The Enterprising Passport
Talking the Walk
For those interested in new or alternative assessment and reporting approaches the Enterprise passport is worth consideration. Although dated, it helps to examine the sample passport (file above) before reading this article. This example passport is a reconstruction based on an actual passport – personal details and some related matters have been omitted. Some other aspects have been changed to make the example more illustrative of the concept.
In many ways Enterprising Passports fly in the face of more conventional approaches to recording and reporting on enterprising/entrepreneurial skills, yet they are complementary.
The Enterprising Passport is built on the proposition that if someone has enterprising/entrepreneurial skills he or she should be able to describe these in an enterprising manner. In short the Enterprising Passport is an enterprising account of one’s enterprise/entrepreneurialism. Learner use it to ‘market ‘ themselves to whom they choose and how they want. The Learner is the author of the document/object, which remains their ‘property’. The educational institution offers help but it does not verify the content. The process is as important as the product. And the quality of the passport itself is evidence of enterprising/entrepreneurial skills. Parents and employers respond well to the passports. (Young people have the right to self-representation).
In a sense the Enterprising Passport is a marketing tool, by which the owner persuades others that they are enterprising/entrepreneurial.
The enterprising passport has its origin in the ‘third passport’. In his ground breaking report Colin Ball* identified three passports that young people need to move from education to work and make other transitions. The first passport relates to ‘academic’ knowledge, the second concerns technical skills for a specific vocation and the third passport concerns applying to two other passports in a critical and creative manner. The third passport very much concerns high-value generic skills, such as entrepreneurialism and enterprise, especially attitudinal dimension. Although complementary the third passport has become highly prized by employers. In this context actual Enterprising Passports are a manifestation of the third passport.
The Enterprising Passport is not a portfolio as such. It may draw on the contents of a portfolio and share some features. However the Enterprising Passport attempts to be an active agent. Notwithstanding exceptions, ‘enterprising’ passports have become semi-formal instruments whereby students match evidence to set criteria using a standardised format. Hence the preference for the term’ enterprising’.
With the Enterprising Passport the student (the owner) tries to present himself as a distinctive individual. It is this individuality that is so often missing in formal reporting, yet it is one of the key factors that employers look for when making judgements. More on this later.
A learner can use a passport in a number of ways.
Some further education may accept the passport to support an entrance application. Similarly they may be offered as part of a ‘credit claim’ for advanced stranding.
A learner may offer the passport as evidence in a more formal assessment arrangement at school or elsewhere in a similar fashion as a portfolio might.
A learner may use it to gain support a commercial venture.
Most commonly a passport is used to gain employment. Some passports initiatives have been labelled Employment Passports. The remaining commentary will relate to the employment context.
Quite clearly employers value enterprising skills - they want to know about individual applicant’s initiative, resourcefulness, flexibility and so on. And they feel that standardised reporting does not adequately cover this area – even if it is graded. With résumé young people are coached to ‘play it safe’ to the point where the document is colourless, homogeneous and an impersonal replica. Hence in the absence of positive ‘personal’ information, the employer will rely on negative indications such as the candidate's address and appearance. This is where the Enterprising Passport can be so valuable. The employer wants to know about the individual, ‘the person’, because employing the ‘wrong person’ can be cost dearly and even be fatal for a small business. Those who know the dynamics of the labour market know that next to trust and reliability employers value the most initiative. In fact some passports initiatives have involved learners asking groups of employers which characteristics they most value – and then they build their passports around the responses. This is clever.
Power of process
There are few things sadder for a caring educator than to watch a young person sit through an employment interview unable to describe the skills, which the teacher knows they possess. To a degree in this context they may as well not possess skills.
