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Group Evaluations that Support and Clarify Professional Practices and Soft Skills for Students

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By Kevin Stoda, Salalah College of Technology, Oman


Here was one of the headlines of this year: "World's youth fear jobless future:  The Middle East is worst hit with 25.5 percent unemployment among young men and 39.4 percent for young women." With recognition of these needs for employment in the Arab world, I seek to assist peoples in the Middle East to become more employable in the coming years. I have worked in the region since 1999.

Because there have sometimes been discrepancies between the training offered at the tertiary levels and the present (& future) needs of the labour market, many students, teachers and educational institutions are interested in both teaching soft-skills and applying various business & industrial (professional) practices in the classroom (Watts, 1998; Hissey , 2000 ; Noll & Wilkin, 2002; ODEP, 2010) . Interestingly, (1) by introducing a variety of professional practices, including soft skills, and (2) by providing opportunities to reflect on those behaviours used in  simulations and group activities, students often quickly understand what behaviours are expected and needed to succeed both academically and in the world of work.  One important way to ensure this progress is through the development of appropriate group-work evaluation rubrics--i.e. rubrics which support the goal of helping students integrate themselves as individuals in a successful group, office, or team.  These evaluation practices support students and society well in terms of both improving individual achievement in the academic- and professional worlds.

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INTRODUCTION

 

Much has been written about the needs of Omani students to individually self-evaluate their own individual performances in the classroom.  The hope has been that an important classroom- and lifelong-learning skills will be achieved. (Klenowski, 1995; Sullivan et. al. 1998; Rolheiser & Ross, 2012 ).  For example, in our college's foundation program, both level 1 and level 2 students evaluate their work each week in what we call a "study skills class". However, until now, these same students on our campus have not been evaluated regularly in terms of their achievements in group work activities [1] --nor have these students been asked to  reflecting much about their performances in groups in informal ways.   With this paper, I encourage all schools in Oman to employ feedback and evaluations which enable and encourage students to work as an asset on a variety of teams (with a variety of peers from different tribes or cultures) in  a variety of contexts.  This will empower our student graduates with extremely marketable soft skills when they leave our programs in the future.

 

This paper posits that group work activities, i.e. which are regularly followed by supportive evaluation rubrics and student-teacher reflection,  can help students and teachers  focus on important soft skills, such as a variety of (a) communicative skills, (b) problem-solving skills, (c) team-work skills, (d) information management, (e) professionalism, and (f) various leadership practices. It is clear that such rubrics can and do support progress (continuous) assessments.  That is, their employment in classrooms and for projects outside of the class will improve time-on-tasks efforts for both groups and individuals.  Moreover, these practices will enable students to improve their efforts and overall-success in (and out of) the classroom in a variety of repeated activities over time. 

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 In the following sections of this paper, (1) I will share my own background in undertaking group activities and evaluations as an educator or language trainer, and (2) I will present and discuss a variety of  evaluation options for groups, which highlight or reinforce particular groups of soft-skills needed for more-and-more successful group (and individual) efforts in the classroom and in the workplace.

 

Why Self-Evaluate?

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)
 

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