Aviation dream job; engaging employability assessment on day 1

Nic Connelly - RMIT University

Associate Proffesor. Nic Connelly, Aviation from RMIT University on ‘The dream job; an authentic assessment to engage with employability from day 1’. This recording is from our 2022 Melbourne, Australia MiniBash community event. Videos are for educational personnel only and require a live educational email to watch. You can read the video transcript below.


Thank you, Pauline. And thank you so much for inviting me to come and speak today. And, Steve, I’m writing all these notes as I’m going today because I’ve got all these ideas now. I just want to get home and get started on them all, you know.

But great presentations I’ve really enjoyed today. So I feel a bit like a square pegging around hole here with all my medical and science professionals and and obviously a lot of today’s talk has been about placement, but I I really wanted to use PebblePad for something totally different which I’m going to speak to you about today.

So just a little bit of background about myself.

For almost thirty years, I was an air traffic controller and over my career I looked after millions ofpassengers and thousands of times of fright as they navigated the sky. And we were considered guardians of the sky. That was sort of our our role and moving to academia five years ago, I I got the ability to actually teach my craft which was fantastic, so I’m not an academic by trade, but I absolutely love being able to teach what I love and I do see similarities in the roles because now I may not be guardian in the sky, but I consider myself of Guardian of our future aviation professionals, and I really take a lot of pride and joy in doing that.

And when I first started in academia because I it was all new to me. I I did do a lot of reading and research, and I found this quote, which I really love, which was from Paul Ramstead, who was the pro vice chancellor at Sydney University back in 2003 And he said that teaching is one of the most delightful and exciting of all human activities when done well and one of the most humiliating tedious when done poorly. And I thought, oh my god, I so get that right. Like for those academics out, they’re anyone who just you know, has to get up and talk when you’re underprepared, overworked. You’re not quite as polished as you like, and that feeling of you know, you know, that little bit of humiliation and and and it just becomes such hard work and I thought I don’t want to be sitting on that side, you know, I want to be the one that’s standing up there going, that was exhilarating and I loved every minute of it.

It doesn’t always work out like that as we know. But, you know, that was that was my aim. And part of that was well, to get that feeling, it was about engaging with the students. And and having that experience with the students. No matter how good my content is, if I’m not engaging with them and getting them excited about their careers, I’m not gonna get that sense of excitement either.

So Oh, we’ve gone too far. Sorry about that.

So my passion was to develop a course that would really resonate Paul Rammsdays and quote, and and for me getting excited about that.

And that required a few things. One was mastering the discipline, which hopefully I was bringing. A passion for the industry which I absolutely have have that aviation is in my blood and I’ve been doing it since I was eighteen.

Engaging in tech, nearly savvy applications and not just for the sake of technology, but because I actually add value to the learning. And I love working with people like Pauline who are excited about doing these things as well. A focus on authentic learning and teaching And with a direct link to employability from day one, so that was really the key and bringing all that together, I really felt like I could get the the students excited about what the world would look like full of possibilities and really give them a clear sort of insight into where they might fit into the world of aviation going forward.

The problem was with this course that I teach, which I teach into a bachelor of aviation, My subject is air traffic management. Half the cohort are going to be commercial pilots and the other half are a mix of airline managers, airport operators, aviation safety specialists, so a real mix of a cohort. So it was trying to really engage each of them to make it relevant to their own personal job.

So going back to twenty nineteen hour, RMIT brought in six authentic assessment characteristics. And for me, it was really important to try and link into those. And I really felt like this assessment that I was trying to build was leaking in with the yellow one there, which you can see, which was transferable knowledge and deals with real world applications. So demonstrating how the knowledge and skills can be applied in a workplace or community context. So I was really trying to figure out a way how I could for each person depending on their role could bring that into into being for them.

So before I progress, I guess it’s important to understand the underlying philosophy, which was that assessment as learning as opposed to other four. So the as learning aspect was really important for me and as the research, you know, has been you know, cementing for many years that it serves the purpose of using assessment to support learning. And I also love that when we use assessment as learning, those with a personal interest in a particular activity in a particular activity such as aviation or or their specific job, When they can see that in them for themselves, they and they enjoy the activities more, there’s a lot more personal interest and engagement with activity. So that was really my aim.

So using PebblePad, I was able to really create an assessment that enabled me to do this. So void back in two thousand and one, which was, you know, twenty years ago now, articulate the importance of also reflection in the learning, so the PebblePad really enabled me to have that reflection part built into the assessment to allow students to really get engaged in the work and importantly take ownership of the material, which I think has been a real theme today. Many people have touched you know, giving the students ownership on this and and that was a real key with this workbook.

