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The Place of 'Non-Cognitive Skills' in Teaching and the Curriculum

Room 224, School of Education (Building R19)
Social Sciences
Thursday 9th February 2017 (11:00-12:30)
Download the date to your calendar (.ics file)

Dr Matthew Schuelka

A British Academy Seminar


  • Dr. Matthew Schuelka, Lecturer, School of Education
  • Dr. Liz Gulliford, Research Fellow, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues
  • Dr. Christine Szwed, Reader in Teacher Education, School of Education
  • Dr. Kezang Sherab, Dean, Paro College of Education Bhutan
  • Ms. Tsering Yangzome Nidup, Lecturer, Paro College of Education Bhutan 

A Light lunch and tea/coffee will be served

Throughout the history and development of education systems, there has always been a debate as to the role of the school in greater society. Primarily, this debate has centred around the ‘values’ of the school and whether or not schools and teachers can or should promote morals, ethics, and personal attributes and whether knowledge is ever value-neutral. Today, these discourses remain very present around the world and this seminar will explore the place of ‘cognitive skills’ and ‘non-cognitive skills’ as a broad global topic, but also with the cases of England and Bhutan.

Non-cognitive skills has been defined in numerous ways as values, character, emotional intelligence, ‘grit’, growth-mindset, and many other personal attributes and skills. Beyond those attributes that speak to personal characteristics to do with work and academic tasks, there is also a robust discourse on the place of schools in promoting happiness, well-being, and social inclusivity. In England, the current educational policy and political discourse has featured the idea of ‘British Values’ and Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development. In Bhutan, the major educational policy and political discourse has centred around the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and bringing its ideas into schools via the Education for GNH initiative.

In this seminar, funded by the British Academy, the participants – including the audience – will explore curriculum measures and policy trends that go beyond ‘cognitive skills’ such as literacy and maths. They will explore big questions such as: What is the role of teachers in teaching these skills? What is the role of centralised curriculum to promote these skills? Can they be measured? and Should they be measured? Is there a formalised place for non-cognitive skills in schools, or does that defeat the purpose? How does the teacher reconcile discourses on non-cognitive skills and values with an ever-increasing push towards educational efficiency and achievement?


Dr. Matthew Schuelka is Lecturer of Inclusion and Special Educational Needs and Deputy Head of the Disability Inclusion and Special Needs Department at the School of Education, University of Birmingham. His work and profile draw from many different disciplines, including anthropology, critical disability studies, and comparative international education. He has been primarily focused on the country of Bhutan since 2012, and is the co-editor of the recent book Education in Bhutan: Culture, Schooling, and Gross National Happiness (Springer, 2016).

Dr. Liz Gulliford has a long-standing interest in human strengths and currently works as a Research Fellow at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham. She undertook her doctorate, a critical, interdisciplinary evaluation of positive psychological approaches to strengths and virtues, at Queens’ College, Cambridge. Since joining the Jubilee Centre, her interdisciplinary research has been published in philosophical, psychological and educational journals. The current focus of Liz’s interest is the conceptual and empirical relationships between the virtues of gratitude, generosity, forgiveness, humility and compassion.

Dr. Christine Szwed is a Reader in Teacher Education and Deputy Head of the Teacher Education Department at the School of Education, University of Birmingham. Her research interests cover the area of special needs and management alongside the area of initial teacher training. She was part of the School of Education team responsible for the DfES Transforming the School Workforce Pathfinder Evaluation Project. Chris has also supported the British University in Dubai in setting up their teacher training programme. In June 2015, she was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

Dr. Kezang Sherab is a senior lecturer, currently working as the Dean of Research and Industrial Linkages at the Centre for Educational Research and Development, Paro College of Education, Bhutan. His research interests are in educational change, student engagement, efficacy beliefs, GNH Education, and youth fitness. He was a Review Panel Member for Bhutan Education Blueprint (2014-2024) and Tertiary Education Roadmap for Bhutan (2015-2025). 

Ms. Tsering Yangzome Nidup is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Educational Research and Development, Paro College of Education, Bhutan. Her areas of expertise are in the areas of English Language/ Literature, Multigrade teaching, Media Literacy, and Critical Literacy. She was also the Convener for the International Seminar on Sexuality Education hosted at the Paro College in December, 2015.

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