Month: August 2017

Ikigai – “A reason for being”

 

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The termikigaicompounds two Japanese words: iki (wikt:生き) meaning “life; alive” and kai (甲斐) “(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit

 

Together these definitions create the concept of “a reason to live” or the idea of having a purpose in life.

 

This is the puzzle of ikigai, and the difficulty of actually figuring out what your distinctive combination may be. It may be that asking these questions produces answers that all fit together and one quickly moves forward, confident in one’s knowledge of his ikigai. But it may not work that way; finding one’s ikigai can be a time-consuming, challenging process.

But that’s why, in the Japanese mind, solving the riddle of one’s ikigai is a process well worth the effort. Together, these four elements can bolster and anchor a well-rounded, satisfying life that provides not just pleasure when one does what one loves, or money when one does what one can be paid for, but a sense that one is fulfilling one’s destiny as well as helping others

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The power of role models on education pathways choice

Much of the recent focus in CEIAG has been on growing the evidence base (and so being able to bend the policy ear) of the benefit of employer interactions on pupil’s employment and earning outcomes. Meanwhile the other side of the CEIAG practitioner coin of inspiring pupils to transition onto successful future education pathways has been left to happen purely on its perceived value. This is often achieved through similar activities such as site visits, taster type activities, assemblies and visiting speakers so it is interesting to see the growing evidence base for what type of provision is most successful in this area as well. The Behaviour and Insights Team have now published two studies which boost the evidence base for two practices in encouraging young people to apply to high tariff Universities

  1. That letters of encouragement to Year 12s from older students from similar backgrounds increased applications and acceptances to Russell Group Universities

and a more recent publication that shows that talks and mentoring sessions from current students at high tariff Universities also encourage higher application and acceptances rates at high tariff institutions. Any CEIAG provision requiring role models is time and commitment intensive which is a step change from their previous work on arm’s length interventions.

That these types of provisions work isn’t going to be much of a surprise to a CEIAG practitioner, it’s bread and butter stuff, but I found the four-year study interesting because of the positive impact the talks and mentoring had on the applications from disadvantaged backgrounds and also the age of students with which the provision had the most impact. The study showed that the outcome impact on acceptances was much higher for students in the program who were studying at FE or Sixth Form Colleges than those in schools.

insights team1

The working paper speculates that this finding could be a result of

college environments, which typically contain more students, are less conducive to personal support for application to university and selective university in particular. Alternatively, it could be that the selection of students into these further education colleges is a relevant factor. Because colleges offer a wider variety of courses, it could be that students who select into these institutions are interested in pursuing less typical careers and may not be aware of the benefit or options for university in the absence of our intervention.

Which reminds the practitioner around the dangers of stereotyping. Leaving aside the type of educational institution the young person was attending, it’s interesting to see that in-depth provision such as offering role models can still have large impacts with this age group. Practitioners will know that by 16-18 young people can be blinkered in their belief of the possible future pathways that are suitable for them. By this age, their horizons have been defined by the family, school and societal pressures around them. As the working paper describes

the concept of ‘social norms’ can explain how, by seeking to emulate the attitudes and actions of those in their social group, students adopt the idea that academic education is ‘not for them’

and this is just one of the modifiers of future plans. The study also follows previous findings that information giving is not enough to alter student plans as

information-only interventions have proven ineffective at encouraging college application behaviour. This is convincingly demonstrated by a randomised controlled trial in which over 1 million US students were targeted with emails and letters about the financial support available to college applicants. Despite the scale of this trial, it was found to have no discernible impact on college enrollment

This may lead practitioners to speculate that horizon broadening should occur at an earlier age but by KS5, more intensive interventions are needed.

I also found the study interesting as it adds to other psychological studies which show that once formed, a person’s impression of a situation can be remarkably perseverant, even when irrefutable facts or evidence is then produced which disproves the individuals stated belief. The reasons for this psychological trait and the many concerning consequences of it are covered in this fascinating New Yorker piece, “Why Don’t Facts Change Our Minds.”

