1 Federation University Australia (AUSTRALIA)
2 Murdoch University (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 6928-6937
ISBN: 978-84-608-5617-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2016.0637
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
There is agreement between national governments, employers, and teaching practitioners and researchers that one of the foundational objectives of higher education is to teach not only higher order knowledge but key generic, transferable or employability skills, with such skills seen as essential in allowing graduates to make the transition between the world of learning and the world of work (Simatele 2015). Typically described with reference to employer concern that graduates be able to practically and effectively apply their knowledge in a competitive social world, and further display flexibility and adaptability in their management of workplace and social change (e.g. Candy 2000; Treleaven & Voola 2008), such skills must be applicable to different cognitive domains or subject areas and/or a variety of social, and in particular employment, situations (Bridges 1993). There is thus a burgeoning literature concerned with students’ development of transferable skills, and which teaching practices may be optimal for developing their abilities (e.g. Billing 2007; Davies & Reynolds 2009; Drummond, Nixon & Wiltshire 1998; Washer 2007).

These skills have been variously defined, but lists typically include: logical and analytical reasoning, problem-solving, effective communication skills, and teamwork skills, as well as personal attributes such as imagination, ethical practice, integrity and tolerance (e.g. Hager, Holland & Beckett 2002). Within any of the above definitions are notions of personal development for not only professional environments, but also for participation in the community as an engaged citizen. As is stated by Sin and Reid (2005, 5), however, and also evident throughout the literature on such skills, a key weakness is the “vagueness in the conception” of these skills. Barrie (2002; 2004) also reports on a lack of shared understanding of when and how to integrate and develop such skills in the curriculum and classroom. Of these skills, personal attributes prove particularly challenging to teach.

This paper describes how transferable skills in ethical decision-making and practice, as well as the attributes of integrity and tolerance, can be taught within the classroom. It is based on the review of three courses, one taught to undergraduate students and the others to graduate students. The undergraduate course is a general applied ethics course that is available to students from across multiple programs. Each of these programs counts successful completion of the course as contributing to student development of ethical attributes and skills. The graduate courses are both framed with regards to professional ethical development requirements, one addressing pre-service teachers and the other graduates in the information technologies sectors. Under examination here are the modes of teaching and presentation of curricula, as well as forms of assessment. In addition our aim is to present another side to the story: student’s own beliefs regarding their development as ethical thinkers. Our discussion of student beliefs and their evaluation of our teaching practices will be based upon a variety of self-reporting mechanisms active during course delivery between 2012 and 2015: formal and informal qualitative feedback received from course and teaching evaluations, unsolicited correspondence and feedback received from students, as well as self-reports collected annually.
Transferable skills, ethical practice, student beliefs.