Short description of D2.2 Report on Methods for Assessing and Acquiring NC skills

Over the years, recruiters and employers have increasingly focused their effort in identifying talents on soft and behavioural skills. As well as the hard competences, they often ask a person to demonstrate one or more skills such as communication, adaptability, collaboration, leadership and other work-related competences such as emotional intelligence and entrepreneurship, as these non-cognitive skills have been shown to have a high impact on business performance, as well as on the overall well-being in the workplace.

However, while hard skills, generally defined as any technical expertise, can be claimed with formal credentials and qualifications, the soft and behavioural skills are more difficult to be attested to, and even to be developed or trained formally. They refer to very personal qualities such as values, beliefs, attitudes, and the emotional life of the person. They are quite intangible, have mutual influence and they are difficult to distinguish from an overall disposition. However, considering observable behaviours is a good starting point to start reflecting and planning interventions.
Even if a person never demonstrates one non-cognitive skill in isolation, but usually alongside others, in a mutual interdependency and reciprocal influence, the present study sets out to examine at first the general methods considered when a NC skill training or assessment purpose is analysed. Secondly, it aims to source methods to support the SkillsMatch project objectives.

Based on the literature, we examined reports and research that represent the different points of view of the labour market, the educational and vocational training, the learning methodological approaches, and the human sciences. In particular the study reports a catalogue of methods that are widely acknowledged for developing or evaluating non-cognitive skills where neuroscience is applied to the psychology. The work provides a general description, highlighting the skills more usually addressed and mentioned by each method. Then, it reports evidence that highlights the pros, the cons and a general feasibility of the digital implementation of such methods.

Regarding the acquisition of NC skills, the catalogue differentiates between formal training, traditionally based on a lecture-like approach or on a particular structured way, and an informal and non-formal learning, where the accent is more on the experience, and the opportunities linked to the changeable and challenging dynamics of the interaction with others. The report includes coaching, mentoring, social and problem-based learning, situational and simulative methods such games, role plays, and cross-disciplines and sectorial experiences such in case of the rich and informal learning context provided by volunteering.The study also analyses the impact of measures, scores and rates when evaluating NC skills. For that, the literature already provides interesting concerns and remarks on how best to use Likert scales, widely used in self-response tests and questionnaires responded to by others. The literature concerning the various projects and their outcomes now available also supports some models that can be considered when determining what kind of rating to adopt and how to calculate it when evaluating NC skills. In particular, the work mentions two solutions, EntreComp, the Entrepreneurship Competence Framework by JRC (McCallum, Weicht, McMullan, & Price, 2018), and LEVER UP approach, the outcome of an Erasmus+ project, that presents an original solution for reducing the complexity in the validation of soft and transversal competences developed in informal context such as volunteering (Lever Up, n.d.).

In order to understand how the general catalogues of methods fit the Skills Match Non-Cognitive Skills Framework (NCSF) developed in task 2.1, the study provides a logic, based on a few areas of association. These try to depict some features that are common to the thirty-six NC skills and to the methodologies analysed. The four areas provide a way to highlight the potential and internal congruence that may be considered when choosing a method. These areas are related to social interactions; self-image, vision of the world and approach to life; context and performance oriented; methodological, intuitive and lateral thinking.

Finally, the study reports some good practices that emerged during the work. Their main aim is to inspire the further steps of the project analysis. The task 4.1 will carry out a more detailed analysis of the methods and available good practice, so this task will identify those ones that best suit the SM project purposes in terms of digital feasibility, labour market opportunity and technical implementation within the SkillsMatch platform.

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