The Graduate Profile


Clayesmore’s Head of Digital Learning, Mark Fraser, writes about the ‘graduate profile’
I’ve just completed a fascinating MOOC. I try to complete two or three each year. I stress the word ‘complete’ because, like everyone, I start more than I finish. 
This one was excellent. Called, ‘Envisioning the Graduate of the Future’, it was created by the brilliant Justin Reich, Executive Director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab and hosted on the EdX platform. Look it up. And I was really excited…forgive me…think Massachusetts…I was ‘super-excited’ to be asked to be on the panel for the end of course Live Chat event on Youtube – link here if you’re interested.
The course focused on the creation of a ‘graduate profile’. I didn’t know this term before I began the course. In case you don’t either, it’s a document which makes explicit the capabilities, competencies, knowledge, and attitudes that a school feels its leavers should possess. Essentially, it’s an answer to the question, ‘What is school for?’
Have a go at answering that yourself. It’s more difficult than it looks isn’t it? We shared lots of ideas via forums on the course. It won’t surprise you to hear that educational technology featured quite heavily in people’s thinking. As you might also expect, there wasn’t a great deal of consensus – beyond a broad notion that it’s probably quite important! That was a little disappointing. I’ve had a similar feeling at Ed Tech conferences for teachers. We all go to them because we think Ed Tech is ‘probably quite important’. But there’s never enough focus on the fundamental question of how technology will change (and is already changing) the job we do as teachers. And what will be expected of us by our ‘future graduates’. At least it’s fun to look at the new gadgets, I suppose.
As part of the MOOC, we had to carry out ‘stakeholder’ interviews. I spoke to a few of my Sixth Form students. I had expected them to be fixated on exam results, on achieving the necessary grades to get to university. They weren’t really. (Though they did think their parents were!) I was struck, instead, by the emphasis they placed on becoming ‘social beings’, people who would be able to participate effectively in society. They felt strongly that a school’s job was to prepare them for that. 
It made me think that, for many, perhaps most of our students, it isn’t the technology that’s important. It’s the social potential, the possibility for communication enabled by the technology that is important. We are organic beings; we learn from and with other people. We have a duty to teach our students how to make the most of the new communication tools available to us. But how much time do we really give to it? 
How many opportunities do we actually set up in our classrooms for students to connect with people beyond the four walls surrounding them? Are we actively teaching our students the skills they need to follow a MOOC successfully? Or are we just fixated on all the ‘subject content’ we’ve got to race through? During the Youtube event last week I was able to talk with a man in Massachusetts and a woman in Seattle while people from all round the world contributed to the conversation via live text. 
It was an exciting novelty for me but our students will very soon expect that as a norm.  Are we ready for that? Will they be?