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Friday, June 20 • 10:30am - 11:00am
CON11.04 – More than Course Content: Undergraduate Perceptions of Skill-based Learning Across the Degree (Room A240)

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Recent accountability initiatives have resulted in an increased emphasis on undergraduate skill-based learning outcomes (LOs) (e.g., critical thinking; teamwork). Researchers interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning have suggested that the literature concerning university LOs is dominated by the perspective of academics and institutions, while students’ perceptions are documented relatively infrequently (Matthews et al., 2013). The absence of student input makes it difficult to “say with any certainty whether students have learned what academics are teaching” (AAC&U, 2002, p. 18). This concern is particularly relevant with regard to students’ acquisition of transferrable skills, which tend to develop across the curriculum rather than within the boundaries of a single unit.

In this session, I intend to describe research that speaks to undergraduates’ understanding of skill-based learning. More specifically, I will present data that speaks to participants’ reports about the skill-based LOs that they felt they had developed during their degree, and their definitions of key skill-based LOs identified by administrators as being important (Council of Ontario Universities, 2007). Participants were psychology majors (N=350) who were at various stages of their degree at a mid-sized Ontario university.

In terms of reports about the skills they were developing, students were most likely to indicate that their degree was fostering time-management skills, followed by communication and teamwork skills. A surprisingly small proportion of participants identified critical thinking or leadership skills among those being developed during the degree. With respect to defining key skill-based LOs, participant responses suggested that their understanding of these skills was somewhat rudimentary. Relatively few responses identified facets of the skill in question (e.g., communication involves reading, writing, listening; teamwork involves cooperating with others and managing tasks). Somewhat unexpectedly, many student definitions described instead how the skill might optimally be done (e.g., communication needs to be clear/succinct; teamwork requires patience).

This session speaks to the importance of transforming the classroom from a place in which individual instructors focus exclusively on learning course content to one in which they help students to understand how their career-related skills are being fostered in their courses. This presentation will also touch on the increased importance of instructors helping students to integrate their thinking about skills that are learned across the entire degree, through both the formal curriculum and the co-curriculum. While much of the talk will focus on presenting data, audience participation will be encouraged by asking attendees to begin by considering those skills that they believe they are fostering through their own courses, and to then speculate about the extent to which their responses are likely to mirror those of their students.


Friday June 20, 2014 10:30am - 11:00am
A240 McArthur Hall

Attendees (3)