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Employability in the curriculum: career thinking and the classroom

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success.

If you’ve been following this blog series you should now have plenty of ideas about surfacing employability, developing students’ skills and providing opportunities for real-world learning ‘in the classroom’. If you’ve missed any, you can of course still peruse the whole series at your leisure.

So now onto the important final step: ensuring students can connect all of this with where they want to be in the future, so that they are able to explore career options, recognise the applicability of their skills in the wider context, and successfully secure opportunities. This is essentially the process of tying everything together and making sense of it all. In the Careers Service we call it ‘career thinking’. 

Given its importance, encouraging and facilitating career thinking authentically within the curriculum is the focus of this final post in the series. So what does it look like in practice?

Support real-world connections

Real-world learning was the focus of our fourth blog post – and getting another mention here as it’s one of the best ways to encourage students to reflect on possible career options. In practice this could look like:

  • Using real world examples to show how knowledge or methods studied can be applied in industry, or connecting your discipline to current societal challenges
  • Inviting external speakers to provide a professional context, or share their career journey
  • Encouraging exploration of subject interests beyond the classroom, such as related volunteering or work experience opportunities (students can search on myopportunities)
  • Share relevant labour market information or encourage students to explore this themselves –  our LMI webpage is a good place to start. 

Provide opportunities to reflect

Students need meaningful, regular opportunities to reflect and articulate their knowledge, skills and attributes, to then identify where they might apply these. Reflection is key to the personal development pillar of the curriculum framework, as well as being an important skill in itself – self-awareness is highly sought after by employers, and also underpins the lifelong learning and development needed for a successful career.

These are simple ways to build opportunities to reflect into your units:

  • Live pair or group discussion during a synchronous teaching session
  • A discussion board thread or padlet exercise
  • Reflective blog posts, podcasts or short videos at the end of a unit
  • Incorporating into assessment – a short reflective ‘appendix’ to an assessment
  • Individual Personal Development Plans, or portfolios.

How to support students to do it well:

It’s not always easy getting students to reflect – and if we are honest it’s something most of us continue to struggle with throughout our careers! However, here are a few tips to encourage your students (and possibly you!):

  • Give opportunities to practice and develop reflective habits. Short but frequent opportunities to reflect work well.
  • Provide guidance and support: make expectations clear and consider providing examples
  • Communicate the benefits of reflection for their development and progress.
  • Explain the link with their future career – remind them that self-awareness is a skill sought after by employers, and that reflective practice is expected in professional contexts
  • Provide a range of reflection opportunities – recognise different learning styles and preferences and offer flexibility and variety.

Questions you could use: 

Here are some example questions – select according to the task and stage of study of your students:

  • What skills and attributes have you developed / demonstrated?
  • Which skills and attributes has this unit / task / assessment highlighted for you to develop further?
  • What went well for you? What do you think you could have done differently to enhance your performance / contribution?
  • How could you further develop your skills – in your academic studies, or beyond?
  • How could you use your skills and attributes beyond your degree?
  • In what fields or professional contexts will you be able to apply your strengths?
  • What academic knowledge and interests would you like to explore further beyond the classroom? How could you do this – through work experience, volunteering, or your future plans?

For more ideas on interesting ways to incorporate reflection into your teaching, take a look at BILT’s active learning infographic.

Encourage them to go beyond their studies

Our final recommendation is to encourage students to go beyond their studies and make the most of the other opportunities at university to develop themselves. Whether it’s work experience, volunteering, connecting with alumni, or skill development and training opportunities, going beyond the classroom will both help students progress in their career thinking – and also often enriches their studies too.

The Careers Service is here to help students make the most of their time at university – so please do encourage them to connect with us.

Let’s continue the conversation

We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog series as much as we’ve enjoyed writing it. We’d love to continue the conversation. As always please do share your comments below to help us continue to develop our advice and guidance. How are you already enhancing employability through your units or programmes?  What else do you need advice or inspiration on?

Would you like to discuss anything further? Get in touch!

