School of Property, Construction & Project Management
A critical knowledge gap currently exists in the understanding of Higher Education graduate learning outcomes and their relevance to employability skills. Specifically, it is unclear how graduates are applying the attributes and skills developed through their degree programs, and if these are relevant in their workplaces.
In 2016, an OLT Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PELTHE) SEED funded project ‘Producing sustainability professionals: Assessing graduate attributes in sustainability’ was undertaken within RMIT to fill this evaluation gap. The project team was led by Dr. Sarah Holdsworth and included A/Prof Ian Thomas, Professor Andrea Chester, Dr. Particia McLaughlin, A/Prof Peter Wong and Dr. Orana Sandri. Drawing on the RMIT ‘environmentally aware and responsible’ graduate attribute (EAR GA), the project undertook to develop a graduate attribute assessment tool and apply the tool to an identified graduate cohort. The project was then able to assess the extent to which graduates understood, and applied the EAR GA in the workplace and to validate the assessment tool. This project has now been completed and the final report submitted to the Office of Learning and Teaching in January.
The outcomes of the project were the development and validation of the Graduate Attribute Assessment Tool (GAAT), a tool for the Higher Education sector to aid assessment of environment/sustainability attributes, an understanding of the extent to which the graduates of the School of Property, Construction and Project Management understood and applied the EAR GA, and an understanding of how curriculum and courses informed the development and relevance of this attribute. As such, the project was able to provide a feedback loop to inform learning and teaching strategies for addressing curriculum gaps identified through its application.
The findings of this ‘pilot’ project indicate that the graduates surveyed and interviewed have developed the behaviours outlined by the EAR GA. Specifically graduates would seek to behave in a way that is consistent with the EAR GA; however, they currently feel more constrained by some opposing workplace influences. Findings indicate that courses in Education for Sustainability have been effective in establishing both the knowledge of environment/sustainability and the will to act on these principles in their work-places.
Further, the project findings attested that GAAT is a reliable tool for the tertiary sector to aid assessment of graduate attributes in employment. Whilst developed for graduate attributes in environment/sustainability, the GAAT has the potential to be adapted for use across a range of graduate attributes. The GAAT has a significant impact on evaluating not just the uptake and application of graduate learning outcomes, but also accounts for the work-place contexts in which the learning outcomes are being applied. Therefore the tool also provides a key element in the critical feed-back loop to enable academics to understand how their teaching relates to both graduate skill needs, and the workplace contexts in which they will be used.
Author: Dr. Sarah Holdsworth