Want students to engage? Contextualise graduate learning outcomes and assess for employability

How graduates proactively develop, adapt and repackage their graduate capabilities (also known as graduate attributes, outcomes or qualities) is essential for their employability. These generic, or soft, skills are remarkably consistent across institutions and include skills like communication, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, self-management, digital literacy and global citizenship. A recent Deakin University study explored student perceptions and understanding of graduate capabilities in preparation for employment.

The authors found that unless communication of these capabilities to students was part of meaningful discussion about their purpose and relevance, they did not affect student attitudes or behaviour and certainly did not engage students in their conscious development. Comments like ‘I know they exist, but I don’t know what they mean’ were common.  Disturbingly, some students saw these capabilities as more important to curriculum developers and teachers than to themselves or their career development.

For students to use these skills productively, they need to be emphasised, explained and exemplified so that students seek out, read and reflect on them and be encouraged to do so by teachers or as part of assessment. Where they were incorporated into an assessment or extra-curricular activity, students’ understanding and confidence in their capabilities and preparation for employment improved. Even when rebadged as course learning outcomes, students found them too generic to be meaningful and tended to engage only with those that were contextualised and assessed.

Student feedback suggested that advice from employers, professionals and recent graduates, and exposure to industry-related experiences may help them to make some meaning of graduate capabilities.


Question: How do you contextualise the Flinders  Graduate Qualities in your topics / courses? How you support your students to make sense of them and develop these skills for their future employability?


Full article can be found:

Want students to engage? Contextualise graduate learning outcomes and assess for employability   │  Higher Education Research & Development (2017)

By Trina Jorre de St Jorre & Beverley Oliver


Synopsis by Cassandra Hood

Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT

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