Project description

Project at a glance

The GRASS project develops innovative pedagogical approaches and ICT tools and services to support: 

  • continuous development, measurement, assessment, grading and recognition of learners' soft skills, spanning different ages and educational levels, based on the idea of digital badges (digital credentials; more specifically, Open Badges)
  • monitoring on the long run the accumulation of one's soft skills, in their own ecosystem
  • embedding measurement and recognition of soft skills, competencies, and achievements in educational practices at all educational levels (not only to support employers)
  • peer assessment of soft skills that is social, transparent and participatory, and "works more like the Web", rather than in teacher-in-control-only way

Soft skills
                                                                                                                             

Soft skills encompass personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize one's relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills, which are about a person's skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity. In education, the term 'soft skills' is often used interchangeably with transversal (cross-curricular) competences, i.e. those that are horizontal, cross-disciplinary, and not subject-specific. The European Commission (EC) Euridice Network identifies in this document a number of soft skills, such as problem solving, social and civic competences, initiative taking and entrepreneurship, cultural awareness and expression, learning to learn, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, decision making, communication, collaboration, research and enquiry, flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, productivity, leadership and responsibility, integrity, empathy, and sociability. At work, soft skills also include strong work ethic, positive attitude, time management abilities, acting as a team player, self-confidence, ability to accept and learn from criticism, working well under pressure. A related term is critical skills. These often refer to particular capabilities needed within an occupation, for example, general management skills, communication and customer handling skills, team-work skills, and recognition as an "expert" sought by peers.

Motivation

In November 2012, EC has published a policy document related to investing in skills, as part of its
Strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training ("ET 2020"). A common vision from that document and from many related ones is that "in the future, creativity, the ability to think laterally, adaptability and other 'transversal' skills will be valued more than the specific bodies of knowledge that schools have traditionally taught."

This vision has inspired this project. The project team believes that all learners, at all ages, can manifest and practice soft, transversal, and critical skills. The team also believes that these skills can be developed and can increase over time, at least to an extent (although much of them are typically thought of as innate). Accordingly, the major challenge to the project is to develop innovative pedagogical approaches to scaffold development of soft skills and competences, as well as to develop and apply state-of-the-art ICT tools to support validation of these skills/competences. Currently, such pedagogies and ICT tools have only started to emerge. Their further development and practical use in various educational settings is fully in line with the vision quoted above and with the demand for enabling diverse individual learning pathways to help learners to more effectively bridge the worlds of education and work. Note also that open educational practices and a rich variety of formal and informal learning opportunities and resources widely available over the Internet to learners of all ages further open doors to the development of soft skills. Thus new pedagogical approaches and ICT tools that support development and assessment of soft skills should  a) increase learners' motivation, and  b) help next-level education institutions and employers to get a better insight into all types of the applicants' learning outcomes, skills/competences and future learning needs.

Project objectives

The overall objective of this project is to create mechanisms that enable to continuously support, monitor, assess, and acknowledge development of learners' soft skills with the help of state-of-the-art ICT tools.

This wider objective encompasses the following specific objectives:

  • to develop novel pedagogical approaches to support continuous development of learners' soft skills
  • to incorporate these approaches in daily practices, at multiple levels of education
  • to develop a rich, structured set of soft skills metrics to collect from learners' activities as dynamic indicators of the learners' ability to apply, develop and improve their soft skills
  • to develop the corresponding new model and ICT framework for measuring, assessing, benchmarking, and evaluating learners' soft skills used in their activities, and generating appropriate feedback
  • to develop, as part of the new model and framework, specific mechanisms for acknowledging, grading, awarding and recognizing learners' achievements in developing their soft skills, clearly reflecting their different education levels
  • to develop incentive policies for teachers for initiating and maintaining the practice of monitoring development of learners' soft skills at all levels of educational institutions and across these different levels

Aims and vision

The project's aims start from one key element, presently entirely missing in the EU practices, visions and policies on soft skills development: grading of soft skills. Introducing a novel approach to assessing soft skills in mutually different educational contexts of the involved partners' institutions will help both the teachers and the learners of different ages to better perceive all types of learning outcomes, advantages, and future learning needs. Thus the project will develop pedagogical, technological, and administrative solutions for grading of soft skills in formal, non-formal and informal learning settings. These will, in turn, lead to the creation of digital credentials earned for soft skills development and their gradual recognition by educational institutions and employers alike. Such digital credentials are not intended to be a replacement for the certificates, diplomas and degrees earned at educational institutions that follow traditional curricula and assessment approaches; the aim is to issue them to complement traditional recognition mechanisms, by representing evidence of additional, transversal competences and learning outcomes. Another aim of piloting these innovations in the partners' institutions is to raise awareness of the novel assessment methods with support of new technologies.