The Faculty Employability Team works with an academic Careers and Employability Lead in each school. We can help you to realise and enhance the potential of your programmes to develop students’ employability. If you’d like an individual conversation, get in touch with Ellen (Faculty Employability Manager) at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk.  You can also find out who your Careers and Employability Lead and the designated team member for your school here.


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Employability in the curriculum – Engaged Learning

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success. In this blog we look at Engaged Learning in an online context.   

As challenging as the pandemic has been, it has provided the opportunity to think about things differently. Our last blog explored authentic learning in the curriculum – what it is, why it matters, and some examples of where it is already being done at Bristol. For this blog post we’re taking a closer look at one particular example of authentic learning: Engaged Learning. 

Engaged Learning – aka Service Learning or Community Based Learning – involves students working with an external organisation on a real-world problem, as part of the curriculum. This benefits students as they have space to develop skills they may not pick up in the classroom as well as getting the chance to contribute to our civic mission. The partner organisation gets extra capacity, and many praise the benefits ‘a fresh pair of eyes’ can bring.   

There are, understandably, some challenges in delivering Engaged Learning projects at the moment – but in many cases it is still possible for these opportunities to go ahead. And at a time when it’s potentially harder for students to access traditional work experience, these can be a key opportunity for students to develop their employability as part of their programme and contribute to society. 

Student engaged learning outdoors along the Bristol waterfront

Interested in finding out how you could make Engaged Learning a success in your unit? Here are our five top tips: 

Choose a model that can work remotely  

Opportunities need to be able to translate into the digital world. For example, consultancy projects such as the MSc Environmental Policy and Management Consultancy Unit and the BSc/ MSc International Development business planning units involve students working in teams, sometimes virtually, to solve a question posed by a partner organisation.  They are less time intensive for partner organisations than placements as students aren’t based within the organisation nor do they provide the supervision but have a limited number of meetings.   

Communication is key! 

Partnership working can be carried out virtually allowing students to access and work with organisations across the globe. Meetings between the unit director and partner, as well as students and partner, can be conducted over platforms such as Skype, Zoom or phone.  Essential documents from partners can be shared via email; students can work on documents together using MS Teams or Microsoft cloud. 

However, there are limits to digital interactions.  In a face to face meeting, it’s easy to read other’s reactions.  This is harder over online platforms where it can feel stilted, not to mention connectivity issues leading to frozen faces!  This increases the need for clear communication throughout the project, including careful consideration and management of student and partner expectations.  For example, when preparing the students to ‘go out’ and engage with their partners, students need to understand that local knowledge is of equal value to academic knowledge.  Building relationships and communicating remotely will be a valuable skill for students to take with them into the workplace. 

Think creatively about assessment 

Choose an assessment method which meets the unit’s intended learning outcomes (ILOs) but also involves an accessible element for partners. A lengthy essay will probably be of no use to an external partner so alternative assessment methods should be sought.  

Methods could be formative or summative, with partners also given the opportunity to provide feedback. For example, our second year Physical Geography students do a presentation which is assessed by the academics while partners provide formative feedback which feeds into the student’s final report. Our Environmental Policy and Management partners answer one simple question contributing to 10% of the student’s mark.   

Presentations can be an accessible method for a wide variety of audiences – students can pre-record themselves presenting to a PowerPoint and then use a platform such as Zoom for questions. Partners could either attend the live presentation or watch the PowerPoint recording and meet separately with the students. 

Some other ideas on alternative assessment methods:  

  • reports 
  • podcasts 
  • videos 
  • online exhibitions 
  • digital storytelling 
  • concept maps 
  • policy briefings 
  • project plans 
  • app development 
  • Wiki 
  • blog post 

Don’t forget about accessibility

We must be mindful of accessibility for our students and partners, including potential issues with access to computers and broadband (see BILT’s recent blog on accessibility issues for external partners). The Digital Education Office recommends using a blend of synchronistic and asynchronistic content, with a focus on the latter to ensure inclusivity. 

Have a Plan B 

When Engaged Learning projects are well thought out, they run smoothly. Very occasionally things don’t work out – e.g. if a partner drops out or data becomes unavailable. A Plan B is important. You may want to plan other ways to include real-world learning in your unit or programme, so students can still apply their learning (see our previous blog on real-world learning for more ideas), or ensure that there’s accessible data available for students which doesn’t rely on the partner producing it. 

