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How to tackle low self-esteem

Many FE students have low self-esteem, the conference was told. An initiative on emotional intelligence at Cardonald College, part of a "focus on learning" project, found that using it helped students overcome barriers to their learning, according to Cathy McSkimming, the college's quality development manager.

Students' emotional intelligence did improve, she said, "which was contrary to staff perceptions". This led her to suggest that every member of staff who has contact with FE students should receive training in emotional intelligence. Staff may have the same needs as students in tackling perceptions of themselves and others, such as FEAR ("fantasy experienced as real") and DIP ("dysfunctionally independent person").

The literacy demands of being an FE student were highlighted by Richard Edwards, professor of education at Stirling University. This is a particular issue in subjects where there is little explicit acknowledgment of literacy difficulties specific to them, he said.

"Assumptions about literacy of students can result in teaching and assessment which do not challenge and extend," Professor Edwards has concluded from research carried out along with Perth and Anniesland colleges.

He also spoke of the induction of FE students, which generated "information overload" with, for example, signs on noticeboards which do little to inform.

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