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  • Teaching Traditional Craft Professions to the Next Generation

    Welders welding

    After Jennifer Wilkerson taught English in high school for 13 years, she went to work in her husband’s welding fabrication shop managing the business.

    Today, those two professions are merged in her work as marketing director for The National Center for Construction Education and Research, or NCCER.

    “My 14-year-old daughter often goes to her dad’s welding shop,” Jennifer says. “She’s using complex automation programs to fabricate industrial products with a plasma cutter.”

    “This is the kind of profession we’re hoping to introduce to the next generation of craft professionals,” she says.

    “People don’t realize the math, science and technology that are involved in the construction and maintenance industries. The certifications require knowledge and skills and can be tough,” Jennifer says, “but these jobs can be quite lucrative.”

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  • Tiny Cubicle Giving That Could Change the World

    Two toddlers playing

    Before most popular social platforms caught on—or were even created—a small non-profit started to show individuals around the world new ways to engage with pressing problems.

    Kiva was founded in 2005 to “connect people through lending to alleviate poverty,” celebrating and supporting people “looking to create a better future for themselves.”

    It was before crowdfunding was even a thing.

    And the organization’s success showed the value behind people connecting with other people in real ways.

    Kiva’s Jason Riggs calls it “human-scaling the big issues.”

     

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  • 10 student resolutions to make your 2016 epic

    by Allison Jones

    Resoltions written on a note pad

    When research indicates that more than half of all New Year’s resolutions won't make it past six months, "why should I even try?" sounds like a sensible question. I’ll tell you why. Because you have zero chance of keeping a resolution that you never make. So in 2016, why not take your chances? And if you don't last the course, don't think you've wasted your time - most successful people agree that you learn more from your failures than your wins.

    Here are 10 resolutions inspired by the hundreds of college students I've worked with across the US. I've seen how doing these things has turned hesitant young people unsure of their place in the world into passionate, successful, confident graduates, entrepreneurs, activists and professionals. I hope they can help you too... however old you are and whatever your 2016 has in store.

    1. Don’t give up if you slip up. In the last few years I’ve observed a number of shared characteristics that successful young (and returning) students have in common. What makes them stand out is their ability to practice resilience – the ability to continue moving forward when faced with adversity – over and over again, until they get it right. So if your 2016 isn't going quite the way you hoped, regroup, learn from your mistakes and try again.
    2. Brand your future self, today. It might seem like “the real world” and your future career are far off... but they are closer than you think. What you do online today will echo in eternity. So start building your future brand today and get hired more quickly tomorrow.
    3. Hone your “soft skills”. While the job market for college grads has improved in 2015, many employers still report trouble finding qualified candidates. What’s the problem here? A lack of demonstrated soft skills. Resolve to bolster your academic studies with time spent developing your people, problem-solving, oral and written communication and leadership skills.
    4. Own something. The ability to take ownership is both a skill and a mindset. Employers desire and reward employees who exhibit this capacity. Now is the time in your life to demonstrate ownership. This could mean planning a fund-raising event from start to finish, creating your own blog (like Dianna Blake, our Pearson Students Blog Editor-in-Chief) or even starting your own non-profit (like Corey Geary, Pearson Campus Ambassador). Make it your own, invest in it (if only with your time and talent), then see it through to completion. Future employers will be impressed!
    5. Nurture your network. We’re all familiar with the adage: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Turns out, it's true; connections really do matter. So start building and nurturing your networks now and those connections will grow exponentially over the course of your professional career. Think campus organizations, honor societies like Phi Theta Kappa, or other professional organizations or causes you care about.
    6. Gain a global perspective. When we first meet our Pearson Student Advisory Board at our annual Pearson Student Summit, we use an ice-breaker that we call the timeline activity. We ask students to think about the experiences that helped shape the person they are today. Every year several students’ timelines include a trip outside of the U.S. or Canada. Their eyes glow as they relive far-off memories and offer perspectives gained only by immersing one’s self in another place, another culture. If you have an opportunity to travel outside of your home country, take it. If you don’t, then be a tourist in your own backyard. Exploring new places keeps your mind open to new possibilities, enhances your creativity, and helps you gain valuable perspective. Employers seek perspective in candidates.
    7. Healthy body, healthy mind. As stated by Dr. John Grohol, founder and CEO of Psych Central, “…the plain truth (is) that many people still do not “get” that your body’s physical health is interconnected and cannot be separated from your body’s mental health.” You don’t have to run a marathon; you simply need to get moving. Or cooking! Liz Croak, Pearson Campus Ambassador, shared some of her favorite, affordable healthy-eating tips earlier this year. Her advice includes sharing healthy meal prep with friends. And since social connections are another essential component to happiness and success, this resolution is like a two for one. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more successful.
    8. Ask for help. For many college students I know, this is one of most challenging resolutions, especially for minority, and first-generation college students who lack the financial, and sometimes emotional support from family members. When sticking to your priorities gets tricky, resolve to ask for help. Your school advisors, professors, personal and professional mentors, and many free organizations like org can help. So create your “go-to” list of helpers and mentors in 2016.
    9. Dance! It's true - according to Norman Doige, psychiatrist and author of The Brain’s Way of Healing, learning a new dance is one strategy to sharpen your mind. But for those not too fancy on their feet, any novel and taxing learning exercise will do the trick.
    10. Give back. Research repeatedly tells us that giving back is good for our mental well-being, our happiness, our physical wellness and that it provides purpose in our lives. Find opportunities to give back in 2016, even if it's just telling at least one person a day that they are important and appreciated. Clay Craig, one of our Pearson Campus Ambassadors, told me that he is resolving to do this; as a result, Clay is likely to experience an increase in happiness and life-satisfaction. Too shy to tell someone directly? Start a gratitude journal.