The theory of cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber that irrational beliefs persist because reason evolved due to our need to live in collaborative groups

Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves,” Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective

This roadmap in our minds left over from evolution leads to confirmation bias (or in Mercier’s and Sperber’s terms “myside” bias) which is all to the benefit of winning arguments

This lopsidedness, according to Mercier and Sperber, reflects the task that reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren’t the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments.

One can easily imagine this effect leading to the “social norms” constraints mentioned in the Behaviour Insight’s paper limiting young people’s percieved realistic choices. Wishing to retain standing within their social group and not stand out results in young people building their own beliefs and arguments for not pursuing less trodden routes no matter the weight of evidence provided to them that those less traveled paths could be more beneficial to them.

That this and previous studies on mentoring interventions can overcome these inherent traits is very interesting. Introducing role models into a young persons social sphere injects new views and so shifts the framing of acceptable/not acceptable choices and how they are perceived. It alters the height of the parapet of which the young person is comfortable sticking their head above.

When dealing with perhaps even more ingrained beliefs, it is why mentoring is so central to the Prevent Strategy and the work to reintegrate those with extremist views.

I would suggest that the practical outcomes from these studies and the associated cognitive science for the CEIAG practitioner thinking about pathways provision would be:

  1. Information signposting is not enough to impact choices
  2. Provision that does (role models, mentoring) is in-depth
  3. Never stereotype your pathway focus for different groups
  4. Hold onto the contact details of successful and varied alumni so that they can become the role models and repeat the cycle

 

 

 

 

How Ofsted will inspect CEIAG in FE Colleges from September 2017

Having blogged for (oh vey, many) years on the evolving focus on CEIAG in secondary schools from Ofsted, this year my attention lies elsewhere and how the Inspectorate will be considering the CEIAG offers of Further Education Colleges across the country. While the Common Inspection Framework remains the core guidance document for the Inspectorate, each type of provider under the watch of Ofsted has their own Inspection Handbook to outline in greater detail the expectations, schedules and grade descriptors for that type of provision. This type of transparency is vital in allowing providers to know what they will be judged upon by Inspectors, how that process will work and so how their internal quality control mechanisms will aid inspectors.

The 2017 update to the Further Education and skills inspection handbook explains that FE inspections adhere to the same policy employed in school inspections. This means that Grade 1 (Outstanding) providers are not routinely inspected and will only be monitored if concerns arise, Grade 2 (Good) providers will undergo a short, smaller scale inspection which will only upgrade to a fuller inspection if the outcome is recommended to change while Grade 3 (Requires improvement) and 4 (Inadequate) will have more frequent, in-depth inspections as well as other interventions.

For a full inspection, HMI will grade 4 areas of quality

  • effectiveness of leadership and management
  • quality of teaching learning and assessment
  • personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • outcomes for learners

and also grade the different types of provision an FE College may offer

  • 16-19 study programmes
  • Adult learning programmes
  • Apprenticeships
  • Traineeships
  • Provision for learners with high needs
  • Full time provision for 14-16 year olds

and then give an overall grade.

Inspectors will gain evidence from meetings with staff, senior leaders, students and stakeholders, documentary evidence such as policies and data such as student destinations.

For each of the areas above, the handbook lists the grade descriptors for Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate. Careers work is only mentioned at Good and Outstanding grades highlighting the importance of this kind of provision to Colleges wishing to excel. I will only quote the Outstanding descriptors below.

Effectiveness of leadership & management

Here, the quality of the College’s CEIAG offer plays a substantive part as inspectors will consider

the extent to which learners receive thorough and impartial careers guidance to enable them to make informed choices about their current learning and future career plans

and that this will be judged as Outstanding if

Leaders, managers and governors ensure that the provision of accurate, timely and
impartial careers guidance enables learners to make informed choices about their learning programme and that learners are very well prepared for the next stage of
their education, training or employment.

Personal Development, Behaviour & Welfare

CEIAG quality also appears in the judgement criteria for Personal Development as Inspectors will judge

learners’ use of the information they receive on the full range of relevant career pathways from the provider and other partners, including employers, to help them develop challenging and realistic plans for their future careers

and that this will judged as Outstanding if

High quality careers guidance helps learners to make informed choices about which
courses suit their needs and aspirations. They are prepared for the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training.

