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EPALE summary - June focus on assessing adults’ skills

EPALE Thematic Coordinator Markus Palmen casts a reflective eye on some of the content published for our June focus.

Epale - 02/07/2018

Epale - June 2018

Skills assessment is at the core of the pedagogic process, validation and ultimately the learners' own understanding of their learning needs. EPALE's thematic focus for June 2018 is on assessing adults' skills. The articles, summarised below, discuss assessment approaches and topics from across Europe.

Revisiting EU tools for assessment

Thematic coordinator Andrew McCoshan provided an overview of EU tools for skills assessment in his article Assessing skills and EU tools: a quick guide for adult educators.

These tools, many of practical use to adult educators, take the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) as their reference point. The EQF makes it possible to compare different member countries' qualifications and is itself a tool for the EU to harmonise qualification assessment systems across the Union.

Some EU tools intended for recognition of formal learning and credits, such as ECVET, may be widely known, but in his article, McCoshan also points to less familiar examples of assessment tools for non-formal learning contexts. One such example is Cedefop's inventory of methods to validate non-formal and informal learning "which contains a wealth of examples to inspire practitioners."

Meeting learners where they are

Dearbháil Lawless from the National Adult Learning Organisation in Ireland shared insights from the innovative Skills for Work programme in her article Innovative models of education and their assessment approach.

The Skills for Work programme employs a non-formal education ethos in engaging disadvantaged groups with a low qualification level. This means, in Lawless' words, "meeting learners where they are." Lawless shared an example of Liz, a manual worker with no formal qualifications and a fear of formal education contexts. However, recently, Liz took up workplace learning under the auspices of Skills for Work, consisting of free classes to employees with low basic skills.

"On her first day in class the coordinator stated "you tell us what you want to learn". The group learned how to use a computer, send emails and use Microsoft."

Learning was very personalised, and assessment took place in a relaxed environment through demonstration, observation and dialogue. The outcome?

"Liz has now completed a formal learning programme with Skills for Work and boasts a QQI Level 4 in Spreadsheets (Level 3 EQF)", Lawless concludes.

Assessing soft skills through serious games

The third article, by Dr Uta Schwertel, focused on the assessment of transversal competencies, or soft skills. Soft skills, such as communication and leadership skills, are projected to be the paramount transferable skills in the volatile labour markets of the future. Soft skills, however, can be difficult to assess due to their subjective nature.

The article Developing careers through transversal competencies introduced the DEVELOP project, an EU co-funded project developing an online for-profit training and assessment tool. The tool uses serious games to assess soft skills.

"The concept of a serious game is to capture behaviours in a gamified setting, in such a way that it is sufficiently related to actual behaviour, but digitally measured in an entertaining and cost-effective manner." For example, in the game, the player is immersed in an authentic workplace context, interacting with virtual team members. At the end of the simulation, the learner receives a report that compares the learner's perception of themselves as a leader compared to the leadership style in the simulation.

Markus Palmen is a journalist, writer and audiovisual producer, and a freelancer. Since August 2017 he has been EPALE's Thematic Coordinator for Policy. For eight years Markus was the Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief for the European Lifelong Learning Magazine.

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