Graduate Attributes and Curriculum Renewal

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Graduate Attributes and Curriculum Renewal

Breadcrumbs

Curriculum can be described as “a programme of study where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts” (McMaster University citing Harden, 2001, p. 123).

Candy (2000) argues that whereas disciplinary knowledge is transient, generic skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership and analytical and critical thinking should be the hallmark of any graduate irrespective of filed or study.

The University of the Sunshine Coast's Graduate Attributes model of curriculum renewal asks staff to view teaching and learning programmatically, and aims to:

  1. Enhance our students' experience and increase student retention
  2. Develop a USC language for graduate outcomes
  3. Enable access to the USC experience
  4. Ensure our curriculum meets the sector benchmarks

The latest understanding is that graduate attributes are best taught within disciplines and that they need to be explicitly described, mirroring both future employer expectations, the qualities and skills needed to successfully pursue higher levels of education as well as overall productivity in the community and society.

Barrie et al. (2009) identify four basic characteristics or descriptions of graduate attributes which apply to the USC Graduate Attributes:

  1. they are important;
  2. they are learning outcomes;
  3. they shape the way graduates will contribute to society;
  4. and they are the qualities that prepare graduates as agents of social good in an unknown future (as cited in O'Connor et al., 2011:105).

Our Graduate Attributes model of curriculum renewal asks staff to view teaching and learning programmatically, and aims to:

1. Enhance our students' experience and increase student retention

Research (Wilcoxson et al., 2011) shows that one of the reasons students leave university is because they can't see where their degree is taking them.

The graduate attributes curriculum renewal gives program teams a reason to re-articulate what students get out of the program and allows for courses to articulate with clarity how they fit into the overall learning outcomes of the program.

This also ensures ownership by the academic staff who are the discipline experts teaching in the program.

2. Develop a USC language for graduate outcomes

When our graduates are seeking work in a very competitive environment, they need a language to talk about the qualities and skills they have developed during their university study. Our graduate attributes align with selection criteria for jobs in many fields and give students an opportunity to evidence their success in these attributes in a very concrete way.

3. Enable access to the USC experience

The University's Graduate Attributes bridge the need for more student-friendly practices in curriculum language and discipline content rigour. Research (Wirgau and Wilkinson, 2011) indicates that students find our language in course outlines inaccessible and difficult to understand.

With a high percentage of students who are first in family to university, we need to articulate what we want students to know and be able to do as a result of engaging in learning. The language of the graduate attributes embedded into assessment creates clarity for students.

4. Ensure our curriculum meets the sector benchmarks

The higher education sector is rapidly changing, in particular with its emphasis on broadening participation to a more diverse student cohort. There is also an increased focus on teaching and learning standards to ensure that universities produce quality graduates.

Graduate Attributes curriculum design draws on a range of standards documents including the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) Course Accreditation Standards and Teaching and Learning Standards (as they become available), the Australian Qualifications Framework, standards embedded in professional registration requirements and the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT), Learning and Teaching Standards project to ensure that USC standards meet national and international quality benchmarks.

More information

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