News

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.

Two students recording using a video camera and boom microphone
Education Enhancement Funds

Developing a guide to support the use of video in undergraduate assessment

A Teaching Innovation Grant was awarded to Dr Emily Bell, Dr Rose Murray and Dr Andy Wakefield for the academic year 2017/18 – you can find a summary of the project they undertook with their grant below. If you would like to read the full report, please contact bilt-info@bristol.ac.uk

Project summary

Project members (PMs) (Bell, Murray and Wakefield) are developing an open-access framework to enable the easy implementation of innovative and creative assessment. This includes an interactive guide for teachers and learners which supports the creation of video as a means of assessment. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to use audio-visual production/editing software as well as helpful advice on suitable equipment. PMs are also creating an appropriate, transdisciplinary framework for evaluation of the students’ video projects. By focusing the assessment of the video at group level and embedding this within a portfolio of supporting tasks the PMs hope that their guidance will be applicable to a greater number of disciplines within higher education.

This novel assessment method was embedded into a field course module (June 2018), with 20 students working in groups of three or four. Students were instilled with a wide range of transferrable skills as well as having the opportunity to stretch their creative legs. In tandem, and via the same processes, students’ confidence was evaluated in four key skills areas (academic self-efficacy, groupwork, communication and digital capabilities) via data collection from pre-post questionnaires and student reflective critiques. Preliminary data analyses suggest that student confidence increased over
the course of the week in these areas.

You can find the video guide here

Conclusions
 

Despite only preliminary analysis of the data gathered thus far, it is apparent that participants who took the filmmaking course perceived an increased level of confidence in several different skill areas; academic skills, social efficacy, communication sk ills and digital capabilities. The qualitative responses corroborate findings from the quantitative responses, and the authors look forward to evaluating the reflective critique data later in the year. On reflection, one of the main themes identified from the data was the increased confidence particularly in social efficacy. This was highlighted as a particular cause for anxiety or apprehension prior to the course by the participants, yet by the end, it was clearly an area in which participants had grown in confidence. This will be explored further as the project progresses. As this was a single field course from a collection of ~15 courses which run each year, it would be interesting to evaluate other courses to explore whether this increased confidence of participants is replicated, or whether it is a unique quality of the film making course. The authors hope to repeat this study in the next academic year with the following cohort of students to test the robustness of these findings.

Professor Debby Cotton and Dr Rebecca Turner at their Education Excellence Seminar
News

Easing the transition of undergraduates through an immersive induction module

The opening Education Excellence seminar of 2018/19 took place on Thursday 20th September in 43 Woodland Road. Professor Debby Cotton and Dr Rebecca Turner (accompanied by Rebecca’s son, Thomas) came up from Plymouth University’s PedRIO to deliver a seminar on the immersive induction module all undergraduates take at their institution. The seminar was attended by almost fifty members of staff and was a great start to the 18/19 seminar series– there were only two minor hiccups; the first being the hospitalisation of Rebecca’s childminder (cue baby gurgles throughout the lecture) and the fact the RePlay box was still on its summer break (cue this blog post).

After a brief introduction from Alvin, Rebecca introduced the project to the audience. The project was proposed after it was recognised that students were struggling with the transition to university. It was hoped the immersive module would help with social integration, as well as allowing students a transitional period when beginning their university studies.

Following a successful pilot year in 2014, the immersive induction module was rolled out across all undergraduate programmes in the University. The module is a four-week introduction to the degree – students do not undertake any other modules during this time, in which they can focus on getting to grips with self-study, academic skills, the language of their subject. The module also gives students the opportunity to get to know others on their course through the use of group work. Team-building, peer interaction and academic integration are all used to boost motivation and enthuse students. Most students are asked to complete an assessment, designed to be inclusive, at the end of the module, which provides students with early feedback and reduces exam-linked anxiety.

It was hypothesised that this module would improve retention and student attainment – and it did. Initial results from the pilot showed retention approved across the board, with students naming a sense of belonging, academic integration, social integration and strong study skills as being key factors in the improvement. Peer collaboration and networking grows due to the collaborative work that takes place early in the programme. The average grade from first assignments went up from 62% to 67%, despite the fact the individual student needs had not always been recognised at this point. Both genders showed heightened performance, thought the enhancement was greater for males, therefore reducing the attainment gap.

There were a number of challenges that the immersive module has presented. One of the biggest issues caused was that it raised the students expectations to a level where they could not be maintained in modules going forward. Further to this, students felt like a ‘second transition’ had been created, and still struggled to an extent when the immersive module ended. Some students did not want to take part in self-directed study and group work at the beginning of their degree; they expect to be in lecture theatres and have their questions answered by the lecturer. Some lecturing staff were not enthusiastic about changing their way their subject was taught so it could be covered in one module, too. There were a number of operational issues that presented as part of the roll-out. Teaching spaces weren’t always ideal – though the majority of sessions took place in ‘flatbed’ spaces, a number of large lecture theatres had to be used and weren’t viable for interactive teaching as they are too large and become noisy.

Overall the project was very successful, increasing the retention and attainment of first-year students and generally improving the student experience, though this has come with some new challenges. We were left with a number of question to consider when thinking about whether we could implement a similar structure, including:

  • What opportunities could an immersive format offer you?
  • What challenges or concerns would you have?
  • How could an immersive format help create a sense of belonging?
  • How can we manage student expectations of HE on arrival?
  • How can we better prepare students to progress on to subsequent modules?

Look out for the next edition of our ‘An interview with’ series with Debby and Rebecca coming in October.

The full peer-reviewed paper can be found here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13562517.2017.1301906