Poster Presentation Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Making science graduate capabilities visible improves the student perception of skill acquisition (#304)

Fiona L. Bird 1 , Elizabeth Johnson 2 , Emma Yench 3 , Jeanette Fyffe 4
  1. School of Life Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia
  2. Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia
  3. College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia
  4. Graduate Research School, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 A major revision of curriculum in the Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering at La Trobe University resulted in intended learning outcomes and graduate capabilities (or skills) being identified and aligned with assessment tasks in all undergraduate subjects so that they were clearly visible to students. This Faculty-wide study compared the student perception of skill acquisition across the Faculty between graduating students from 2012, who had no formal exposure to graduate capabilities throughout their studies, with graduating students from 2014 who completed the newly-revised second and third year subjects. The student perception of learning outcomes was surveyed with the Science Students Skills Inventory (SSSI), a validated survey instrument developed by Matthews & Hodgson (2012). The survey questioned students on four indicators (importance, confidence, improvement and inclusion in the curriculum) to explore the extent to which seven graduate capabilities (scientific content knowledge, oral communication, writing, teamwork, quantitative literacy, ethical thinking, critical thinking/analysis and independent inquiry/research) were developed throughout their undergraduate degrees. Survey responses revealed that the 2012 and 2014 graduating cohorts had similar positive perceptions about the importance of activities which developed graduate capabilities, the inclusion of activities that developed graduate capabilities in the curriculum and the extent to which their skills had improved during their studies. In comparison, the 2014 graduating cohort indicated higher levels of confidence and a greater level of skill attainment on graduation. The 2014 graduating cohort were also more likely to identify themselves as doing or being involved with science in the future, and they predicted a relatively greater use of graduate capabilities in the future. These results provide valuable insight into the importance of making science graduate capabilities visible to enhance student learning outcomes.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 This poster presentation relates directly to the subtheme “Assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities”. The presentation investigates the student perception of learning of graduate capabilities in the sciences by asking graduating students from a range of science degrees to reflect on the development of capabilities or skills across their three-year undergraduate programs. We explored the effect of a major curriculum reform program on acquisition of skills and share our insights into maximising learning outcomes for students.

  1. Matthews, K.E., & Hodgson, Y. (2012). The Science Students Skills Inventory: Capturing graduate perceptions of their learning outcomes. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 20(1), 24-43.