16-19 Study Programmes

When inspecting study programmes of full-time learners, Inspectors will judge if

learners, and groups of learners, progress to the planned next stage in their careers, such as a higher level of education or training, or to employment or an apprenticeship

and that this will be judged Outstanding if

High quality impartial careers guidance ensures that learners follow study programmes that build on their prior attainment and enable them to develop clear, ambitious and realistic plans for their future. Learners understand the options available and are informed about local and national skills needs.

Adult Learning Programmes

The effectiveness of Adult Learning Programmes will be judged to be Outstanding if

High quality impartial careers guidance ensures that learners follow learning programmes that build very effectively on their prior attainment and enable them to progress towards clear, ambitious and realistic plans for their future. Learners understand the options available to them and are informed about local and national skills needs or the work of relevant community groups or projects.

Apprenticeship programmes

The effectiveness of Apprenticeship programmes will be judged to be Outstanding if

High quality impartial careers guidance ensures that apprentices build on their prior attainment and develop clear, ambitious and realistic plans for their future. Apprentices understand the options available and are informed about local and national skills needs.

Traineeships

The effectiveness of Traineeship provision will be judged to be Outstanding if

High quality impartial careers guidance ensures that learners follow traineeships that build on their prior attainment. The guidance enables learners to develop clear, ambitious and realistic plans for their future. Learners understand the options available to them and they are informed about local and national skills needs.

Provision for learners with high needs

Will be judged as Outstanding if

High-quality impartial careers guidance ensures that learners follow individualised programmes, including study programmes, that build on their prior attainment. The guidance enables them to develop clear, ambitious and realistic plans for their future. Learners understand the options available to them.

Full time provision for 14-16 year old learners

Will be judged to be Outstanding if

High quality impartial careers guidance ensures that learners follow learning programmes that build on their prior attainment and enable them to develop clear, ambitious and realistic plans for their future. Learners have a good understanding of all the options available to them, including apprenticeships, and how they relate to local and national skills needs.

 

These multiple mentions show that, to be judged as Grade 1 Outstanding, an FE College should be investing in a high quality, impartial Careers Service. The duties and work of those practitioners should then be embedded across the varying types of provision a modern College now provides and that learners are feeling the benefits of those interventions. As Colleges offer a greater range of Higher Education provision, there may even be scope for the work with those learners to be given its own section separate from other adult learner provision in the future.

 

The demise of Plotr and what free online CEIAG diagnostic tools are left

With news that the Plotr website is finally shutting down and merging with Start Profile (itself a brand of U-Explore) I thought I would give a rundown on the variety of free online CEIAG diagnostic tools available and see if readers have their own links and views to share.

Plotr came onto the scene back in 2012 with the backing of the then Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock who considered it as

an excellent example of employers coming together, to create an innovative website allowing young people to really understand what employers offer

Others in the Careers community were not so sure as the new website received significant financial backing from central Government with an initial £700,000 from the Cabinet Office and the (then) Department for Business Innovation and Skills

and launched without public tender or consultation from the sector bodies. I remember from conversations at the time, Careers colleagues were distinctly unimpressed with the lack of co-ordination with professional or non-profit organisations that were already working in the space and the fact that the first CEO, Andrew Thompson, was a Director at the then Government’s favoured outsourcing firm Serco did not sit well.

In 2014 another £1.3m was injected by BIS for a revamp which included the diagnostic tool “The Game.” This was an exhaustive set of questions based on psychometric research that suggested job roles to the skills and abilities suited to the young person answering the questions. As a CEIAG tool it wasn’t great but it was free and, with a lot of assistance, you could get results out of it to talk through with a young person.

The company behind the site actually went into liquidation back in October 2016 and the obituaries for it written at the time weren’t pretty. As the Buzzfeed report details, the significant taxpayer investment did not produce anything like the engagement or traffic statistics from its target audience hoped for so the initial employer buy-in soon frizzled out.

