra is Seelio’s Vice President of Academics & Services. She works closely with Seelio partners to integrate portfolios into curricula so that students are able to make connections across their experiences and prepare for their careers from day one of their college experience. Learn more about her research and background in educational technology: seelio.com/tiffany
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