Although there are challenges, now is the time to think creatively about our curriculum offer for students. It’s also a chance to develop opportunities that are meaningful for our students, allowing them to work with our partner organisations to create a better society. 

This information has been collated with the support of our academic colleagues 

If you have any further thoughts on how to run Engaged Learning opportunities, or are interested in becoming a part of the joint BILT – Careers Service peer support Engaged Learning Community, then get in touch with our Engaged Learning Coordinators – Hannah Tweddell and Hannah Cowell. 

Raspberries & Chocolate by Joanna Kosinska
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Life’s like a box of chocolates: Working on Quality Street

Forest Gump comparing life to ‘a box of chocolates’ is a great movie moment, but can it really be applied to our experiences of introducing a new University wide quality assurance framework? There was certainly an element of trepidation as the new team embarked on their first University Quality Team (UQT) reviews and Periodic Programme Revalidations (PPRs), with the mission of reviewing the entirety of our taught and research educational provision in the 19/20 academic year. But – as we reach the end, and even with the challenges presented by COVID19 – this year has provided us with some ‘sweet’ experiences to reflect on. So, read on to hear our chocolate themed comparisons for this new University quality framework and process.

Tap and Unwrap …..

The basic model for all the quality team’s work – whether a quick, ‘health-check’ UQT reviews or the more intensive Periodic Programme Revalidation can be compared to the chocolate orange. From the outside programmes look like perfectly smooth, well-formed spheres. The review is a tap and unwrap: it enables a panel of University Education Directors (including us), colleagues from AQPO and Student Quality Reviewers to look at the segments – the units, detail and data that make up the whole. Sometimes this review confirms what the data we’ve looked at – student feedback, TEF metrics, progression and award data, demographics, examiner reports etc – suggests. More often, hidden away within many programmes, we discover pockets of brilliance the data hasn’t shown us. Brilliance in the form of innovative pedagogy, supervision, co-created units, amazing support and care for our students, and a wealth of opportunities waiting for students to thrive on. Brilliance that should make us proud to be part of an institution like Bristol, but which we often forget to celebrate … especially when times are challenging. 

The Chewy Bits

However, we can’t pretend that staff always welcome the Quality Team with open arms. Quality assurance is often viewed like the chewy toffee in the Quality Street Christmas tin – hard-work, something to tackle …. and usually avoided until it is the only thing left. We hope the first year of the new framework and light-touch review process has helped with that less than positive viewpoint. Certainly, our reliance on existing data sources in place of relying on programmes and Schools to generate copious amounts of paperwork has been welcomed. So too have the rich collaborative discussions that have emerged between members of the Faculty/School/programme teams and the review panels. Dialogue that centres on improving the educational experience for our students, hearing and responding to the challenges faced by staff, and sharing experiences and approaches. In person we hope that we can be closer to the calming, smoothness of a Galaxy chocolate bar, than the arduous chewing of the leftover toffee.

A good mix

And what of the famous Quality Street favourite – The Purple One. Where does that fit into our sweet themed story of quality? The success of the nation’s most popular Quality Street is down to its combination of flavours, the complimentary tastes and textures of sweet chocolate, silky caramel and hard nut. There is little doubt that a key element in the success of the new quality framework is teamwork. The mixture of knowledge, skills and experiences that are brought together when academics, professional service members of AQPO and trained student quality reviewers co-create a review, exchange ideas and identify priorities.