And I think the purple part is perfect and beautiful place for us to be able to do all these things.

And of course, all of these relates back to the the course learning outcome. So the course learning outcome’s painted a picture for the students, what they were required to do. So in terms of demonstrating, describing, critically evaluating.

And with pulling all of that together, we were really able to come up with a PebblePad assessment that really linked in with those course learning outcomes.

So the key for this was designing a workbook that they would tackle small problems each week and activity each week, but the key to this whole portfolio was it was linked around their dream job. So the very first part of this was that they had to tell me about what their dream job in aviation was going to be And for many, it was very clear, you know, they’re there to be commercial pilots for others halfway through the the PebblePad assignment. They changed their dream job, which is absolutely fine because that’s what they’re there for. So I think I convinced a few to become air traffic controls along the way, which is lovely.

But so it was always linked to what they were aiming to. What what do they want to do in life and how does this course affect me in my dream job? So for everybody that was gonna be a different story, and that was really what I was trying to capture and what I work with Paul, like, pull Paul in on this. This is what we were trying to make sure that it wasn’t just a standard answer.

It was actually linked to them and their dream jobs. So I think that set the scene for a really nice assessment that they started off with, you know, a picture of themselves off often it was around an aircraft, which is fantastic.

And then they talked about I asked them to explain to me what they thought their dream job was gonna be like, and it’s seeing over time how that perception can change.

So just a little slide here to show how they got really creative. And I again, we’ve talked a little bit about creativity today, and I really wanted the students to use a creative creativity and and tap into those soft skills that employers are looking for. So really engaging with their employability from day one, framing the assessment authentic context to motivate students. And you can see there they they really did get very creative. They could have just done a word I could have just typed in the box on the assessment, but they could also attach documents and that’s what we saw is them getting created using comic strips, blogs, videos, all sorts of things. It was just it was actually quite astonishing to see and I think he gained a few people of touch on that when you give people that ability be creative, they they really do surprise you and delight you with what they come back with.

So it was based on five key design features. Firstly, ownership and that ownership was directly linked to their dream job. So it was very very clear from the start that everything that we’re gonna do in this assessment was linked to their dream job and how it fitted. I’m getting the wind up for quickly.

Motivation, so we made it very clear, and you can probably maybe read that.

Being explicit that I believe, but looking at each of the learning outcomes through the lens of how it will affect your future industry role will bring the course alive for you. So being very clear about the motivation for them in doing this assessment, guidance. So again, offering all that guidance that they might need. And I think especially when we talk about reflective writing, to many, that’s probably a bit of a mystery. Maybe to some of us, it’s a bit of mystery. So having the guide of to enable them to learn how to do that correctly is really vital.

Realism. So every topic and activity that they had to do was based on some sort of real scenario. So for example here you can see I’ve talked about meteorology and linking that to something like today would be a perfect thing to talk about, you know, floods and how does that affect aviation and how would it affect them in their dream job in whatever role that might be. So pulling it all together.

And finally, the metacognition. So really, putting that all together and having some time to reflect. So there was a midpoint reflection then, a final reflection at the end of the course.

Again, you can just see some amazing things that they come up with with I would never have even dreamed of you know, doing, but it’s just amazing, you know, you can either write three hundred words or you can be creative. And this is the sort of thing that I get back, which is just really lovely to see.

I’ve touched on bringing you all together. So the self reflection is a really vital part of this whole thing. And I think it’s really lovely to see from the start of the workbook. And when they talk about what they’re they think their dream job is to the end of the work, but where they say, well, I’ve actually learned now x y z. It’s really a lovely reflection to see come to life.

And just a little bit of serious feedback. So I’ve only this course is brand new. I only started running it last year PebblePads brand new for me and in my discipline in aerospace engineering aviation, I’m the only one that uses it. So I’m on a steep learning curve and just finish the semester too and I’ve got lots of little tweaks I wanna make, but I think especially the second one there that This different style of assessment, more practical and tising with graduate employability outcomes, which is excellent.

This sets a new benchmark for what other courses are doing and it’s being used in other programs that other universities. So I think that’s a really lovely feedback, but for me the next step is trying to now get my other academics to bring this in for the whole program. So having it and I’ve heard a few people talk about this today, you know, embedded in you one, year two, year three so that they start with it but they build this portfolio and this portfolio becomes something they can take out to the workforce.

Thank you.