The use of co-curricular activities to increase student engagement on interdisciplinary degree courses and instil graduate outcomes

Ghatora, Baljit, Freestone, Nicholas and Rooney, Brian (2018) The use of co-curricular activities to increase student engagement on interdisciplinary degree courses and instil graduate outcomes. In: Horizons in STEM Higher Education Conference: Making Connections, Innovating and Sharing Pedagogy; 28-29 Jun 2018, Hull, U.K.. (Unpublished)


In several degrees there are a range of careers that a student could pursue after they finish their degree. However this can also cause confusion for students about what they wish to pursue, and they often struggle with making clear links between what they were learning, and a particular chosen career path. In contrast, students who are studying a vocational programme such as Pharmacy make this link much more easily as their degree qualification allows them a pre-determined career path of becoming a pharmacist. Co-curricular activities are designed to support and complement the curriculum as well as providing students with a holistic perspective of their skill set, and provide them with opportunities in problem-solving, team work, intrapersonal development, interpersonal competence and an enhanced understanding of others (Kuh, 2001). This research focuses on investigating the effect of co-curricular activities on two degrees; Pharmaceutical Science and Forensic Science, within the School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy and Chemistry. Due to the dramatized portrayal of Forensic Science in the media, higher educational institutes experience the CSI effect; this occurs when students’ awareness is raised by popular representations of a particular role in the popular media. However, such students may have a lack of understanding of the fundamental science underpinning much forensic course content. This research involved creating co-curricular activities with student course representatives for Forensic Science students. The representatives had input into the timings, event content and promotion of the events, which included a networking dinner, forensic conference and a series of symposia. Evaluation of student experiences and the link between extracurricular activities and student engagement in the final year of a degree programme was carried out. In particular the student feedback gathered from each event and the correlation with an increase in the number of good degrees awarded (Forensic Science % of 1st class graduates were 20% in 2015/16 and increased to 33% in 2016/17), and future job prospects was investigated. A study relating to the Pharmaceutical Science course at KU revealed levels of dissatisfaction with this degree programme in terms of employment opportunities upon graduation. Students who had completed this programme suggested that more placements should be provided for students to contextualise their theoretical learning. The provision of co-curricular activities as a proxy for the experiences gained through placement employment may go some way to addressing the levels of dissatisfaction expressed by this cohort of students.

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