Teaching transferable skills

"Teaching Transferable Skills: A Solution-Focused Approach" Martin Coffey, Leicester Learning Institute and Munisha Devi, MRC Toxicology Unit

Presented at the 3rd Annual Learning and Teaching Conference on Tuesday 30 June 2015.


https://youtu.be/iP5zYwjs1Xg (16 minutes)


Traditionally, a UK PhD is training for future academics.  However, as recognised by Roberts (2002), increasing numbers of PhD researchers has given rise to an increased need for preparation for careers beyond Higher Education (HE).  A contemporary HE challenge is the delivery of transferable career skills.  Defining skills is easy but the challenge is how best to teach them to students whose aspirations and aptitudes have not been oriented to a career outside of HE. 

Enterprise skills do not easily lend themselves to teaching in the classroom, due to their practical nature and application.  Youth Enterprise Scheme (YES) competitions are designed to enable teams of PhD researchers to represent their University in developing a business idea along with the related enterprise skills.

Having prepared teams for a number of these competitions without success, the author developed a refined, fit for purpose, teaching approach.  Success followed, with teams reaching the national final of Engineering YES 2014 and 2015, and winning the national final of Biotechnology YES 2014.

The paper details the teaching principles employed, drawn from solution-focused brief therapy:

1. Ask questions rather than sell answers.
2. Listening for, and reinforcing, student strengths.
3. Working with what people can do, and their relevant experience.
4. Focusing on details of the solution, not the problem.
5. Source/provide expert input when/where required.

There is also a student demonstration of some of the skills acquired, including pitching, communication, influencing and product positioning.  There will also be a student explanation of their transformed appreciation of enterprise.

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