Forming the ‘Staffordshire Graduate’: A research project Identifying and implementing best practice in preparing our students for the‘ real world’ Alan Eardley, Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Sciences Forming ‘the Staffordshire Graduate’ A research collaboration between FCES and IEPR. ‘To examine ‘employability’ factors in the curriculum at Staffordshire University and to offer guidelines for curriculum development that will improve student employability’. The researchers are: • Professor Alan Eardley (FCES) • Professor Tehmina N Basit (IEPR) • Rosemary Borup (FCES) Objectives of the project The objectives of the project are: • To critique the literature on employability in learning and teaching to identify theories, and models in a variety of curricula; • To examine a sample of under- and postgraduate curricula at Staffordshire University to identify examples of ‘best practice’ in employability and to compare them with examples in the literature; • To interview a sample of SU graduates and placement students, the Careers Service and Placement Officers to assess their experience of the effectiveness of our current employability mechanisms; • To design a set of flexible and practical guidelines for improving SU student employability across a range of subjects through sound curriculum development in line with the concept of ‘The Staffordshire Graduate’. Impact of the project The impact on the delivery of under- and postgraduate programmes will be: • Employability ‘best practice’ will be spread into modules that will augment the University’s existing employability processes. • Students will be better prepared and equipped with the knowledge, skills and resources to improve their ability to secure employment. • Employers will be more confident in finding in our graduates the ‘soft skills’ and qualities in the workplace that make the ‘The Staffordshire Graduate’ eminently employable. Research questions The research questions informing the project are: • ‘In what ways do current theories, models and examples underpin best practice in employability in the Higher Education Curriculum?’ • ‘How effective is the current SU curriculum in facilitating employability in SU students?’ • ‘How can we improve and update our programmes, curricula and facilities to improve and maintain the employability of our graduates in line with the concept of ‘The Staffordshire Graduate’?’ Project outcomes • The completed project will enable learning and teaching group leaders, programme and award leaders and academic staff in general to include employability best practice into their curricula, programmes. • University services which engage with students and employers will be confident that the students are better prepared and equipped to understand and take advantage of the advice and guidance they are given. • Students will be better prepared for obtaining, retaining and benefiting from employment through the learning process. • Employers will be more confident that our graduates will be able to deliver consistently and reliably the promise of ‘The Staffordshire Graduate’. Dissemination of findings The project will disseminate its findings in the following ways: • Through the University Academy of Teaching Excellence at its regular seminars; • Through an interim report at the end of the first section of the project; • At a suitable education/research conference (e.g. ICERI 2014 7th International Conference of Education Research & Innovation); • Through the publication of a paper in an educational journal (e.g. Journal of Teaching and Learning); • The Researchers will present to Faculty Management Teams, Teaching Groups and Award and Programme Committees; • A final report will be produced at the end of the project. Interim findings Findings from the project stages so far, related to the Staffordshire Graduate attributes : • Critique of the literature on employability in learning and teaching to identify theories, and models in a variety of curricula; • Examination of a sample of under- and postgraduate curricula at Staffordshire University to identify examples of ‘best practice’ in employability and to compare them with examples in the literature. http://www.staffs.ac.uk/study/staffordshiregraduate/attributes/index.jsp Discipline Expert ‘Have an understanding of the forefront of knowledge in (the student’s) chosen field’ Key curriculum features: • • • • Opportunity to practice secondary research Leading edge curriculum design Exposure to latest technology/artefacts Introduction to examples of best practice in field Where found? • Core award modules/specialist options/project/dissertation • Information sources (online and library) • University resources and facilities Professional ‘Be...work-ready and employable, and understand the importance of being enterprising and entrepreneurial’ Key curriculum features: • Professional experience • Contact with ‘industry champions’ (including SU graduates) • Enterprise related to the curriculum Where found? • • • • Work placement opportunities (optional?) Visiting lectures/work-place visits Work simulation/role playing/case studies in modules ‘Enterprise’ topics in core modules Global Citizen ‘Have an understanding of global issues and their place in a globalised economy’ Key features: • International University culture • Knowledge of world issues/world news Where found? • Student union activities • Contact with students/lecturers from international community • Modules that deal with global/economic issues Teamwork ‘Have developed the skills of independence of thought and...social interaction through teamwork’ Key features: • • • • Confidence in problem understanding/solving Goal sharing/mediation skills/experience Collaboration skills/experience Negotiation and discussion skills/experience Where found? • Practical projects/critical exercises • Group work exercises/seminars/discussions • Social projects and developments Communication ‘Be an effective communicator and presenter and be able to interact appropriately and confidently with a range of colleagues’ Key features: • Experience of composing reports/papers/multimedia artefacts • Experience of delivering presentations • Confidence in taking part in discussions Where found? Reflective & Critical ‘Have the ability to carry out inquiry-based learning and critical analysis. Be a problem solver and creator of opportunities’ Key features: • Experience of applying problem analysis techniques • Experience of problem solving techniques • Skills of critical evaluation Where found? • Problem-based learning exercises • Critique of artefacts/the work of others • Self-critical evaluation Life Long Learner ‘Be technologically, digitally and information literate. Be able to apply Staffordshire Graduate attributes to a range of life experiences to facilitate life-long learning and life-long success’ Key features: • Confidence in using IT facilities and services • Mastery of information retrieval and understanding • Transferable skills Where found? • In many modules ... • Applying Staffordshire Graduate experience for life ... Summary • Employability issues are represented in many SU undergraduate programmes • SU offers effective employment/employability services • Many SU awards offer opportunities for undergraduate professional development • Many SU Level 6 modules offer opportunities to develop Staffordshire Graduate attributes: – – – – Transferable skills Problem solving Critical evaluation Communication and collaboration skills Summary But...more questions: • Could the provision in modules and awards be more consistent? • Could the development new and revised awards be more consistently underpinned by valid employability theories and models • Could SU do more to support life-long learning? – Linked Postgraduate programmes? – Professional research studies? Forming the Staffordshire Graduate Discussion?