ENGINEERING UNDERGRADUATES’ PERCEPTION OF TRANSFERABLE SKILLS IN HONG KONG
Transferable skills are skills, knowledge and attributes, beyond disciplinary knowledge, which are applicable in a range of contexts (Chan, 2012a). The skills agenda in higher education is not new, but there is growing attention on students’ development of transferable skills as students, teachers, employers, universities, government and accreditation bodies recognize the importance of transferable skills for both education and employment. Despite the attractiveness of integrating the teaching of transferable skills into the university curriculum, there is a need to understand students’ perception of transferable skills (Chan, 2012b; Chan & Murphy, 2010) before we can come up effective teaching approaches and assessment strategies. Previous research on students’ perception of transferable skills has found that students not only rated some skills more important than others, but also perceive themselves stronger in some skills and weaker in others (e.g. Jackson, 2012). However, it is unclear whether previous findings are applicable to students in Hong Kong as majority of the studies are conducted in the Western context. In addition, some of the studies (e.g. Kemp & Seagrave, 1995) focus on a particular skill, which fails to provides a comprehensive coverage of transferable skills.
Given the discipline-dependent nature of generic skills and limited research on undergraduate transferable skills development conducted in the Hong Kong context, this paper presents a study on engineering students’ perception of transferable skills in an Hong Kong university. Taking a quantitative approach, a questionnaire was administered to 251 year one engineering undergraduate students. The questionnaire involves students’ self-assessment of 38 transferable skills in terms of their perceived level of importance for their future career and their perceived level of competency in the skills. They were also asked to indicate their attitude towards the teaching and learning of transferable skills at the university. It was found that although majority of the students believe that the transferable skills are important for their future career, they perceived their current level of competency in the transferable skills as average. It was also found that the students generally believe that transferable skills are better developed through extra-curricular activities, and should be assessed and given credits. The results will be discussed.
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