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Skills Audit

Skills Audit

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SocialLearn
12 March 2010

This cloud brings together resources related to carrying out a Skills Audit for PhD students. Scroll down below this brief introduction for liveblog notes on an Open University seminar run by Marian Petre and Verina Waights on this subject, and for links to resources for auditing and developing your research skills. Science students should also visit http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/3136

Auditing and developing your research skills
Introduction
Research skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication – relationships, networking, diplomatic rephrasing
  • Writing skills
  • Specialist knowledge
  • Organisational skills – time management
  • Collaboration
  • Reflection
  • Research methodologies
  • Critical reflection
  • Self-discipline
  • Professional behaviour

PhD Skills

PhD Skills website: http://phdskills.open.ac.uk
Thirty-six skills in 7 categories:

  • Research Skills and Techniques
  • Research Environment
  • Research Management
  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Communication and Skills
  • Networking and Team working skills
  • Career Management

QAA Code of Practice 2004

  • Develop skills to become effective researchers
  • Identify and agree their training needs jointly with their supervisors
  • Maintain a record of personal progress

Skills Development
Quick Strategies

  • Don’t tackle full list of skills
  • Review skills you already have
  • Determine what you want to achieve

Extra content

Auditing and developing your research skills (Session 5A)

Verina Waights and Marian Petre (Wednesday, 24th March, 11:45 am)

The sun is shining into the room. Pretty big room with about 15 students at the moment. Marian has just asked about the Luau last night but not a lot of the students seemed to have gone about it.

Students are signing into the session – two more students just came in.

Introduction

Verina and Marian are introducing themselves.

Marian is saying that the students are in an amazing place in their research career and it is an exciting time.

Marian is asking how many of the students are thinking it is an OU bureaucratic process. Some murmurs of agreements. Marian is saying that if that's all we see, then we're missing the good stuff, and that maybe the session will reveal the utility of the process.

Research skills

Marian is asking what are research skills? Students have to discuss within their groups.

This group which I am in are discussing skills of analysis, critical, presentational (e.g. writing, reading academically), communication skills (e.g. listening, questioning, negotiating things like consent), IT skills, design skills (e.g. designing questionnaires), interview skills, defining subject matter i.e. knowing what you need to find out, literature research (e.g. synthesise information, searching for literatures), relationship building or networking skills, using your supervisors, collaboration

Here is the list as it comes up:

  • Problem solving
  • Communication – relationships, networking, diplomatic rephrasing
  • Writing skills
  • Specialist knowledge
  • Organisational skills – time management
  • Collaboration
  • Reflection
  • Research methodologies
  • Critical reflection
  • Self-discipline
  • Professional behaviour

One student is talking about conforming, Verina says she is not certain about saying we’re conforming. Verina suggests an alternative:  behaving professionally.
Marian suggests another:  understanding the research environment, and the nature of the discourse.

Marian points out that there are a lot of the skills in this list are not about the technical aspects of your research but are generic skills such as time management skills etc.

Marian says there was a time when the product of the PhD was a book, but the thinking has changed considerably because of what came out of the Roberts’ Report since there were a number of graduates who came out not being employable. The true product of the PhD process is an independent researcher. The PhD students have to come out with these generic skills.

PhD Skills

Marian is showing the PhD Skills website: http://phdskills.open.ac.uk

She is saying there are 36 skills in 7 categories:

  • Research Skills and Techniques
  • Research Environment
  • Research Management
  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Communication and Skills
  • Networking and Team working skills
  • Career Management

You have to build yourself not only the book at the end of the process. The skills audit just asked you to pause and reflect on this once in awhile and document this once in awhile. The documentation helps in having to know what your portfolio of skills are which you can demonstrate in job interviews and elsewhere. Marian is saying if you do this right it should not be a chore. If it feels like a chore then you’re not doing it right.

One student is asking whether you should be talking to your supervisors about the skills audit. Marian said yes – it has to be a dialogue and you may have to lead this dialogue rather than the supervisor.