So, what are the quality teams plans for the next academic year? Certainly, the introduction of the new framework this year appears positive and whilst we will refine and improve processes based on feedback, no large-scale changes are planned. An essential element of our activity will be consideration of the impact of COVID-19. This virus has left us all reeling and wondering if life will return to the ‘normal’ we remember. Currently, tremendous effort is being invested into converting our programmes into blended learning experiences. This experience needs to comply with social distancing and our estate limitations, match discipline expectations, support students, be achievable for staff workloads AND be of the quality and standards expected from Bristol. The government statement indicating any reduction in the quality of provision due to COVID-19 should be reflected in lower tuition fees means as institution we will need to be able to illustrate that whilst the pandemic has necessitated significant change that will result is a different experience for students it will not be of a lower quality. And that’s, to a large extent, our job. But we also want to use the process to assure and support staff as they develop, evaluate and change their online and blended activities. If our experiences of 19/20 are anything to go by Bristol is more than ready for this challenge. We cannot underestimate the complexity, or the scale of work involved. But even with this caveat it is clear that our staff will continue to care about their students, they will continue to inspire, to excite, to create an environment for students to thrive and to challenge them with a world class, high quality education. There is little more a University could ask for.

By Kate Whittington and Catherine Hindson by behalf of the University Quality Team.

city of bristol
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Employability in the curriculum – the Why and How of real-world learning

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success. 

‘Real-world’, or ‘authentic’ learning are terms you are probably familiar with by now. This approach is a key feature of the curriculum framework, and one on which BILT have already shared a lot of great advice (if you haven’t already, check out their blog post on creating authentic online teaching and learning).   

If, like us, you’ve taken part in the Digital Design course you will have enjoyed finding out about how authentic approaches can transform student learning and their experience of assessment. We were inspired – so are now delving into this topic with an employability lens too.  

Real-world learning: why does it matter? 

Opportunities to apply learning to real-world contexts and challenges help to prepare students for life and work beyond university. This might seem to be stating the obvious – most people recognise the link. But to fully appreciate the potential impact of real-world learning, it’s worth reflecting on some of the benefits for students:  

  • They become agents in their own learning – thereby developing the initiative and autonomy they need to succeed professionally   
  • They develop enterprising, questioning, innovative mindsets – essential for organisations of all sizes and sectors to thrive  
  • They develop a broader range of other highly valuable skills and attributes – such as project management, collaborative working and professionalism 
  • They gain insight into, and experience of, the world of work – helping to inform their choices about where they go next  

Real-world and online learning – a contradiction?    

The idea of real-world learning in the curriculum may sound appealing. But how possible is it in the current context? Surely applying learning to real challenges requires students to actually go out into the ‘real world’? 

Well, hopefully you can see that many of the suggestions and examples we include below are those that could be delivered remotely. Of course, there are significant challenges for placements, lab work, or other applied teaching and learning methods which ordinarily require a physical presence – but in many cases, it’s still possible to deliver a meaningful and engaging remote real-world learning or assessment experience. And in doing so, students develop a skillset that will equip them for the reality of work after university.  Look out for our next blog post for more on this!   

Real-world learning: how can you incorporate into your unit or programme 

There are a range of ways to introduce real-world learning into your curriculum – from light-touch approaches like using case studies through to embedding work experience or placement opportunities.  

We’ve included some examples below, which are grouped for ease into three categories. It’s impossible to do this neatly and there is some overlap – but hopefully gives an idea of the range of approaches you could choose…  

Professional tasks  Briefings for policy makers or Think Tanks    
Reports for research bodies  
Blogs/vlogs or podcasts 
Customer / patient information leaflets  
Articles or videos for the media  
Business ideas or plans  
Digital portfolios 
Creating an exhibit or curating a museum  
In tray/e-tray exercises under time constraint 
Applying subject knowledge and methods  Labs and workshops  
Research projects and reports  
Mini-academic conferences  
Poster or panel presentations  
Debates  
Data collection/surveying, analysis, interpretation  
Using real source material  
Real-world contexts and challenges  Examples or illustrative case studies  
Live case study problems or consultancy briefs 
Engaged Learning projects  
Applied dissertations – research with or for external organisations  
Virtual shadowing or insight using video platforms  
Work placements or experience in industry  
Developing a business idea to meet needs of a society / community / industry challenge  
Real-world learning practice examples

If you’d like to explore further, take a look at this paper on authentic learning practices or this one on alternatives to exams.  

Real world learning at Bristol  

There are plenty of examples of real-world learning taking place in programmes across the University. We have gathered a small selection below to give you of an idea of what it can look like in practice.  