    So if your 2016 isn't going quite the way you hoped, take a look back at this list and see if anything here might help. Being a successful student is like being successful at almost anything; it requires practice. So keep going, your epic year awaits - good luck!

    ***

    Allison leads our student commuity activities in the US. Connect with her on Twitter: @AJTaken.

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  • A year of helping to make progress

    John Fallon

    by John Fallon

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    We at Pearson are a company of nearly 40,000 people proudly working for learning, for employability and yes, for profit.

    Competition is a powerful force for innovation, and that is no less true when it comes to education. Business has an important role to play in K-12 and higher education, investing in research and new products that might not be possible otherwise.

    We recognize not everyone agrees that commercial enterprises have a role in educating children. Some question whether a sense of social purpose and a profit motive can go hand in hand. At Pearson, they always go hand in hand because the profit we make is the by-product of making a useful and meaningful addition to society.

    We don’t shy away from public debate around education policy or the quality and content of our products. When it comes to our role in the lives of people as important as classroom students, we should be scrutinized. That’s why earlier in the year, we posted the full transcript of our Annual General Meeting to share openly our goals and thinking and our willingness to hear criticism. You can read the full transcript online.

    We are always striving to do better and increase transparency. This can be seen in our public commitment to achieve better student outcomes, identify what works in education, and report out on how well our products, programs and services are meeting that goal. We made some of our research on this front available already, and starting in 2018 our annual reports will include audited reports about the efficacy of our products.

    We currently do about $5 billion worth of business annually in the U.S., out of an estimated $1 trillion that is spent on education each year; only a half percent of total spending. We are making record levels of investment in new products and services – our research and development spending has grown from more than $330 million in 2005 to nearly $600 million in 2014.

    We engage students, parents, teachers and professors to learn more from them as we research, design and deliver new and improved products and services. For example, our Texas-based Center for College & Career Success is researching indicators that can help parents and teachers predict a middle school student’s progress toward college readiness. The center also is developing measures that help college admissions officers bring diversity on campus. And in the digital age, we are developing games and other digital learning tools – co-designed by children at our Kids CoLab in New Jersey.

    The better we do expanding access to good quality education that leads to a more fulfilling job and life for more people, the better we can create a faster growing and more sustainable company.

    We believe when it comes to the monumental challenges facing education, no efforts to take on the hard work of finding solutions should be dismissed – whether or not profits are involved. Pearson is held accountable for how we perform as a company by educators, students, schools, shareholders and employees. Our employees include more than 15,000 former teachers putting their classroom knowledge to work in pursuit of new tools to improve learning and employability. Many more of us are parents and caregivers who are passionate about giving all students a brighter future.

