Embedding employability in the postgraduate curriculum

Anderson, Deborah, Bohn, Sarah and Harris, Patricia (2015) Embedding employability in the postgraduate curriculum. In: Festival of Learning 2015; 12-16 Jan 2015, Kingston Upon Thames, U.K.. (Unpublished)


As part of the redesign of the MA Marketing and Marketing Communications and Advertising suite of programmes in Kingston Business School, course teams faced the challenge of how to embed employability across the programme. This had previously been successfully achieved with a careers focussed 7.5 credit module in which students met with practitioners and carried out a number of career related tasks. However, the move to 30 credit modules meant the course team needed to have a more creative approach, looking across the whole curriculum for opportunities to embed employability across core modules. Early on in the design of the programmes, a decision was made to allocate 10% of the assessment of each programme “signature” module to an employability related task. Tasks were developed in conjunction with Faculty Employability consultant Sarah Bohn, who also designed sessions linked to the tasks through the year. In summary this resulted in the following: Example postgraduate programme: MA Marketing Communications and Advertising Programme “Signature” Core Module Employability Task (worth 10% of the overall module mark) Marketing Communications and Advertising Reflective portfolio following attendance at three KUTalent or other career related events Market Research Analysis of skills required by reviewing a live job ad; CV and application letter draft, linking module and programme content to attributes sought by employers Dissertation 1000 word management report summarising key findings of the student’s research, with actionable recommendations for practitioners In designing the activities, the team were informed by current thinking, in particular a view of employability as a set of broader-based qualities relating to values, intellectual rigour and engagement (Pegg et al., 2013). To develop employability requires the support of both faculty and careers teams (Yorke and Knight, 2007) which is why it was vital to develop initiatives in conjunction with the Faculty Employability consultant This move away from employability as simply skills towards a wider set of abilities related to reflection and articulation of learning (Pegg et al., 2013) is seen across much of the literature and models have been developed to explain what employers are looking for as a way of encouraging and guiding employability developments both within and alongside the curriculum. Knight and Yorke’s (2003) USEM model is often referred to, identifying understanding, skills, efficacy beliefs and meta-cognition as key aspects of what makes a graduate employable. In an attempt to make the concept of employability more explicit and to provide a tool for those involved in employability activities, Dacre Pool and Sewell (2007) developed a practical model of employability, identifying how aspects of a student’s experiences at university could combine to make them more employable. Via reflection and evaluation, the model suggests that students are able to develop self-efficacy, self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to an increase in their employability. Reflection and meta-cognition have also been identified by Junghagen (2005) as a way of achieving the higher order thinking tasks sought by employers. As can be seen from the literature, reflection and meta-cognition certainly play a key role in developing employability and as such featured heavily in the employability tasks outlined above. For example, the task required in the Marketing Communications and Advertising module requires students to develop a reflective portfolio following attendance at three KUTalent or other career related events. Marks were awarded for insightful reflections which demonstrated how students had linked on the content of the events to their own wider career aspirations. Student feedback has been positive on this initiative: 'Integrating employability activities into the curriculum and asking us to reflect upon our participation in those activities definitely increased my employment opportunities upon leaving the course. Not only did it encourage me to attend events and discover all the great opportunities provided by KUTalent, but it also made me more aware of what employers are looking for in new graduates.' (Kevin Azzopardi, MA Marketing Communications and Advertising, 2013-2014). The embedded initiatives are now in their second year and are largely unchanged from the first iteration. With final results agreed in November 2014, we plan to formally evaluate the effect of the 10% element on students’ overall results over the next few weeks. References Dacre Pool, L. and Sewell, P. (2007) The key to employability. Developing a practical model of graduate employability. Education and Training, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp277-289. Junghagen, S. (2005) Working with business and industry to enhance curriculum development and student employability. New Directions for Institutional Research, No.128, pp69-82. Knight, P, T. and Yorke, M. (2003) Employability and good learning in Higher Education. Teaching in Higher Education, Vol.8, No. 1, pp3-16. Pegg, A., Waldcock, J., Hendy-Isaac, S. and Lawton, R. (2013) Pedagogy for Employability. The Higher Education Academy. Yorke, M. & Knight, P. (2007) Evidence-informed pedagogy and the enhancement of student employability. Teaching in Higher Education, Vol. 12, No.2, pp157-170.

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