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Learning from an NTF project

10 June 2010

Anne Hill and Nick Morton Birmingham City University Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Plan for the workshop • Background to the project, its aims and processes • What did we create • Feedback and lessons learnt and transferable Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit

• the nature of "success" in developing student employability; • the "enablers" of success; • critical factors/critical incidents along the road to success;


Project Background • ‘Creating Future-Proof Graduates’ • NTFS Project 2007 £200,000 from HEA + contribution from University • A Partnership Approach • Creating 8 resources addressing key skills identified by employers and graduates as potentially not addressed by courses • 3 strand evaluation strategy Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


3 constructs for employability in HE 1. Student getting a graduate level job (destination surveys) 2. Being developed by the experience of HE (as curricula and extra curricula process) 3. Possession of relevant achievements (not the same as employment)

Mantz Yorke (2004) Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Project Objectives • Linking the classroom with professional practice • Bridging the gap between teaching and learning and professional demands • The project aims: – To produce a suite of simulated critical incident case studies to enhance students employability skills across a range of disciplines / sectors – To involve employers, students and HE / FE staff in the production of the case studies – To evaluate the effectiveness of these critical incidents in enhancing skills for employment

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Theory behind our approach  Value added - builds on previous successful ‘internal’ LTA projects (games and simulations, supporting diverse student populations, etc.)  A ‘skills plus’ approach - discussing and debating experiences, allows students to discover and develop skills through critical exploration in their own learning & professional context [1]  Create models and designs to provide a series of case studies which can be adapted and adopted by academics across a wide range of disciplines [2]. [1] Palmer, 1998; Biggs, 1999 as cited in Spiller, 2005 [2] Cowan J, 1998, On Becoming an Innovative University Teacher, Buckingham, The Society for Research into Higher Education/Open University Press Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Theory (continued)  As students work through critical incidents, they develop decision making skills and we encourage them to examine the implications of their actions or inactions for themselves, their peers and wider society  Testing & evaluating critical incident scenarios with staff, students and partners [3] [4] [5]

[3] Lewin’s classic theory of ‘unfreeze’ (challenge and change practices), plan and implement to ‘refreeze’ (embed) (1958) [4] Jones and Merritt’s ‘acculturisation’ theory (1999) [5] Fox and Rowntree’s linking doing and thinking (2004) Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Research and evaluation • Identifying the skills ‘gap’ • Creating simulations and games to address the skills gaps identified • Piloting the created resources • Evaluation strategy: – Evaluating the usability, usefulness and value of the created resources – Evaluating the project team development – Evaluating the processes in creating the resources Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Our Critical Success Factors  The creation of between 6 and 8 resources  Each resource tested in more than one different context or institution besides Birmingham City University  Having a sustainability strategy in place – all resources will be available via the website www2.bcu.ac.uk/futureproof as free downloads  All the project team members having the opportunity to participate in a reflective learning process  Wide dissemination of findings (3 international and several UK conference papers, journal papers in progress, and dissemination events led by project team members across the University)  Content creators drawn into the project from across the institution  Every higher education institution in England to receive a set of the resources in a ‘compendium’. Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


The Challenges • • • •

Skills Illness Greener Fields Workloads

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Other ‘Successes’ • Finding external partners • Finding colleagues in BCU • Finding supporting service providers (packaging and video production) • Finding an evaluation expert

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


The first stage – identifying key skills • Interviews - skills and critical incidents: • Employers – exploring their perceptions and inviting them to describe specific critical incidents which exemplify the required skills or the consequences of their absence • Interviewing lecturers in the respective discipline to illuminate their perceptions of what students need to equip themselves for their chosen profession • Interviewing current students re their expectations for the skills they would need for the respective labour market • Interviewing new and recent graduates re their experiences of their preparedness for graduate employment – also analysing previous research

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Findings - Employers • Employers identified the following key skills as difficult to develop in their sectors: – Housing: organisational culture and society factors, help-seeking, good communication skills and providing relevant answers; – Music: networking, understanding the sector and its "unstructured" nature as a profession – Law: Commercial Awareness; finding practical solutions to problems

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Findings - Graduates Graduates had their own views about the most important skills that they had to develop once they reached the workplace: • • • •

literacy: writing for diverse audiences (non-academic); personal attributes: develop assertiveness (say "no"); people related skills networking (in particular music and marketing graduates*) • how to deal with situations and dealing with shocking situations (what to do when a theoretical model fails) • career related: finding out what you do not want to do; understanding the profession; knowing how to go about finding information