Take a look at the teaching case studies on the BILT website for some further examples. You can also see approaches used in other institutions in JISC’s case studies on using technology for embedding employability.  

Your examples and feedback – we want to hear from you!  

We would love to hear about any work you’ve done to develop real-world learning in your unit or programme – please share your examples in the comments below.  

Do also let us know how you are finding the blog series so far or any suggestions for topics that would be useful for us to cover. Comment below or get in touch at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk 

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Evaluating your teaching practice

Evaluation isn’t one thing to everyone. It takes place at different points in the curriculum and can be valued in many ways.  In this blog I provide an overview of good practice for evaluating your teaching and useful resources to support your practice. I then consider potential issues that occur in the evaluation process that can bias student feedback and negatively impact staff. 

What does evaluation look like to most of us?  

The reasons for monitoring and measuring our curriculum are common-sense: to ensure that our degrees live up to the high standards expected of the sector, and to ensure that students get the best education possible. How we do this depends on the nature of what and how we teach. You might think of end of unit evaluation feedback forms, annual programme reviews, or external audits for quality assurance, but they are not the only places you can use evaluation effectively. 

Evaluation can review: 

  • Individual units and/or whole programmes 
  • Teaching delivery styles and engagement
  • Student contribution and success 
  • Digital resources such as those hosted on BlackBoard and Re/Play 
  • Pedagogic approaches 
  • Course content 
  • And many more criteria! 

Here, multiple perspectives are invited into the conversation, most commonly from the students that we teach. We can extend evaluation to the experiences of those who contribute to our courses, such as postgraduate teaching assistants and professional services. Additionally, staff may wish to use personal reflective approaches to review their lived experience of teaching (this surfaces actively through the CREATE Scheme). 

When we try a new teaching approach there is an expectation that we will evaluate the success of the new approach used. It also makes sense to continue the evaluation year on year to ensure that the approach continues to work well, especially if there is change of teaching staff or other circumstance such as the impact of Covid-19. Core guidance recommends that we embed evaluation at multiple points, not just at the end of a term or a year. 

What are the benefits of evaluation? 

Depending on the questions you ask, and how you act upon the answers, evaluation can benefit you in many ways: 

  • Evidences success (which can also support staff progression)
  • Evidences how learning outcomes are met
  • Determines how students have improved skills and competencies
  • Identifies areas for updates and improvements
  • Ensures that the student voice is heard
  • Checks our assumptions and biases as to how effective our teaching is
  • Complements external audits and student surveys

Good principles for evaluation 

Anonymity 

Students need to feel that they can be honest when responding to feedback requests. Articulating how data is collected anonymously promotes authentic responses. 

Good design 

Asking the right questions gets the best data. Templates are available to support the design of feedback sheets (see University Policy for unit evaluationteaching assistant feedback template; and Dunworth & Sanchez 2016) It can be useful to use the same questions year on year to validate the reliability of the data (see Alderman, Towers & Bannah 2012). 

Time 

Student feedback should always be requested during timetabled time. Often, too little time is set aside, and this impacts the level of detail and the quality of feedback. Rushed responses are never going to be as useful as well considered ones for lenthy feedback forms. Given our increased use of digital resources, you can do quick “check ins” with your students as part of live sessions using tools like the polling facility in Collaborate. If you run a focus group, facilitation is key. To support student confidence, you might ask an external colleague to run this for you (ask BiLT team to help too!).  

Sharing 

Once you have compiled the evaluation data, why not share a summary version with the students who contributed? You can even tell them how you will address concerns. This can support students seeing the value in providing good feedback in the future and makes them feel listened to and respected. 

Full circle 

How will you use this data? How will it inform your future teaching choices? The evaluation process doesn’t end with looking at feedback, it needs to inform changes, updates and adaptations in your teaching as part of the cycle of continuous improvement. 

Self-care and support 

Feedback can make us feel elated, frustrated or crestfallen. Sometimes it’s hard to hear, especially if it’s personally directed at the choices we have made in our teaching. It’s important to recognise that sometimes feedback can be ill-considered and, at times, even cruel. The emotional impact of feedback can send us reeling and dent our confidence.

