Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, and Persona Education, the online personal development provider for schools and colleges, have entered into a new pilot project. Together, we’re creating a series of digital badge programmes aimed to support GCSE learners with the development of 22 social-emotional skills, or “life skills”.
The pioneering pilot is designed to test how effectively life skills can be developed and recognised using digital methods, while assessing how students, teachers and employers value social-emotional skills, and the related digital badges. It’ll involve over 200 students who are resitting Pearson Edexcel GCSE (9–1) Mathematics and English qualifications in seven campuses, across four Further Education colleges in England.
One of the colleges involved in the pilot is Wakefield College in West Yorkshire, where Sophie Rodgers, Wakefield’s Curriculum Development Manager, said: “We got involved in the pilot because we believe these kinds of skills are lacking in college, but they help students with their English and Maths, and they help them believe in themselves. In terms of impact, this gives students a focus, it’s user friendly and is something they can really engage with.”
The pilot follows extensive research that shows how developing social-emotional skills – such as goal-setting, active listening, critical thinking and empathy – can have a significant positive impact on young people’s lives. The Centre for Education and Youth found a robust causal link between developing social-emotional skills and improved wellbeing, with skills in self-esteem, communication, risk-taking and positivity directly correlating to higher academic achievement and better employment prospects. Similarly, analysis by Public Health England of over 200 UK schools found that those with well-developed social-emotional learning (SEL) achieved 11% higher results in their SATs. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) equate the impact of SEL to 4 months of academic progress in one year.
Meanwhile, in July 2022, Pearson’s own sector-wide School Report found that two-thirds of teachers in England want to see core life skills, such as communication skills, mental health/wellbeing (60%), social skills (54%) and responsible decision making (48%), incorporated into the national curriculum.
Speaking about the pilot, Meredith Reeve, Head of Next Generation Assessment at Pearson, said: “We’re delighted to share the news of this exciting pilot, as we work to build on the latest technological advances with our expert partners. Pearson’s extensive research, and our ongoing conversations with educators, families, students and employers, have underlined just how essential life skills are when it comes to preparing young people for their adult lives.
“In our Future of Qualifications and Assessment Report, we made a number of recommendations, including the need to recognise the right skills in the right way, and to make GCSEs work better for all learners. With up to 25% of skills gaps in the workplace linked to deficiencies in numeracy and literacy, exploring the long-term potential of recognising the development of life skills development in this way is an important step towards building a system that helps every learner thrive into the future, whichever pathway they choose.”
Pete Read, CEO and Co-founder of Persona Education, added: “One of the biggest challenges in the world of education is the effective delivery and recognition of social-emotional skills for teenagers and young people. It is a hugely important issue that has a direct impact on academic attainment, careers and life satisfaction. This partnership between Persona and Pearson has the potential to address the problem in far-reaching ways, not only among further education students, but for all secondary students, both in the UK and internationally. In future this could even be extended into higher education and workplace learning.”
Using a test environment built on the Persona Life Skills online learning platform, students in the new pilot will have access to a range of self-directed learning modules, through which they can learn how to develop and apply the 22 life skills at three levels.
Earning a digital badge when each module is successfully completed, they will also receive Skillset Award badges on completion of all modules in a skillset level. These skillsets are shown to have a positive impact on formal education, employability and social interactions for young people, and fall into six categories:
- Being realistic
- Communication skills
- Problem solving
Using sharing options through Credly, the world’s largest digital credentialing network, learners who complete the modules can then share their badges directly to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, as well as via link and email. Downloadable PDF certificates will also be available.
This spring, Pearson and Persona will assess the effect of the digital badges on learner motivation, progress and attitudes. It is hoped that the findings will help establish how to better bolster skills in schools and colleges, and further enhance the overall GCSE experience for students.
To find out more about digital learning and innovation, including the pilot, visit our webpage.