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Evaluation of online journal club (OJC) in S285: to what extent does this help students develop employability skills?

Project leader(s): 
Lorraine Waters and Rachel McMullan
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

Developing employability skills have been identified as an Open University priority; there is evidence that these transferable ‘soft’ skills are often limited in science graduates entering the workplace. S285 (Investigative approaches in biology and chemistry), is a new STEM module for 21J which has been designed to closely follow the ‘OU Employability Framework’ enabling students to gain confidence and competence in these skill areas. As part of this, an online journal club (OJC) activity has been embedded into the module which maps to the areas of ‘Core skills and competencies’ and ‘Personal attributes and behaviours’ in particular. OJC has previously been included as an enrichment activity or part of a tutorial programme (S294 Early Start/SXL390/enrichment within science qualification pathways) however this is the first time, in STEM, that OJC has been an embedded assessed activity within a module. The premise for including the OJC was to enhance students presentational/DIL skills in readiness for level 3 study, develop their sense of community within tutor groups and develop their employability skills. Whilst previous internal scholarship studies show that voluntary participation in OJC is closely linked to development of these skills, in S285 students have been asked to engage in OJC activities as part of their assessed coursework, with less autonomy over their engagement.

 We intend to use reflective questions from students’ assignments coupled with a student diary (throughout the OJC activity) and student focus groups to evaluate students’ perceptions of OJC particularly focusing on development of skills relevant to the ‘OU Employability Framework’, and the role of OJC in developing a sense of community and increasing student confidence. Additionally, we will use a focus group to gather the ALs’ perspectives of this activity on student behaviour and their own teaching practice.

Lorraine Waters and Rachel McMullan poster

Theme: 

Curriculum Development in Computing and Communications: Enabling the Student Voice, Facilitating Employability and Exploring Students’ Personal and Professional Aspirations

Project leader(s): 
Alexis Lansbury and Arabella Nock
Faculty: 
STEM and Academic Services
Status: 
Current
Body: 

This project will investigate whether our current C&C curriculum meets the personal and professional aspirations and employability needs of our students and identify curriculum-gaps from our students’ perspectives.

Computing is a rapidly developing subject. Our degrees are already driven by the requirements set out by professional bodies, employers, political and economic factors, and developments within the HE sector. But as we continue to develop our curriculum, it is also important that our students’ aspirations inform curriculum development too.

We plan to survey TM470 students. TM470, the capstone project module, is usually the final module students take. These students will be able to reflect on both their original study-aims, their current aspirations, and have an informed perspective on the extent to which our curriculum has supported their aims.

The approach that will be taken will be an initial online survey of TM470 students. The output from this will allow us to identify different themes related to curriculum, employability, and the careers and employability support needed. Following the analysis of the survey’s results, we will conduct a small number of interviews to explore these themes in more detail.

The outputs we expect to achieve include: An overview of both the initial study-aims and the career-readiness of a “finishing” cohort of students; an overview of the current employability-aspirations of this same cohort; an appreciation of the student-voice and whether our curriculum has met students’ employability aspirations, and if not, why not; a focussed view of the careers and employability needs of this cohort of students; an analysis of whether there are differences in these outputs for the cohort as a whole, and subsets of students characterised by, for example, ethnicity and gender.

The extent to which our curriculum meets students’ employability aspirations will have an impact on our ongoing curriculum development, both for new and existing modules. The analysis of the initial and current career readiness of this cohort of students will impact upon how CES may best deploy their resources. Focussing on ethnicity, viewing the acknowledged BAME attainment gap through this employability lens will impact on our understanding of this.

Alexis Lansbury and Arabella Nock poster

Theme: 

Evaluating Statistics anxiety across different qualifications

Project leader(s): 
Rachel Hilliam
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

This project addresses findings that were suggested from the evaluation of the project “How one module can serve multiple qualification through tailored implementation of presentation” In particular evaluation of qualitative feedback and tutorial attendance and viewing figures suggest that the students who are non-maths and stats students feel more comfortable in a group with their qualification peers.

Presentations of the work at the Horizons in STEM conference in September 2021 led to conversations with other researchers around statistics anxiety and the suggestion that our qualification-based support might be reducing this effect.

It should be noted that Statistics anxiety, is different – albeit related to – mathematics anxiety and the existing measures of mathematics anxiety do not adequately assess all aspects of statistics anxiety, therefore a Statistics Anxiety Rating Scales (STARS) was developed to address this need (Cruise, Cash and Bolton, 1985). However there has been evidence to suggest that the two statistics anxiety scales (STARS and SAMS) may not be sufficiently broad to cover all aspects of statistical anxiety. Therefore the first part of this project will focus on adapting these scales. This work will be done prior to 22J start and trialled over the summer with a small group of students.

The aim is to adapt the scales in order to produce a new measure that can identify whether students on differing qualifications who study statistics as part of their degree exhibit different forms of statistics anxiety. As M248 has a broad range of qualification students will be use this adapted measure with 22J students, alongside broader qualitative feedback to drill down into the types of anxiety students exhibit when studying M249 and how this differs between students on the different qualification.

We will then use this knowledge to create some workshops which will run in the summer months prior to 23J with the aim of alleviating the anxiety which students might be feeling as they approach the module start date. We expect to run different workshops tailored to dealing with the different types of statistical anxiety that students are exhibiting. We will then use the measure again during 23J to assess the use and/or development of workshopped coping strategies by students and whether these were effective in reducing the statistical anxiety reported.

Whilst this project will initially focus on M248, Analysing Data, the aim will be to have a statistical anxiety rating scale which can be used on any OU statistics module, or module including a statistical component, to identify the type of statistical anxiety exhibiting by groups of students and therefore identify where suitable interventions and extra support may be of value.


References

Cruise, R. J., Cash, R. W., & Bolton, D. L., (1985, August). Development and validation of an instrument to measure statistical anxiety. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Statistical Education Section, Chicago, IL.

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