Evidence demonstrates that female members of staff are evaluated more harshly than their male counterparts (Flaherty 2018). Recent research in Sweden identifies how negative feedback is more common for early career teachers (Flodén 2017). Gender, racial and cultural bias are real issues and can manifest differently depending on the demographics of your student cohorts (see Fan et al 2019).

What can you do to challenge and alleviate these issues? 

Colleagues new to teaching should be actively supported by their School to build their confidence and resilience. Where gender, race, sexual identity, cultural bias, or any other discriminatory feedback is received, care should be taken by senior members of staff to support colleagues on the receiving end including how this can be psychologically distressing. The School should also exercise caution that it does not further compound the issue by penalising the affected staff (e.g. regarding progression, contract continuation or promotion). Line managers, heads of teaching and heads of school can actively offer empathetic support in these situations and protect staff from unwarranted penalties.  

Dr Aisling (Ash) Tierney – a.tierney@bristol.ac.uk  

Further resources

  • Our University Policy for unit evaluation provides guidance on how to implement evaluation at unit level, from its purpose  to frequency and operational principles. The appendixes to this document provide sample templates for how to structure a unit evaluation form. 
  • Evaluation and benchmarking of the Biochemistry MSci Research Training unit.
  • Quality Assurance Agency advice and guidance on monitoring and evaluating.
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Employability in the Curriculum – helping students to recognise it

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success.

In our last blog we explored how you can surface and enhance employability in your units or programme. Now we move our focus to the reason we’re all here, our students.

While it’s one thing for you to be able to recognise how you are preparing students for their futures, it’s another for them to recognise and articulate this themselves. Self-awareness is a skill in its own right. While for some students reflecting on their skills and thinking ahead will come naturally, others need more help and encouragement. Students recognising their employability will in turn enable them to articulate it to others – including future employers.

As an aside, you may have spotted that the new Graduate Outcomes survey asks graduates whether they feel that they’re using what they learned during their studies in their current role. While you may understand where and how your unit or programme prepares students for their professional life, this question emphasises how important it is for them to be able to make the link as well. (For more information about the Graduate Outcomes survey and the recently published results have a look at this SharePoint site.)

Making skills, knowledge and attributes explicit to students is therefore the next piece in the puzzle – and our focus for today.

How can you make employability explicit for students?

Ideally, this is about facilitating skills recognition and development of self-awareness authentically through your own units or programmes. It isn’t about spoon feeding students, but where possible interweaving these elements into your learning outcomes, learning activities, assessments, and opportunities for real-world application.

So what does this look like in practice? Here are some practical ideas:

Framing your unit and learning outcomes

  • Refer to skills in your programme or unit learning outcomes – either in the language of the learning outcomes themselves, or by adding in a short accompanying narrative on their employability links and benefits. You can use the Bristol Skills Framework to identify the skills your students might be developing (see our previous blog post for more information on this).
  • When introducing the unit, clearly outline the skills and attributes students will develop – including how they will do this. This will help them to put the skills in context and see their relevance. You can embed this in an introductory session, short video, Blackboard post, or within your unit handbook.
  • Provide opportunity at the end of the unit for students to identify and reflect on the skills they have used (see more below).

Through your learning and assessment activities

  • Explain to students the different skills and attributes they will need to complete a task or activity well. For example, in a group discussion highlight what effective communication and collaborative working looks like.
  • Explain to students how different assessments are developing different skills and attributes and what they need to demonstrate to perform well. For example, explain to students the applicability of the critical thinking and written communication skills they develop (amongst others) when writing essays.
  • Consider including skills and attributes as part of your feedback on tasks and assessments. This will help students to see the importance of this aspect of their learning, and reflect on their own development.
  • Encourage and facilitate student reflection on their skills development, providing opportunities for them to do this whether individually or with others, or even as part of their assessment. Watch out for a blog later in the series which will focus on ways to do this.

