Birmingham City University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 173-183
ISBN: 978-84-612-7578-6
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
This paper begins by exploring what it means for students to graduate as professional practitioners. We contend that they must able to recognise and analyse situations that require interventions, rationalise options, select a course of action, and reflect upon and learn from the process. Feedback at our own University suggests that the most effective way to encourage such generic skills is to enable discovery and development through critical exploration within the student’s own learning and professional context .

We advocate transformative learning as the means to achieve these ends. As described by Mezirow and others, this is the idea that a transformation of the person can be achieved through cognitive and intellectual change. For this to occur, we need to create a learning environment where the student gains metacognitive awareness of strategies which challenge their instinctive approaches, thus catalysing critical thinking and reflection. This reflects the notion, confirmed by our employer partnerships, that contemporary work environments require creative thinking, problem-solving, and effective teamwork.

Following on from a project examining the use of games and simulations to enhance employability, a new two year project has addressed issues identified by employers as often ‘missed’ in traditional higher education teaching on transferable skills. Yet these are often critical to the development of the self-awareness we have described. Scenarios have been devised to support learning in areas such as cultural awareness in the workplace, dealing with ethical dilemmas, and using simple and direct communication.

An obvious way to develop these skills would be practical experience on placement activities. However, placements are becoming less common in higher education, and, in view of the current focus on employability, this poses an important question: how else do we offer practical and professional experience to develop confidence, self awareness, and cognitive and affective abilities in a safe, reproducible and yet authentic way? Our solution is to create simulations using different media which demonstrate flexibility and innovation in design, with delivery mechanisms including cartoon strips, videos, animations and role-plays.

In this paper the authors will specifically focus on the experience of creating scenarios and materials to address two of the more unusual skills areas, ‘managing an ethical dilemma’ and ‘providing too much information’. These focus on how new graduates handle a sensitive situation in the workplace, the first considering what to do with confidential information stumbled upon, and the second where the focus ought to be on the needs of the client/customer rather than the knowledge and professional shorthand (jargon) of the graduate. We have used both hi-tech and lo-tech methodologies in order to demonstrate that access to financial resources should not limit the imagination of the developers. Materials have been developed to be transferable across disciplines. However, there have been issues around design and technical support where our learning can be shared.

We examine our processes for exploring the relevant missing skills with employers, thus identifying what we have termed ‘the creative dynamic’, and developing the actual materials ready for testing with students. In so doing, we reflect upon the pitfalls and successes encountered along the way.
curriculum innovation, simulation, research project design.