Soft skills for scientists: not a soft option

Within the School of Science and Technology at the University of Northampton, Rashmi Dravid working with Andrea Duncan from DELTA-E, University of Northampton are looking at the personal and development of the 'soft skills' for Computing students. This builds on some earlier work by Jonathan Adams (School of Science and Technology) and Andrea on developing these soft skills in Engineering students.

The following is taken from the abstract "Soft skills for scientist: not a soft option" by Andrea Duncan
"Engineering and technology sectors have long recognised the importance of softer skills for successful career progression, as indicated in most job vacancy specifications, and in professional competency standards, for example, Engineering Council UK and the new framework of the British Computer Society. HE programmes in these fields however sometimes provide minimal support for the personal and professional development processes which encourage student awareness and articulation of such skills. There can be a tendency to regard reflection and self-analysis as low priority, yet students readily acknowledge their need for support in gaining a clearer understanding of personal strengths and qualities, and presenting themselves more effectively to others.

To facilitate these processes, experience strongly emphasises the use of discipline-specific resources, ideally linked to curriculum tasks. At The University of Northampton the latest in a series of on-line packs funded by several HEA Subject Centres has provided a series of twelve personal development tasks to support engineering students in such activities. A further project to develop and extend these for computing programmes has included initial workshops with levels 5-7, and resulted in positive engagement and feedback. Sessions include prompts to individual thinking and self-questioning, paired conversations, and sharing insights briefly with the wider class group. Such dialogic reflection uncovers new perspectives on different learning experiences, and helps clarify strengths and the transferability of skills, resulting in greater self-awareness and self confidence. "