References to real-world application

  • Show students where and how the skills and subject knowledge they’re using could be applied professionally – e.g. through an example, case study, or even inviting an external speaker to share the skills they use in their role.
  • Explain – and where possible provides examples of – where the skills students are developing are those which employers are looking for. This could be in specific professions or sectors linked to an area of study, or more generally – for example, the World Economic Forum has predicted which skills will be in demand in 2030.
  • Suggest ways that students can further develop their skills and subject interests outside of their studies – e.g. through relevant work experience or volunteering. Encourage them to look at the range of options available on the University’s very own skills development hub, myopportunities.

Now we’ve shared a few of our ideas, we would love to hear what you think. Would any of these methods work for your unit or programme? Do you have any other ideas?  Share your feedback to help us develop our advice and guidance for academic staff in the coming months. Get in touch with Ellen (Faculty Employability Manager) at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk

Our next posts will look at different ways you can provide opportunities for real world learning in your curriculum.

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Employability in your curriculum – what’s already there?

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success.

In our first blog post in this ‘Employability in the Curriculum’ series, we introduced you to the concept of employability in the curriculum and why it especially matters now. If you missed it, take a minute to read here.

Without any further ado, the rest of the blog posts in this series are designed to help you get stuck into the matter at hand – i.e. practical tips on how to maximise the potential of your unit or programme to help students in their future success.

Today’s blog is all about recognising how you are already developing employability, and encouraging you to think about ways this could be enhanced.

1. Recognising where you are already developing employability

Enhancing employability is often about surfacing what’s already there. Once you’re clear on how your course content and methods help to prepare students for their future lives after university, you can help to make this value explicit for them.

A good starting point is thinking about where you want students to be at the end of your unit or programme. What types of learners and future graduates are you encouraging? This can be helpful in identifying the skills, knowledge and attributes your curriculum is developing.

You can also break this down to think specifically about your:

  • Content: Where do the topics covered connect to the real world? What elements of the knowledge gained could students apply beyond their academic studies?
  • Tasks and assessment: What skills and attributes do your activities and assessments develop? How will these equip students for life and work after university?

Identifying the knowledge that you are imparting may be straightforward; picking out skills and attributes can feel a little trickier. However, the following can help:

  • QAA Subject Benchmark Statements – outline the skills, knowledge and attributes reasonably expected of graduates in a subject – i.e. what employers are looking for.
  • The Bristol Skills Framework – outlines the key skills and attributes students should be developing at Bristol.
  • Your unit or programme ILOs – these may not explicitly mention skills, but can be a helpful reminder of the skills and attributes you set out to develop. E.g. from the learning outcome ‘Construct a reasoned argument about a poet(s) or poem(s) supported by appropriate use of evidence and analysis, and close attention to form and technique’, you could pick out the following skills: written communication for different audiences, analytical skills, and attention to detail.

2. Enhancing employability in your unit or programme

Having reflected on where and how your curriculum already helps students to develop skills, knowledge, and attributes, how can you enhance what you’re already doing? Here are some suggestions:

Use a range of teaching and assessment methods

The teaching and assessment methods you choose will impact the skills and attributes your students develop. For example, providing opportunities for students to work together, problem solve and actively engage with their learning are all approaches that enhance employability skills. Using a range of different methods is also important, to ensure that a variety of student learners are catered for. Of course it’s not possible, nor desirable, for an individual unit to meaningfully cover all skills – but we can reasonably expect students to have the opportunity to develop a rounded skill set across their entire programme.

As you’d expect, our friends in BILT have a lot of resources to help you with teaching and assessment methods to enhance students’ skills:

  • Active Learning Cookbook – tips on integrating more active and collaborative learning into teaching, which allows students to engage employability skills such as problem solving, analysis, synthesis, communication and interpersonal.
  • Embedding Innovation and Enterprise – key points on integrating a variety of skills associated with innovation and enterprise into your teaching.
  • Problem Based Learning – a student-centred approach to learning that supports the development of creativity and complex problem-solving.
  • Group Work – advice for integrating or enhancing group work within your curriculum.
  • Dissertation Alternatives – these can offer opportunities for employability skills development.
  • Blended learning case studies – examples of how different schools are delivering engaging blended teaching and assessment.

