INTERIM RESULTS: The State of Engagement with Graduate Attributes byHigher Education Institutions in New Zealand Rachel Spronken-Smith, Carol Bond, Martine Darrou & Angela McLean (UO) Martin Jenkins & Margaret Leonard (CPIT) Stanley Frielick, Lise Milne & Nell Smith (AUT) Stephen Marshall (VUW) Simon Barrie (Sydney) – Advisor
Generic graduate attributes are the qualities, skills and understandings a university community agrees its students should develop during their time with the institution (Bowden et al. 2000) “The extent to which the rhetoric of such [graduate attributes] statements actually represents a shared understanding of the outcomes of a university education is a matter of conjecture” (Barrie 2006: 216) “The extent to which present day university teaching and learning processes actually develop such outcomes in graduates is even more contestable” (Barrie 2006: 216)
Outline of session• Background context for our research• Our research objectives and approach• Engagement with graduate attributes across higher education institutions in NZ• Enablers and constraints to engaging with GAs• Discussion
Background context for research• Part of an Ako Aotearoa-funded national project entitled “Graduate attributes – are they driving learning? Any who knows about them?” – Aim: to explore the current policies and practices regarding graduate attributes (GAs) in higher education institutions in NZ
The GA agenda • Early 1990s – beginning of momentum around GA agenda • 1999 Bologna Declaration Bologna process “Dublin descriptors” – key qualities/ competencies The Tuning Project in Europe and later in the USA (Lumina Foundation) • Australia – Series of reports and research Australian Qualifications Framework specifying minimum outcomes for qualifications approved in 2011 • NZ – NZQA targeted review of qualifications
Definitions• Range of terminology for graduate descriptors: – Graduate attributes (GAs) – Graduate outcomes – Graduate profiles (GPs)Conceptions matter! What does the term “graduate attributes” mean to you?
Conceptions of GAs Barrie (2007) – academic’s conceptions 1. Precursor 2. Complement 3. Translation 4. Enabling
Specific research objectives include:1. Identifying current policy and practice regarding GAs in New Zealand HE institutions2. Identifying indicators of the impact (benefit) on students and staff of good practices relating to GAs3. Determining the necessary conditions and possible strategies for the effective development of policies and practices regarding GAs
Research approach Identifying policies Stocktake across and practices HE sectorIndicators of impact Mixed methods: on learners Quantitative & Qualitative Cases of good Effective practicedevelopment of GAs
The Stocktake – (a) Survey• Online survey to 29 HE institutions in NZ – Institutional characteristics – Presence of graduate descriptors – Development of GAs in institution – Use of GAs in institution – Measurement of graduate descriptors – Overall engagement with GAs• 14 completed survey (48%) – 7 polytechnics and 7 universities
The Stocktake – (b) Interviews• Follow-up interviews with directors/academic developers in 8 institutions – Demographics – Conceptions of the purposes of a tertiary education – The uses of a GP – How GAs were developed and used within the institution – Involvement of stakeholders – The enablers and constraints to engaging with GAs• Interviews transcribed and analysed drawing on a modified phenomenographic approach and Thomas’ (2006) general inductive approach
Emerging findings - Academic managersconceptions of the purposes of GAsA. A means of marketing of the institutions programmes - allowing distinctions to be madeB. A means of informing various stakeholders, employers, students, staff, governmentC. A tool for assuring different aspects of qualityD. A guide to curriculum development - a framework for design and developmentE. A tool to help students learn - focusing on outcomes based learningDimensions: Temporal, scope, integration and extent of ownership
Development of GAs• An institutional initiative (6) “The generic attributes were developed by Council and announced to the university as part of a previous university strategic plan”(U4)• A grass roots initiative (2) led by academic developers “Educational developers within P4 who saw the need to establish them as a core element of good learning design”• Combined top-down and bottom-up (2)
Link to policies• 8/10 have graduate outcomes linked to policies• But recognition that policies may not be put into practice! “I don’t in all honesty think that most teaching staff promote the concept of graduate profiles albeit that they most often will have mapped and re-articulated graduate attributes in accordance with their discipline” (U3).• 3 institutions had teaching and learning awards that emphasised engagement with GAs
Support for staff engagement withGAs• Informed through processes of programme development• Workshops and courses (7)• No professional development for GAs (5) “The ones who attend our workshops are inducted into the synchronicity of the whole deal. The ones who dont attend may well be inducted through their departments and faculties; but we still find ignorance of the process and importance of graduate profiles when we work with staff; including some who have been here a good while”(U1).
Support for student engagementwith GAs• Informed through enrolment handbooks, course outlines, induction processes, student learning and career advisors “This is impossible to characterize for the entire University. Some students, in some programmes, will be provided with more information in these areas, such as through pre-employment briefings or capstone courses or experiences. Others, will have very little engagement or recognition of anything outside course- by-course learning objectives and outcomes”. (U7)
Support for student engagementwith GAs (cont)• Many institutions reported using formative and summative assessment to help track student attainment of GAs• Three polytechnics helped students to actively track their progress towards attainment of GAs• Two universities used ePortfolios either for specific programmes or more widely
Measurement & monitoring of the institutional graduate profile
Closing the feedback loopNot many institutions are routinely informing staff andstudents of results from monitoring GAs“This depends on the college and/or programme involved.Externally accredited programmes tend to have higher levels ofbriefings for staff regarding the processes and monitoring ofstudents’ attainment of graduate profiles. Informing students ofthese same processes is generally a less common occurrence. Inaccomplishing this, graduating year reviews and accreditationreports are probably the two most common and recognized formsof monitoring the progress and attainment of graduate profiles.Depending on the specific programme, these may or may not alsorequire programme-wide briefings for academic staff and, onoccasion, students.” (U7)
Institutional engagement with GAs Planning Systems Delivery Assessment Evaluation PD supportP1P2P3P4P5P6P7U1U2U3U4U5U6U7 Darker colour = stronger engagement
Outline of session - progress• Background context for our research• Our research objectives and approach• Engagement with graduate attributes across higher education institutions in NZ• Enablers and constraints to engaging with GAs• Discussion
Revisiting our research fociThrough this stocktake we have identified current policyand practice regarding GAs in New Zealand HEinstitutions.But we also explored the necessary conditions andpossible strategies for the effective development ofpolicies and practices regarding GAs.
In small groups• Consider your own institutional contexts• Work together to identify: – Enablers to getting staff (lecturers, managers) to engage with GAs – Constraints or challenges to getting such engagement AND possible ways to overcome them• Nominate a scribe and presenter• Can we use these data in our research?
Enablers to engagement with GAs Number of Number of Universities PolytechnicsSupport of academic developers 3 3Ownership by teachers 2 3Structures 3 2Strong leadership from the top 2 2Institutional culture 1 2Processes 1 2NZQA targeted review 3Strategic policy/plan 1 1Good communication 1 1Resources 2Time 2Interest by staff 1 1
Constraints to engagement with GAs Number of Number of Universities Polytechnics Staff resistance 2 1 Institutional culture - research 2 Tension with professional bodies 1 1 Quality assurance 1 1 Teacher’s conceptions 1 1
Summary• Lacking external drivers • Strong external drivers• Research-focused • Teaching-focused culture culture• Relying on champions • Strong leadership from• Patchy resourcing the top• Patchy structures • Enabling structures Universities PolytechnicsContinuum of engagement with GAs
Discussion Thanks to Ako Aotearoa for funding this research