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  5. Student development and perceptions of employability skills in stage 1 science

Student development and perceptions of employability skills in stage 1 science

Project leader(s): 
Fiona Aiken and Chris Hutton
Theme: 
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Archived

S112, Science: concepts and practice, was a new science module at the Open University in 2017. In each assignment, students were asked to include self-assessment and reflection for a number of key skills related to employability using radar diagrams. This research explores students’ perceptions of their employability skills development on S112, and how effective the radar diagrams are for recording this.

A sample of students’ assignments were collected (n=20), and their self-assessment scores collated for the duration of the S112’s 2018/2019 presentation. An anonymous online questionnaire was also sent to 636 students in the same cohort (115 responses); the questionnaire captured attitudes and opinions on skills development and radar diagrams. Finally, two focus groups were held with three S112 tutors at each to establish tutors’ perspectives on the use of radar diagrams and students’ skills development.

Students on S112 demonstrate development of many employment-related skills, particularly communication, collaboration and time management; they do not, however, develop business and customer awareness – this would be better embedded at higher levels in the qualification. Their perception of skills development is clearest for subject-specific skills, such as maths. However, there is wide recognition of improvement in softer skills, though confidence can be affected by negative experiences, e.g. in teamwork. The use of radar diagrams is not popular as a means of electronic Personal Development Planning (ePDP), with most students engaging in order to gain marks in assessment. Radar diagrams should be offered as an optional method of recording skills development alongside other suitable tools.

The use of radar diagrams for ePDP in distance learning is novel; this primary research contains insights that could be helpful to comparable science modules in other institutions.

Student self-assessment scores and focus groups were subject to small sample sizes; there were no volunteers to join a student focus group to further enrich findings. These results are not representative, but do triangulate favourably with the literature and questionnaire findings. 

Related resource

Aiken, F. and Hutton, C. (2020) Student perceptions and development of employability skills on a level 4 multidisciplinary science module. eSTEeM Final Report (PDF) (Intranet only)   

 

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