How professors can prepare students for the one skill employers need most | The Flashcast Files

How professors can prepare students for the one skill employers need most

Published Jul 24, 2019 by Vanessa Pineda

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducts a survey asking employers to rate the importance of career readiness skills. Number one on the list for 2019 (and 2018 and 2017) — "critical thinking and problem solving."

This skill is vital in the modern workplace, where a person’s ability to evaluate a situation objectively (based on increasingly large amounts of data and information) impacts sound decision making. But recent graduates’ critical thinking/problem solving skills are not at the level where employers want them to be. Employers ranked graduates’ collaboration and digital technology skills ahead of critical thinking/problem solving, which they found to be only a little higher than “somewhat proficient.” Ouch.

How can professors put recent graduates’ critical thinking skills on par with employers’ expectations?

Using an approach applied by the U.S. Intelligence Community and multi-national companies to capture and measure analytic judgments, Flashcast is designed for professors to do the same with students. Here’s how it works:

Flashcast facilitates deeper learning when it comes to critical thinking

There are plenty of well-documented ways to develop critical thinking and problem solving. In math classes, it’s as easy as assigning a problem set for homework. But while this might require critical thinking as it relates to specific skills, it doesn’t facilitate ‘deeper learning’ — the process through which a person becomes capable of taking what was learned in one situation and applying it to new situations — which new research says is key to effectively preparing students for whatever career path they might choose.

With Flashcast, professors can have students make live predictions using the information they’ve learned in the classroom. Everyone’s individual predictions are aggregated into one consensus outcome that can spark further discussion. And unlike other critical thinking and problem solving activities like projects and problem sets, it’s quick and easy to integrate Flashcast within the framework of a lecture.

An example: Flashcast as a training supplement

Let’s say you’re an environmental politics professor lecturing on the history and recent developments of ‘cap and trade’ laws in the U.S., you might pose students this Flashcast: 

What is the probability that cap and trade regulations in the U.S. change in the next three years?

In order to make a thoughtful prediction, students first need to evaluate the question — which is asking about any change to the environmental regulations — i.e., they could become more strict or more lax. Students would also need to think critically about context: What is the historical precedence for changing cap and trade laws? What is the likelihood any administration changes laws in the next 3 years? What are industry experts saying?

Because Flashcast asks you to quantify your belief as a probabilistic prediction (0-100% chance), students also have to engage in analytical reasoning (another critical skill in today’s workplace). For instance, a student might initially estimate that there’s a 45% chance that laws will change for better or worse given current political rhetoric regarding climate change. However, further consideration, such as state interests, international pressure, or an upcoming presidential election, might force them to rethink their initial estimate.

Flashcast is simple to incorporate into any lecture and everyone with a device can participate, so professors can ensure that each and every student is engaging in real-time critical thinking. It flexes quick, forward-thinking analysis that is typically hard to achieve during lecture. Combining Flashcast with other teaching methods gives students more holistic exposure to what they can expect to face when they finally step out of the classroom.

By Ben Schachter and Vanessa Pineda

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