Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Graduate attributes, learning outcomes and assessment: Beyond alignment to engagement (#120)

Agnes Bosanquet 1 , Theresa Winchester-Seeto 1 , Anna Rowe 1
  1. Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Graduate attributes articulate a university’s vision of students they seek to develop and the knowledge, values and characteristics they wish to impart. Based on Marsh and Willis’ (2007) conceptual framework for curriculum, graduate attributes represent the intended curriculum, but may not reflect the enacted (what is taught within disciplines) or the experienced curriculum (what a student learns or the capabilities a student develops). This showcase emerges from research on graduate attributes at 39 Australian universities over a 20 year period. The authors have previously analysed graduate attributes in relation to social inclusion (Bosanquet, Winchester-Seeto & Rowe, 2012), student engagement (Winchester-Seeto, Bosanquet & Rowe, 2012) and global citizenship (Bosanquet, Winchester-Seeto & Rowe, 2014). As a whole, we explore the following questions: What is the intended curriculum at Australia’s universities? How has this changed over time? To what extent do graduate attributes align with teaching (enacted) and learning (experienced curriculum)?

This showcase focuses on the enacted and experienced curriculum, looking at the relationship between graduate attributes, teaching and learning. Specifically, it analyses alignment between graduate attributes, learning outcomes and assessment tasks in undergraduate courses from two Faculties (Business and Arts). Included is a diverse set of graduate attributes, encompassing critical thinking, lifelong learning, global citizenship, research skills, creativity, professional judgement and social responsibility. Moving beyond alignment, it evaluates learning outcomes and assessment tasks using the categories passive, active and critical engagement. This represents an iterative process which involved members of the research team independently coding to evaluate the level of engagement represented, and subsequent collaboration to determine the final outcome space. Our findings demonstrate varying levels of engagement with graduate attributes over time, from awareness of and understanding to taking action, appraising and critiquing. Of particular interest are the location and level of engagement of attributes such as ethics and leadership.

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

This showcase aligns with the conference theme Assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities. It builds on a unique cross-institutional data set which examines graduate attributes at 39 Australian universities over a 20 year period. It specifically focuses on the enacted and experienced curriculum, by examining the way in which graduate attributes are taught and assessed within Arts and Business disciplines. By mapping the alignment between graduate attributes, learning outcomes and assessment tasks, and evaluating engagement using the categories passive, active and critical, this showcase examines the extent to which students’ learning experiences contribute to the development of their graduate capabilities.This research provides an evidence base that has implications for practice and policy including curriculum development and changes to assessment strategies and approaches to ensure critical engagement with graduate attributes.

  1. Marsh, C. J., & Willis, G. (2007). Curriculum: Alternative approaches, ongoing issues. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
  2. Bosanquet, A., Winchester-Seeto, T. & Rowe, A. (2012). Social inclusion, graduate attributes and higher education curriculum. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 6 (2), 73-87. index.php/jall/issue/current
  3. Winchester-Seeto, T., Bosanquet, A., & Rowe, A. (2012). Smoke and Mirrors: graduate attributes and the implications for student engagement in higher education. In I. Solomonides, A. Reid and P. Petocz (eds), Engaging with Learning in Higher Education. Faringdon: Libri Publishing.
  4. Bosanquet, A., Winchester-Seeto, T. & Rowe, A. (2014). Conceptualising global citizenship:Analysing intended curriculum in Australian universities. In A. Kwan, E. Wong, T. Kwong, P. Lau & A. Goody (Eds.), Research and Development in Higher Education: Higher Education in a Globalized World, 37 (pp 48 - 60). Hong Kong, 7 – 10 July 2014.
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