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May 18, 2017

Student-led employability audit of undergraduate learning, teaching and assessment practice

 

Peter Rowlett and Jeff Waldock presented their paper to the delegates at the LTA Conference, Thursday 29th June 2017

 

 

 

Original abstract

To succeed in graduate employment, students require a range of discipline-specific and generic skills. Stand-alone employability teaching is not as effective as designing LTA activities that build employability development without the loss of subject content (Waldock, 2011; Rowlett, 2012), so the mathematics undergraduate curriculum should include activities designed to develop employability alongside technical skills. SHU Maths has a well-established thread of employability activities, corporate support for employability and experience at developing student self-awareness of graduate skill development. However, it is important, in a changing landscape, to keep this activity under review and seek opportunities for improvement. Such review and development aims to support consistency in practice by answering questions around whether what we plan for the course is happening and how this is experienced by students.

In planning employability development activities, student perceptions of their own curriculum are of vital importance. Learners must recognise the value and purpose of employability activities, recognising each as part of a coherent design, leading towards the complete skill set expected of a mathematics graduate. They are then more likely to engage meaningfully with the activities, better able to articulate this when needed, and hence better equipped to gain graduate level employment and develop their career successfully beyond this. In addition, the value of a student-centred approach to change is indicated by literature collected by the HEA (Trowler, 2010), as well as in a mathematics-specific context (Cooper, 2012).

A student-led review of module content and LTA practices with a focus on employability skills development took place in 2016/17. Two Student Researchers completed a questionnaire and interview with current students and interviews with alumni and employers to identify skills requirements and current perceptions of the BSc (Hons) Mathematics course, identifying where and how skill development takes place and what practices are successful, and making recommendations for ways in which this might take place more effectively.

The talk outlined the process of running the project and its findings. Though the focus is necessarily on the maths degree course, we believe the approach we are taking to this student employability audit isn’t reliant on the subject and could be applied in different discipline areas, and indeed much of our approach to employability and embedding this is also transferable.

References

Cooper, B. (2012). Embedding student-led change in the curriculum. Proceedings of the HEA STEM Conference 2012. York, U.K.: Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/embedding_student-led_change_in_the_curriculum.pdf.

Rowlett, P. (Ed.) (2012). Further Work Developing Graduate Skills in HE Mathematics Programmes. Birmingham, U.K.: Maths, Stats and OR Network. Retrieved from www.mathcentre.ac.uk/resources/uploaded/furthergradskills.pdf.

Trowler, V. (2010). Student engagement literature review. York, U.K.: Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/studentengagementliteraturereview_1.pdf.

Waldock, J. (Ed.) (2011). Developing Graduate Skills in HE Mathematics Programmes – Case Studies of Successful Practice. Birmingham, U.K.: Maths, Stats and OR Network. Retrieved from www.mathcentre.ac.uk/resources/uploaded/gradskills.pdf.

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