The process of creating an Enterprising Passport is valuable for four reasons
It is evidence of being enterprising/entrepreneurial in itself
Learners appreciate that others value of enterprise/entrepreneurialism, especially to employers
Learners learn so much in general
Learners learn to ‘talk the walk’ - describe their enterprising/entrepreneurial behaviours and qualities
It is not easy describing one’s own enterprising/entrepreneurial capabilities. When challenged to write a brief description of their own capabilities and achievements, many educators admit the task is a very difficult. How does one succinctly and convincingly describe one’s initiative or problem-solving skills? Yet this is the information employers want and increasingly quiz learners about. How difficult then is for young people?
Where Enterprising Passports have complemented résumés in youth employment programs, they have been very successful in helping the youths attain employment. This is not necessarily due to employers seeing the passports, but rather they witness students describe and substantiate their own enterprising/entrepreneurial capabilities.... And students learn this through the process of developing these documents.
The process of developing passports not only provides young people with the ‘critical vocabulary’ but also helps them to identify concrete examples to illustrate their claims. In fact some young job seekers are so confident and ready to tackle the questions on personal and social skills they forget to show their passports. And this is the point: the passports are a valuable asset in themselves, but the real value is being able to more fully describe your attributes with confidence.
While there is no recipe for passports, some common ingredients include
personal statements about career and life goals
accounts of enterprising/entrepreneurial events or processes
descriptions of enterprising/entrepreneurial behaviour
links to relevant social media
testimonies from third parties
samples of work from projects, eg letters, plans, minutes from meetings
photographs of products, events, etc
personal assessments of strengths, weaknesses and achievements
peer comments on the author
teacher comments on the author
a development plan to further develop enterprise/entrepreneurial capabilities
descriptions of life experiences
Typically a passport can be can be broken into several components ie personal information, including family, enterprise/entrepreneurial projects, work, community participation and life-experience.
Some passports are more personal, others more formal, some are methodical others loosely structured, some are plain others arty - and some are low-tech others high-tech. Integrating the internet (especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube) creates new possibilities.
Because the passport is marketing the enterprising/entrepreneurial individual, passports should not be the same. They need to be distinctive even idiosyncratic. This is partially achieved by the individual ‘authoring’ their own passport.
Bulky passports are self-defeating, in that employers and others will not fully read them...and if they do the essential messages can be lost in the clutter. Employers want to see the ‘positive and negative' narrative’. A passport is starting to be too big if it goes over ten pages.
A snappy attractive passport will encourage employers to seek further information if they need, eg résumé, portfolios, school reports and the all important interview. In many ways the passport is about getting the foot in the door and then 'talking the walk'.
The challenge of making individual passports exciting, engaging and special often captures the imagination of learners and educators alike.
Issues for further discussion include those below.
Initially educators can have some reservations with genuine learner ownership, especially with not being able to ‘vet’ matter. However they quickly become positive on seeing the benefits. Many also understand that young people have the right to self-representation, as adults do. However if learners want help it should be conditional, for example the institution must not be negatively portrayed. Don’t take conditions too far.
Authenticity of authorship can be a concern. Where learners have received help, including from one another, encourage them to clearly state this. As with adult learners should be able to ‘outsource’, especially with technical matters eg use of software.
Verification can be a concern. As a rule, stay out of this area, insisting that all passports carry a disclaimer about verification upfront.
The level of assistance depends on a number of circumstances including abilities and resources. One initiative uses detailed facilitator and participant guides to enhance flexibility.
While the Enterprising Passport is about individuality and personality, it is complementary to more conventional approaches. The Enterprising Passport is about self-representation and empowerment.
The bottom-line is the Enterprising Passport is about the ‘human factor’!
There are a number of modern twists on the passport, mainly digital, including the use of links to Twitter, Facebook and Youtube accounts. A simple link to a Youtube video of an employer's testimont for the learner is a fine example. Most likely Digital Badging (micro credentials) will become a feature of modern passports.
*Towards An ‘Enterprising’ Culture ( Colin Ball OECD Education Monograph, Paris 1989)
Copyright Paul Kearney 2012