QAA Code of Practice 2004

  • Develop skills to become effective researchers
  • Identify and agree their training needs jointly with their supervisors
  • Maintain a record of personal progress

One student is asking how does the university ensure that the supervisor keeps his side of the bargain. Marian says there are a number of checks such as through the 6 monthly reports, the third party monitor. Marian and Verina indicate that these reports are used as quality checks and the Research School checks these reports. The extent that these reports are filled in will show how much the supervisor is taking part. The supervisor has to fill in the form as well.

Verina suggests that if the supervisor is not being proactive about it – you should put it on your agenda (i.e. the student should make their own agenda) and then take your laptop to the meeting and look at the PhD skills together.

PhD Skills Website

Marian is going to the PhD skills website now.

One student is it ok to have developed these skills before the PhD. Marian says it is absolutely fine, of course students will have arrived with a variety of skills, but you’ll have to evidence them.

She is going through a page for one of the skills which include what you can use to demonstrate you have the skill and what resources you may use to improve the skill.

Marian is saying one source of evidence may be a demonstration of several skills for example the probation assessment.

Marian says you need to agree with your supervisors what resources are using such as the workbooks available on the PhD Skills website.

The link to the guidance for supervisors and assessors is not available at the moment but should be available for all students, by next week, hopefully.

Skills Development

Verina is talking about the skills development. The probation report/research proposal is first due at the end of month 9 (FT) or the end of month 18 (PT).  That's the beginning of the probation assessment process, and the skills material should be in place by then.

The probationary assessment is a demonstration of skills that you can fulfil the PhD. The proposal is not set in stone and can evolve over time.

The initial audit needs to be completed with 3 mths (6 mths). The 6 monthly report has to be in by the end of March and need to show in this report the skills that you’re progressing on.

One student is asking whether to only put the skills you’ve made progress on. Verina says that is right and she says you just need to make progress on the skills that you need right now and you have 2 years additionally to make progress on the other skills. The audit can include existing skills as well as those you're concentrating on in the development plan.  But the development plan focuses on a few skills.

Verina indicates that you need to discuss with your supervisor if the skills that you brought with you are appropriate for the PhD and whether they need some improving.

In the development plan, you put in the skills you’ll be developing and then put these in the progress file where you can show which ones you have developed. You need to show the evidence, such as a paragraph of what you did – the evidence can be electronic or paper-based but has to be accessible to you and your supervisor. Marian suggests a wiki or a shared server place. Marian also says if it is a physical file, it must be a file that the supervisor can access to such as on your office shelf.

 Marian that you need to work with skills pro-actively as well as reactively such as you deciding I need to develop my public speaking skills and hence making some targets such as presenting at a departmental seminar. Now you have to decide how to document this, for example, a picture showing your presentation, a flier etc (although your supervisors would usually believe you did it without showing some hard evidence – your supervisor would probably know you have done it or have the skill! – that is why you need to have a dialogue with your supervisor).

Marian is saying sometimes part-time students sometimes don’t know whether they have academic writing skills – usually they would have writing skills but not writing academically which is a bit different.

You may have to ask your supervisor “What is good enough?” and sitting down and deciding what tasks you have to do to achieve the level of skill you need. Marian is saying the more evidence you show, the more the supervisor knows what is happening.

You should compare practices with other students – to determine what works for you and decide whether you can use the same practice.

Quick Strategies

  • Don’t tackle full list of skills
  • Review skills you already have
  • Determine what you want to achieve

Verina is showing how one student audited her skills against her CV.  Showing one student’s development plan where the student has also identified the success criteria and a deadline for it.

You’ll need to put a date when you need to review your skills which you have placed some evidence for recently - as it is an iterative process

The skills audit will help to empower you and decide your agenda. You don’t need to do all 36 now – this is for over the next 3 years.

Anesa Hosein
09:11 on 1 April 2010

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