All entries for July 2010

July 26, 2010

Development and application of interpersonal skills in different contexts

My broad argument is that doing something well in terms of cognitive development, the affective domain or development of psycho-motor skills can be used as a basis for development in other areas too. Here I want to say something about the development of interpersonal skills in relation to higher skills development more generally.

A 'Listening and Interpersonal Skills Review' was produced in 2007 by Therese Shepherd, Julia Braham and Carol Elston of the University of Leeds. Their paper offers the non-subject specialist an overview of the literature which has influenced the development of listening and interpersonal skills in UK higher education.  It refers to articles, seminal texts and writers within the field.  The importance of these skills within occupational and educational domains is also highlighted. See:

However, transfer of knowledge between education and work in professional contexts is problematic, because of the challenge of combining the various relevant aspects of knowledge and skill into an integrated, holistic, performance (Michael Eraut has written about this - see, for example,

Difficulties getting labour market information on consequences of subject choice

Another contribution I made in a debate about role of labour market information (LMI) at a Symposium on Lifelong Learning held in Glasgow in June 2010:

Yes I wanted to say something we’ve picked up on the information, advice and guidance front. An issue I think is important following on from that point about information, is actually just to look at where people go in terms of the careers after following certain paths and the information associated with that. I think it ties back to the point about languages and also to a certain extent the challenges associated with maths. I mean one of the disadvantages of the modular and credit systems is to a certain extent you can do things which duck away from certain areas which are actually quite demanding, like languages and subjects which have a mathematical underpinning. They have really serious labour market consequences and the premiums if you do these sorts of things well are astonishing. Now you come into a different area because when you give people this type of information: you come up with things like if you get a Degree in a non numerate subject which is a 2:2 or below, you know in the following 5 years after graduation your prospects are greater than somebody who got a first or a 2:1 in a non numerate subject. Absolutely stunning in terms of the difference. Now there might be other reasons why you want to do different sort of things, but there is opposition to that type of information being given at the school level. In an English context you have the case where, again, it is better to take difficult subjects like languages and maths and do less well, but you try telling that to head teachers in England, you know they go crazy. I thought I was going to be beaten up once when I said that, because they concerned with school performance tables. But they’re the sorts of things where the information comes and then the point about the guidance, you’re absolutely right, the guidance comes later. I think you are also right to focus on the client, addressing people not about where they fit in terms of a qualification or where they fit in terms of giving them a course, but where they fit as an individual. It is interesting in that sense that the French system, bilan de competence, gave them a right to a number of days where they reassessed their career as an individual with a guidance practitioner. So I do think that’s right, but I do think there are also things we can do on the information side and to address this confidence issue.

Tranferability of doing things well in different domains

Here is a reply I made at Lifelong Learning Symposium in Glasgow

It is also linked to the point about value of learning languages and seeing things from a different perspective and I think that one of the things is that although the confidence issue can be partly addressed by the need to do something well, which is where I started when I was talking about some of the different sort of settings in which to perform well and what effects that had in terms of confidence and self esteem. I think that developments in the cognitive dimension can be linked with other forms of development: you can be good with people, understand their feelings, get a sense of place, as affective and psycho-motor skills can be developed too. The example I always give, which again is from another TLRP project in which was involved, looked at teaching and learning in special areas like music and sport. It had a number of researchers in Scotland and England and one of the students in the project was at The Royal College of Music. She was a singer and she performed and made a presentation at an event where the young people themselves talked about the research and performed and it was very instructive in terms of what she did. She performed as a singer and it was stunning, but in her reflections on the research she also recognised that her skill set in terms of what made her a really good singer (although she also recognised she wasn't going to make a career in terms of singing) also led to a degree of self-reflexiveness. She was able to say what I am aware of is my body in terms of what I have to do in order to produce this sort of performance and have to reflect upon and so on and so forth and from that she said ‘I think I’d make a pretty good psychotherapist’ and you thought yeah I bet you would. There was that sense of the confidence from doing something well that spills over into other areas and it is that sense of allowing people to excel in other areas other than just the cognitive which is important.

for further work in this area in music, see:;

see also: Higher Skills Development at Work

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