Panel Discussion and Lightning Presentations: Developing professional skills, knowledge and behaviours to enhance graduate outcomes

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Tuesday 5 July, 11.45-13.00, Online

Recording of the Panel Discussion and Lightning Presentations

Panel Discussion

i. The Soft Skills Challenge 

Clair Greenaway (The Gloucestershire Business School) with Gaurav Chawla (The Gloucestershire Business School) and Yollanda Lagarens (Politeknik Negeri Manado)

What are soft skills and how do we assess them in higher education? As colleagues from Gloucestershire Business School and Politeknik Negeri Manado mark the halfway point in an International Labour Organisation funded partnership, we consider the challenge of embedding and assessing soft skills. With industry collaboration at the heart of undergraduate tourism study, walking the tightrope between ensuring academic rigour whilst also meeting industry needs presents a considerable challenge made more complex by differing international perspectives on the definition of “soft skills”. This session will bring together a panel of UK and Indonesian academics to explore the significance of soft skills in the curriculum and to invite discussion of how these can be robustly documented and assessed at undergraduate level.

Lightning Presentations

ii. Lights, Camera, Action: Blending the Curricula and Non-Curricula to Enhance Professional Skills and Activities in the Creative Industries and Beyond

Tom Bradshaw (School of Creative Industries)

Based on initiatives across the School of Creative Industries, this lightning presentation will provide insights into how curricula and non-curricula activities can function in a virtuous circle. It will explore how the dovetailing of complementary activities both inside and outside the ‘classroom’ can foster the development of professional skills, using the fields of Journalism and Music as examples. Building on this, it will emphasise the importance of student collaboration, and end with a summary of the School’s current work to launch a Creative Industries Lab. The session will aim to stimulate thinking across courses and schools about how to get the most out of a blend of curricula and non-curricula activities.

iii. Creative Arts Enterprise and Employability 

Julia Peck, James Fisher and Seb Burnett (School of Arts) 

The School of Art will briefly present its approach to employability, freelancing and entrepreneurship with a view to encouraging students’ engagement with futurity and improving the School’s Graduate Outcome results. The presentation will outline how we share good practice across the School and how we support a diversity of approaches. We will also present two different case studies from BA (Hons) Fine Art and BA (Hons) Illustration focussing on the topic of placements. Placements are important for students, but they raise questions about the quality of experience, student expectations and the effectiveness with which the placement prepares a student for the future of work. Find out why and how placements are being implemented and supported in the School. Our presentation is likely to appeal to colleagues who want to support the establishment of portfolio careers or creative students.

iv. Integrating Employability into the Curriculum: The Annual NSS Futures Conference

Charlie Parker and Natalie Morris (School of Natural and Social Sciences)

In January 2022, the School of Natural and Social Sciences (NSS) ran its latest Futures Conference. This is an annual collaboration between the School’s course teams and the Your Future Plan (YFP) team. It offers a mixture of sessions aimed at developing academic skills (Level 6 dissertation poster presentations and student engagement with external speakers), alongside employability enhancing sessions (alumni and professional guest speakers, and short courses delivered by external professionals). The Futures Conference is a collaboration of the YFP team, the School’s Employability and Employer Liaison Board, ASLs and ACLs. The schedule and content comprise 52 sessions that are led by academics, YFP Careers Advisers and external guests. Students at Levels 4 and 5 are required to attend through module choice talks and field trip briefings from their lecturers for the following academic year, in addition to a component of a compulsory Semester 2 assignment brief comprising their reflection on their attendance. This presentation will share the approach, the challenges and our evaluation of the impact of this initiative. 

v. Mahara (e-portfolio) as an Assessment Tool that Develops Self-Awareness and Ownership of the Employability Journey: A Student Perspective

Pauline Williams (School of Sport and Exercise) and Frances Fox (Level 5 Student, PE and Coaching)

In this presentation, we will share a learning, teaching, and assessment approach that promotes ownership and development of employability by students. The portfolio approach enables employability aspects to be embedded in the curriculum, with the use of Mahara allowing students to lead and shape their own learning, whilst connecting that learning to their career pathway. Students can present their ‘professional self’, in a way that is not prescribed, within their chosen professional environment. They reflect upon their development through their learning journey, using their individualised and unique achievements, aspirations and demographic characteristics.

The key take home messages from the approach are:

  • Flexibility of e-portfolio use.
  • Impact on the learner journey and potential graduate outcomes.
  • The use of template/tasks to engage students in employability aspects that otherwise are less explicit in the curriculum.
  • Students shaping their own individualised learning and career pathways.
  • The scope to draw upon the YFP/Careers team and make the connection to academic achievement.

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