Student skills development: making it harder not to do.

Julian M Kendell (university of bristol)

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 1:30 PM - 2:15 PM

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Session Outline

This presentation will outline the work that has been done over the last 2 years at The University of Bristol to update the ways we support students’ skills development. We have sought to build on and learn lessons from the existing graduate skills framework and PDP model that have been in place since 2015 (and reviewed in 2019) but have become increasingly less relevant for students post covid and increasingly marginalised by staff.

Early in our discussions we encountered an academic who observed that the problem with the existing framework was that ‘it’s just so easy not to do it’, which led us to thinking about how we could change that while not adding to staff and student workloads. After all its pretty hard for students not to develop skills, and its equally hard for academics not to help their students develop them.

Our aim was to create a new and relevant process for supporting students’ skills development that spoke to everyone and gave them a common language for discussion but was also sufficiently flexible to be adapted to and owned within a disciplinary context.

In this presentation we will look at the power of pedagogic theory to provide guiding principles that have enabled us to align skills development with different, often competing, aspects of student experience such as curriculum design and assessment. And we will consider how we can attempt to bypass the over-conceptualising of graduate attributes to bring it back to a focus on what we want students to do and what we want staff to do in order to support them.

And fundamentally we will explore the extent to which we can move beyond the often transactional nature that can persist with the topic developing students skills - that if students develop these skills they’ll get a better job – to be something that is much more central to their experience at University and that speaks to the aspirations of Barnett and Coates (2005) for a university education that helps students navigate the complexity of 21st Century life.

We will do this by reflecting on our experiences developing this approach as well as several curricular and extra-curricular pilots that we ran last year and the story so far from a soft launch at the start of this academic year. Preliminary findings suggest we still have some way to go to before students and staff see ‘skills’ in a broader context to career development and employability, and that maybe we still haven’t quite found the right language for skills yet.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C2 - Theory relevant to academic advising and tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
R3 - Motivate, encourage, and support students to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality