Ms Julie Gillick, Head of Frensham
In a recent media report [Jordan Baker, SMH, 3 September 2018] Sydney University revealed a ‘world-first plan’ to evaluate how graduates communicate, solve problems and work with others – to work against what was described as ‘blinkered focus’ by high schools on HSC marks and ATARs. The university is reportedly aiming from 2020 to give a description of each student's mastery of these so-called soft skills as an attachment to their academic transcript, in response to employer concerns that grades do not tell them enough about prospective employees.
In fact, I believe high schools have been well ahead in knowing that the broad context of education has always mattered – that skills and attitudes that define character have always mattered – and that what the world needs is morally and ethically disciplined thought-leaders and problem solvers skilled and willing to inspire and drive good decision-making, with and on behalf of others. To that end, secondary school educators worldwide are intensifying the debate around the extent to which time and focus should be given to curriculum review, to facilitate focus on learning at a level well beyond training for an examination. [It is claimed that Sydney University's work is being closely watched by organisations such as the NSW Education Standards Authority, which manages the NSW curriculum and the HSC.]
Associate Professor Peter McCallum, the University's Director of Education Strategy, believes Sydney University will be the first in the world to assess every student on a range of ‘graduate qualities’ ranging from ‘influence to inventiveness’, developing an evidence-based way to measure the qualities.
It is noted that final reports will include graded verbal descriptions of the Graduate Student’s abilities in the following areas:
- Depth of Disciplinary Expertise (how they apply knowledge)
- Critical thinking and problem solving (questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions)
- Information and digital literacy (ability to locate, interpret, evaluate information)
- Inventiveness (generating novel ideas and solutions)
- Interdisciplinary effectiveness (integration of multiple viewpoints)
- An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity (understanding interaction between one's personal and professional selves)
- Influence (engaging others in a process, idea or vision)
We are watching with interest the progress of this approach at tertiary level, at the same time as we are about to publish a draft of our Frensham Graduate Profile, developed by a staff team over the past six months, as an outcome of our Character Education research. What we are learning through the research is that our holistic approach demands, by nature of the experience, development of many of the ‘key competencies’ considered essential to achievement beyond school. Our next step is to clarify - for students, parents and teachers - the linkages from the breadth of what we expect of students, to their learning in the classroom.