    We’ve put our profits back into the communities we serve and to bring education to places where it’s most desperately needed. For example, we joined with America’s Promise Alliance to support states in increasing graduation rates with a State Activation program. Our hope – like everyone involved in education – is to help every student reach his or her full potential and live a fulfilling, fruitful life.

    So hold us accountable for our actions and our impact. That includes creating curriculum and courses, designing assessments and managing digital services for schools and colleges– but our ultimate mission is to make people’s lives better. If we fail at that, we fail as a business.

     

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  • Deeper Learning: knowing what and knowing how

    by Rod Bristow

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    A couple of years ago I read an article in a leading UK newspaper for teachers that described the English education system as a hotbed of innovation. England, it claimed, is a country that experiments energetically with new curriculum, new teaching methods, new kinds of schools, and new structures for governance. It was a proclamation of pride in its education leadership.

    The article I read wasn't written two years ago, but 100 years earlier. A lot has changed in the intervening years, not least the emergence (in educational terms) of countries that now regularly overshadow England in some comparative studies of standards. The forces of global competition and the accessibility of meaningful evidence are driving a want to, and an ability to, make better decisions about what works in education, and what doesn’t.

    There remains today a powerful dynamism in education, but there’s also a growing consensus that change for its own sake is damaging. The demand now is not so much for constancy, but for long-term coherence between purpose and action. Parents and employers find the changing education landscape confusing. Education is indeed complex, but that’s no excuse for complication.

    Perhaps it’s time to stand back, and try to answer what really is it that we want our education systems to deliver?

    Some say that education is too precious to be assigned a purpose; that education is an end in itself, and that learning for the love of learning is all we need. That idea does have poetic resonance (“beauty is truth, truth beauty”), but it’s surely wrong to ignore education's other purpose; it lifts people out of poverty, and gives them the tools to lead fulfilling lives.

    Parents, universities and employers want young people to leave education with skills that go beyond the academic or the occupational; beyond too, the core skills of numeracy and literacy. They value character, resilience, grit, integrity and a strong moral compass based on our values of tolerance and humility. They value creativity, problem solving and critical thinking. They want collaborators and team workers, who can communicate with impact, and who are able to take a position and to lead. These things are sometimes referred to (dismissively) as soft skills, but their outcomes are as hard edged as hard edged can be. They are as important as exam results. And they are vital skills for life, not just employment. So why don’t they get more focus?

    Perhaps because they are hard to describe, let alone measure. There may even be a perspective among those already in possession of these skills, that not everyone needs them.

    Education policy is plagued with false dichotomies - teach knowledge or foster skills; value the academic or invest in the vocational. The simple truth is that an education system fit for the 21st century is one that provides it all. One that imparts knowledge, and also skills; where what you know and what you can do both count. A system where the means of progress is based on something more than a bit of work experience and careers advice. And one that has a razor sharp definition of its purpose; to help people make progress in their lives through learning. Knowledge and skills and deeper learning are all vital parts of the equation.

    The engagement and perspective of employers is very important, because employability is such a critical part of the fabric of our society. When their voice gets louder, we need to listen more intently. But we also need to appreciate that their perspective is not always coherent, such is the complexity of education.

    If we think a focus on these issues will distract from more pressing needs like exam results or performance on global comparators, we should think again. Time and again we hear from governments around the world that this agenda for skills and deeper learning is where their focus is too.

    Over the next year, at Pearson we'll be working with employers and education experts to delve more deeply into some of these issues. How can we transform a notional demand among parents, learners and businesses for greater skills and deeper learning into something more tangible, more real, more easily recognised and understood? This is a fascinating challenge. Let's hope we're not grappling with it in quite the same way a century from now.

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  • Why Pearson agrees with Obama on school testing

    by Kimberly O'Malley

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    As students across the United States enjoy fall, football and anticipate the holiday season, a school year tradition is being challenged by President Barack Obama.

    In a video posted to Facebook, President Barack Obama made a call for fewer, better tests, saying that current policies, including those from his own administration, have taken “the joy out of teaching and learning.” Many in the education world applauded his move.

    As the world’s leading education company, many commentators immediately jumped to the conclusion that Pearson would oppose this suggested shift in policy. But, I have a different message for educators, parents and students: We agree with the president.

    To read why, read the full article on Newsweek.com >>

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