Catalyst Awards Blog Series: Helping Youth Learn 21st Century Life Skills through Innovative Initiatives by the School for Life
The Catalyst Awards program recognizes innovation and excellence in the Anthology community of practice. In this blog series, a selection of 2023 award-winning institutions from across the globe share their success stories and best practices.
UPES is a 2023 Catalyst Award winner in the category of Teaching & Learning.
The challenges youth regularly face are many and require more than even the best numeracy and literacy skills. That is why 164 nations, under UNESCO, include life skills as a basic learning need for all young people. Team SFL (School for Life) designed and delivered an innovative life skills course spanning 15 weeks to more than 3,000 higher education students to develop them as autonomous learners, future leaders, and practitioners. It is a shining example of how life skills education can be made both effective and enjoyable.
Context and Initiative
The core motive behind the launch of the life skills course by Team SFL was to help students move into the mainstream of a changing environment with competencies to continue learning and evolving through life skills education. Through its bespoke curricular structure, unique course content, and experiential teaching methodology, the life skills course aimed to deliver a broad base of crucial life skills to learners and contribute towards their overall development as 21st century global citizens.
As the entire course is focused on experiential learning (including audio-visual assignments and activities), the students are actively involved and motivated. Students get the chance to think, analyze, and experiment in this course. It encourages learners to engage in meaningful discourse and, in doing so, aids in the acquisition of crucial life skills.
1. Discussion Forum Tasks and Individual Activities
The life skills course is primarily concerned with an individual's overall growth. Discussion forum tasks primarily emphasize the value of personal growth and involvement. Weekly topics were provided to the entire class in accordance with the course requirements, and students were asked to offer their thoughts and opinions via audio-visual projects and activities. Best entries received appreciation for their exceptional outputs throughout the weekly review.
2. Course Quiz
The course quiz helps students review crucial concepts and is much more likely to help them recall information than merely reading. Quizzes are useful for formative assessment because they give the facilitator information about students' learning as well as the chance to go over difficult material and encourage deeper learning experiences. Fortnightly quizzes, in addition to immediate instructor feedback, benefit students because they offer them the chance to get better by retaking the quiz and using the feedback.
3. Team Formation and Team Activities
In order to stress the value of cooperation, the life skills course is created in a way that promotes team collaboration and team activities. Being in a team produces a culture that values commitment and camaraderie. The entire class is divided into groups in accordance with the course requirements. While creating these groups, considerable care is taken to ensure that each group has students from diverse backgrounds. Weekly assignments and evaluations of engaging team activities are organized too.
4. Team Projects and Community Outreach
An essential component of the evaluation method is the team project. Students engage in a variety of engaging team projects that account for 70% of their final grade. In these projects, they are expected to interact with people from business, academia, sports, politics, the social sector, and other fields outside of the classroom. Moreover, they provide a "Process Book/e-Journal" that documents the weekly development of their team projects. They turn in an audio-video presentation with their results, key lessons learned, and thoughts at the conclusion of the semester.
5. Masterclass Events
This is the most fascinating aspect of the life skills course, which gives students a chance to engage with and learn from global leaders from many cultures. Students are required to offer their views on the following insightful questions after the masterclass event: (i) From the guest speaker, what did I learn that I can apply to my own life? (ii) Can I connect the guest speaker's reflections to the course content? (iii) What did I enjoy best about the guest speaker's talk?
6. “Facilitator of the Week” Practice
We have been using a weekly practice called "Facilitator of the Week" to recognize any of their large or minor classroom successes (in terms of student engagement and motivation). This weekly practice helped us learn from other course instructors and get inspired by others' unique ideas. Last semester, we adhered to this practice religiously (from Week 1 to Week 15) and produced a brief e-Guide as a collection of fantastic concepts and innovative methods.
Results and Impact
In times of technological advancements when all organizations are going through high-velocity changes in products, processes, and systems, employers prefer hiring young talent with life skills to handle diverse and complex business situations. In light of this need, a unique life skill course was designed and delivered by the UPES SFL (School for Life) team for higher education students. We have seen an evident positive shift in the attitude and behaviors of all the participating students due to the fact that they got opportunities to apply learned skills in real-life scenarios.
More than 90% of students felt a visible change in their body language and confidence level. They felt more confident in facing the professional world. The students who were initially hesitant and shy to interact with people other than their classmates interviewed industry professionals eloquently as part of their assignments. In one of the success stories, the course even helped in breaking emotional barriers between the students and their family members or friends.
The life skills course as offered by Team SFL positively impacted more than a thousand higher education students from different demographics of India within one year. Eventually, it also proved to be a landmark initiative in increasing adolescent employability and contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 of ensuring “quality education”.
Team SFL was able to offer a seamless learning experience for the entire duration of the 15 weeks for its life skills course, and Blackboard® Learn proved to be a dependable companion for this success journey. Anthology solutions were utilized to their fullest extent in the creation as well as the delivery of the course. The course was divided into two sessions (synchronous and asynchronous) per week. Through asynchronous sessions, students went through all the study material on their own thoroughly and produced excellent audio/video-based reflections in the discussion forums. Blackboard Learn made everything feasible, from student team formation to evaluation. Team SFL is grateful to the Anthology solutions that made our life skills teaching and learning highly interactive and effective.
WATCH THE VIDEO
Gaurav Misra is India’s first CTAUN-recognized life skills coach, with a professional interest in gamification and a passion for helping young people transform themselves into productive, successful, and employable human beings. Through his affiliation with the UPES in India, he has contributed to the School for Life, an innovative initiative aimed at teaching university students 21st century life skills such as leadership, collaboration, interpersonal communication, and social responsibility. He has conducted training programs for UC Davis, UNC (Colorado), MSU (Denver), American Councils, British Council, Fujitsu, upGrad, NCC, USIEF, Reliance Securities, Bajaj Hindusthan, Eureka Forbes, and Lifestyle Mr. & Ms. India, to name a few. He is a Fulbright scholar, a Global Leaders for Innovation & Knowledge (GLIK) scholar, a three-time Blackboard Award winner, and a two-time winner of the Fulbright in the Classroom grant. In addition to studying life skills at the University of Montana and earning a diploma from the Indian Society for Training and Development, Gaurav holds a degree in English literature, which enriches his understanding of humanity and informs his passion for his work.