Which all leaves Careers practitioners with what available free diagnostic resources to use?

Start Profile

After registering, students can access 4 areas (My Skills, My Interests, My Qualities & My Work Preferences) to enter their responses. This information is then used to suggest courses, qualifications, study locations and jobs that might fit.

start profile

Requiring students to register before using the site has its positives and negatives. As a practitioner, you can register and then monitor your students work but the sheer faff of getting a class or even individuals to sign up and then check their email account for confirmations is off-putting. Students can also search by Job Sectors. It’s cleanly laid out as a site that seems easily navigable to me, the job suggestions make sense from the information inputted and, with a cursory tour, the course information at providers seems up to date.

National Careers Service Skills Health Check

Still hosted on the plain .GOV.UK platform, the National Careers Service website is a sorry state these days. The Skills Health Section is not a tool I would advise for use for young people, it’s simply too exhaustive. Adult clients of mine have used it and found useful feedback in the Skills Report produced once the numerous question sections are completed but to complete the entire check requires a significant time commitment.

skills health check

It is not something I would suggest that could be completed in a session with a client, they would need to complete this in their own time for a discussion of the findings to take place at a later date.

The Skills Report suggests job areas that may be of interest which you can then click-through to the National Careers Service Job Profiles to further explore. The results of the Activity Skills sections can need some tact when discussing with clients who find those academic tasks more difficult.

ICould Buzz Quiz

At the opposite end of the time commitment needs is the ICould Buzz Quiz. This is a quick set of either/or questions that then suggests jobs through the bank of videos on the site and assigns the user a personality type.

icould

I have found the quick questions, videos and fun outlines of the personality types extremely successful when working with Key Stage 3 children or those with Special Educational Needs. Some of the skill terminology can need explaining to young ears (a “cold” personality doesn’t mean you’re always shivering) but these discussions can be beneficial in identifying skills and descriptive language. The lack of information inputted by the user though can be an issue, some of the suggested jobs can seem quite random and not allied to the interests of the young person at all. This can cause them to lose faith in the whole exercise so caution is advised. When leading groups, headphones are also required.

Prospects Job Match

Still in beta testing mode, this Prospects offer can be attempted without registering but the later stages of the job recommendations are only accessible after signing up. After 26 questions which are very on the nose (“Do you understand the law?”) and use language aimed at the graduate target market of the site, the user’s skill set is matched against job families. The user can then click-through to the recommended job profiles. I personally find the job profiles section excellent and use it regularly in one to one sessions, each profile has comprehensive and clearly written information on the skills required and duties likely to be encountered as well as the qualifications required. The links to associated job boards or industry organisations are also extremely useful and have broadened my bookmarks of useful sites to use with clients.

prospects

 

Pearson Career Interests Quiz

Similar to a section of the now defunct Plotr Game, the user is asked to rate duties in order of preference or select their top three most appealing tasks from a list. The questions are easy to understand and a typical student could rattle through them in 15 minutes. Some of questions require the statements to be moved into priority order and the design is all very intuitive. On completion of the questions, users are shown a sector matching chart

pearson

in which users can click on the sectors to encourage skill comparison but actual job titles or profiles are not then mentioned. Job profiles are held elsewhere on the site so why this connection is not made is strange and a real negative. Young people need to see what job titles fall into what sectors to begin to make connections between them and investigate what those jobs are, not making this link explicit is odd.

Skills Route Explore

Asks users to enter courses they are studying and suggests jobs associated with that course

skills explorer

so it’s fairly reductive and is not good at highlighting transferable skills. The job profiles then linked through as also fairly basic with little in the way of description that would help a young person understand what was involved. The charts showing the likelihood of automation, job satisfaction and wage are neat ideas but the job satisfaction one especially needs context as the average for all jobs is only 32% (it seems the data these charts is based upon asked a lot of unhappy people at work!).

Diagnostic tools are useful conversation starters when dealing with younger clients or those considering a complete career change and the more options you have to use in your toolbox, the more likely you are to use the right one for the right client. If there are any I’ve missed, please link in the comments below and let me know what you think about it!