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Second stage - Resources Skills Gap

Resource Created

• • • •

• • • •

No Offence Meant Too Much Information Ethical Dilemmas The Networking Game

Expecting the Unexpected

• • •

Stone Soup Who, What, Where Getting on with it

Cultural awareness Providing relevant answers Professional ethics Networking and social confidence • Unexpected and extreme emotions and reactions • Social responsibility • Research skills • Bullying and the misuse of power www2.bcu.ac.uk/futureproof Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Third stage - Evaluation Evaluation and reflection underpin the project, aiding the Team and collaborators in our own understanding and development as we engage with others to evaluate how far our work: – Provides evidence of commitment to openness, accountability and responsible management and the fitness for purpose of the materials created – Develops and illuminates effective practice across the University and reaches a wider audience – Helps to identify sustainable opportunities for current and future developments

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Resources - fitness for purpose of the materials created Evaluation so far • “learnt a lot. Not something that I would

• • • •

usually think about until the day before the event” •“the structure of the session enabled a progression through my understanding. I could explore my pre-conceived ideas and then experience other possibilities” “the board game added in the element of randomness that might be experienced in a networking situation - having to think on the spot‘” “I found the video and script useful as it gave a clear example of a poor meeting” “very useful I saw different ways of dealing with people” “I feel that I have gained confidence in my own abilities but there is still need for improvement. This workshop gave me the experience and the tools and information that I needed to understand what I need to work on in my own confidence and effectiveness”

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Resources - evaluation to date indicates: • Resources well received and valued by the students • All elements have been rated as useful by students • Highest value - most active elements such as role play and discussion • Confidence – biggest increase in confidence seen in full time undergraduates with limited work experience Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


The other strands of evaluation

The Project Team – learning from bidding, team dynamics and operation, to delivery • • • • • • •

Using an external evaluator to provide objectivity Interviews at stages in the process: Illuminative [6] RUFDATA framework [7] Purposes, development; understanding accountability [8] Keeping personal diaries/journals as reflective jottings Determination of our critical success factors

and

[6] Miller and Parlett, 1974, problem centred; practitioner oriented; cross disciplinary; methodologically eclectic and heuristically oriented [7] Saunders, 2000, uses of, foci, timing, range of data and evidence needed, audience, agency which evaluates [8] Chelimsky, 1997 Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


The other strands of evaluation

Process…….of creating resources - inputs, personal ethics • • • •

Who would do what – allocating workloads and lead developers Budget management NTFS Annual and half yearly reports on progress Resource creation and problems, dilemmas, resolutions, compromises, triumphs

Honest, open reflections to provide lessons for sharing Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Learning about project management • Appoint a project overseer, possibly reporting to a project manager- role clearly defined as administrative • Have contingency plans • Consider the motivation of all concerned: different people bring different skills and expectations • Project teams in future take the time which is available • Be realistic about what can be achieved in the timescale • Be aware that sometimes promises may be made in a bid which are difficult to realise once a project is underway • Pick project team with care - genuine champions or potential champions in the field

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Learning about project management • Do not underestimate the amount of work required to deliver a project • Keep a ‘brainstorming book’ of everything that needs to be done and keep checking it and adding to it and sharing out the tasks. This book is also – later – a record of everything that has been achieved. • Establish a project generic email • Do not be afraid to ask for more time or admit failure – learn and move on • Establish what constitutes the ‘end’ and stick to it.

Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Learning for the sector • The importance of a well constituted and effective Steering Group • Cultural issues- project management in an academic environment. ‘Project management is not generally seen as worthy of specific academic analysis’ (Baume et al., 2002).

• Achievement of critical success factors • Evaluation as a reflective process • The importance of motivating a multidisciplinary academic team and networking with other people and projects • Give attention to the process of team working Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit


Have a go • Find all our resources at www2.bcu.ac.uk/futureproof • Try out our resources, consider where can you use the resources, what ideas do you have? • Feedback sheets – when you use these resources with your students – feedback forms are available on the website or just write and tell us about your experiences Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching Educational Staff Development Unit

http://employability.shu.ac.uk/resources/Conference2010/e3iconference2010_Nick_Morton  

http://employability.shu.ac.uk/resources/Conference2010/e3iconference2010_Nick_Morton.ppt