1 Arcada UAS (FINLAND)
2 University of Akureyri (ICELAND)
3 Vilniaus Kolegija (LITHUANIA)
4 Vidzeme University (LATVIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2023 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Pages: 1428-1437
ISBN: 978-84-09-55942-8
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2023.0458
Conference name: 16th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 13-15 November, 2023
Location: Seville, Spain
The learning and application of soft skills are essential for succeeding in today´s work and life environment. Soft skills encompass interpersonal, problem-solving, and communication abilities necessary for effective collaboration. In the VAKEN project, which involves seven higher education institutions, the focus has been on four particular soft skills; creativity, complex problem-solving, critical thinking, and personal leadership. The project utilized a process that allows training and learning of soft skills in real-life contexts with guidance from facilitators and in collaboration with companies.

The purpose behind this study and this paper is threefold:
1) More research on how soft skills learning in higher education can be can enhanced is needed.
2) Development of soft skills is crucial for HE and the workplace.
3) The findings from the VAKEN project need to be discussed to see how the model, the VAKEN process, can be further used and developed.

In the first paper (Tigerstedt et al, 2023, in press) the focus was set on how soft skills are learnt, how they can be assessed and how well this succeeds in the process. This previous study relied on quantitative data to investigate these aspects. To continue this and deepen the insights into soft skills learning in HE, this paper delves into the experiences of participants in the VAKEN process. Through an analysis of daily diaries, the aim is not only to explore the soft skills emphasized in the VAKEN process, but also to uncover any unforeseen skills that participants may mention, and their perceptions of the sprint-driven learning process.

The aim is to describe the perceived skills’ learning. The following research questions are proposed:
1) What soft skills can the students learn with the help of a sprint driven module?
2) How do the students perceive their work during the sprint?

A survey with both open ended and closed questions was used to collect data from 3 sprints where the process was utilized. The survey focused on skills learning, but also on collaboration as part of the process. The survey is a kind of formative self-assessment rolled out during the sprint process. Participants completed the survey at the end of every sprint day. Data was analysed using both qualitative and quantitative methods for analysis.

Findings suggest that the students did enhance their soft skills during their sprint week and different soft skills got boozed during the different different sprints. The students expressed satisfaction with the VAKEN process, even though a majority stated that the sprint week was very challenging. In the end of the sprint the students expressed that they felt exhausted but at the same time highly satisfied with the work they had accomplished and the enhancement of their own perceived soft skills.
Soft skills learning, self-assessment, higher education, project-based learning, qualitative research.