Work-based learning and volunteering has been a key feature of the criminology and policing programmes within the School of Law, Criminology and Government for several years. One of our main objectives is to boost the employability of our learners. Consequently, volunteering in a policing or criminal justice setting module was made available to Stage 2 learners, many of whom were seeking a career in the police service. This module aims to enable learners to enhance their personal development through practical work experience in a voluntary placement within a local criminal justice-related agency. Consequently, providing the opportunity to develop and enhance lifelong employability skills and capabilities. Clearly PebblePad could play a key role as a platform to record, develop and evidence these skills being available to learners 'free for life'.
Past experience and previous research (Richards, 2011) provided insights into some of the characteristics of learners; their attitude towards unfamiliar technology in particular, which can impact on the outcomes of the module and engagement with PebblePad:
- Learners’ lack of experience and confidence in using reflective practice and experiential learning in their personal development, including the use of action plans now so common in many professions.
- A tendency for learners to overestimate their key skills (particularly technology), knowledge, experience and behaviours, and often have insufficient or undeveloped evidence ready for future job applications.
What we did
The main challenge was to design an ePortfolio template which would provide resources for learners that would have utility both within academic assessments and personal development underpinning their lifelong employability. This also allowed focusing on the needs of particular job roles. There was also a unique opportunity to engage employers and learners in a collaborative process.
The content included workbooks for enhanced self-diagnostics through skills audits focusing on the actual evidence of skills/attributes employers are seeking. This informed self-directed personal and professional learning (planning, reflection, managing, evidencing and showcasing) through the learners volunteering experience. Specific workbooks including reflection sheets were provided to record this experience in a format prepared for future use in job applications focusing on the particular skills and attributes required.