For ideas on innovation around assessment methods, you may find Advance HE’s Assessment Game useful.

The good news is that it’s likely you will already be thinking about some of these in other contexts, which brings us nicely to our core message – that employability can be seen as an added benefit to work you’re already doing to develop an engaging and challenging learning experience.

Support students to recognise their skills

It’s one thing for you to recognise how your unit or programme develops your students – it’s another to give your students the language to articulate it. To ensure that students recognise how their studies are helping to prepare them for their future success, we need to help them to make this link. Our upcoming blog post on helping students to recognise and articulate their value will give advice on this.

Provide opportunities for real-world learning

Real-world learning methods are another fantastic way to integrate skills development in the curriculum. Watch out for our upcoming blog posts on real-world learning and Engaged learning for ideas and advice on this, as well as some examples of good practice already taking place at Bristol.

Help students make the link with their future

To encourage students to make the most of opportunities to explore and develop during their time at university, we need to support them to make connections between what they are learning and experiencing now, and where they want to be in the future. We’ll be saying more on this later in the series!

We would love to hear from you. How are you enhancing employability through your units or programmes? What else do you need advice or inspiration on in order to do this?

Share your feedback to help us develop our advice and guidance in the coming months. Get in touch with Ellen (Faculty Employability Manager) at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk.

News

Employability in the curriculum – why does it matter?

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success.

Many of us in the Careers Service have been participating in BILT’s fantastic Digital Design course over the past few weeks – and we’ve been inspired by all the innovative ideas and practice being developed across the University. You may wonder what that has to do with employability.

Well, we wanted to take this opportunity to start a conversation about the impact of the transformation of teaching and assessment on not only students’ current academic experience, but on their future life after university too. This is the first in a series of short blogs sharing practical advice, ideas, and inspiration to think about how you can realise and enhance this impact through your practice.

To kick things off, we thought we’d share our thoughts on what ‘employability’ is, why it matters, and why we think it has everything to do with the curriculum.

What is ‘employability’?

‘Employability’ as a term can be confusing, with various definitions in different contexts. It’s also not always a popular guest in conversations around the curriculum, sometimes bringing a perceived threat of making education transactional, or detracting from research-led, rich academic teaching.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. At the Careers Service we define employability simply as the skills, knowledge and attributes which equip students for life and work after university. Which makes our role essentially to help students succeed in their lives beyond their studies – a holistic approach to employability, which is also integral in our university’s vision for education. The engaging, innovative and challenging curriculum of the curriculum framework is one which prepares students to take their next steps.

And why are we talking about it now?

This is more important now than ever – current students will be entering a challenging graduate labour market, with fewer opportunities to gain work experience during their studies. Realising and enhancing the potential of the curriculum therefore becomes even more crucial to their future success. Whatever your feelings towards the term ‘employability’ itself, we can all agree that students’ academic experience should help them to get to where they want to be in the future.

So, what does this mean for the curriculum?

The Careers Service aspiration is that, through their academic studies, every student has the opportunity to:

  • Develop, recognise, and articulate their skills, knowledge, and attributes.
  • Apply their learning to real world contexts and gain insight into the world of work. E.g., through Engaged Learning , other authentic learning or work experience.
  • Connect these two things to the demands of and opportunities in the labour market and effectively plan their next steps.

Enhancing employability often means simply surfacing the benefits of existing pedagogic approaches, and the skills and attributes innate to the subject. It is not necessarily about doing more or adding things in, but might be a case of making small changes which can have a significant impact for students.

How can you do this in practice?

Clearly enhancing employability requires us working together, and the expertise of the Careers Service is here to help you. This series of blogs will provide you with practical advice and ideas to get started, and share some of the fantastic practice already happening across the institution.

Look out for our next posts which cover topics including surfacing employability already in your programmes, helping students to recognise and articulate their skills, and developing opportunities for real-world learning.

We would love to hear from you too.

  • How are you enhancing employability through your units or programmes?
  • What else do you need advice or inspiration on in order to do this?

Share your feedback to help us develop our advice and guidance in the coming months. Get in touch with Ellen (Faculty Employability Manager) at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk.