Co-curricular career development in Sciences

Gayle Brent, Griffith University

Gayle Brent, Orientation and Transition Coordinator from Griffith University on ‘Co-curricular Career Development.’ in Science. This recording is from our 2022 Brisbane, 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.


Okay. Do I really need to use this microphone? Yes.

Oh, I’m so bad at microphones.

Okay. So I’m gonna save us all some time and actually just say, what Sally said. Thank you very much.

No. I’m kidding, of course, but everything Sally said really resonated for me.

And is a lot of what I’ve tried to do with the Griffith sciences plus program, and plus has been the platform that we’ve used to actually embed a range of employability initiatives within the different programs in the sciences. Group. So if I’ve not met you, I work as a learning and teaching consultant with a particular focus on employability and within the sciences group at Griffith University.

Well, I can never use these either.

You’re giving me all kinds of challenges.

What do I do?

Oh, There you go. Okay. So there is no silver bullet. Is the silver bullet just ahead? Maybe.

But I think we need to acknowledge that there isn’t a one size fits all, and so my approach is not about a silver bullet. It’s about a a bronze silver gold approach, so a range of different initiatives at different levels for different students.

I think that one of the broad conversations we’ve been having today is about the transferability of schools. Skills, whatever you want to call those. So we’ve talked about transversal skills, employability skills, enterprise skills, all of those things. But one of the the potential problems I think that we have is that we assume transfer happens.

And that’s not necessarily the case for our students. So we know that they’ve developed problem solving skills in context of a particular assignment in their curriculum, and that means they actually have these skills to take with them out to the workplace, and we assume the student will understand how to make that transfer happen, but it doesn’t happen in that way. So we really do need to think more about how we build this reflective capability into the curriculum and in other programs which we do in plus. Because this actually empowers the student to think about the skills they’ve developed in whatever context, and then to actually identify how they can transfer those skills across into other programs.

Oh, how do I go back now?

Goodness sake.

I don’t know.

Give me a microphone and give me a clicker, and I’m absolutely lost. I just need to be able to eat with my hands. And you’ve given me something to hold. There’s fine. You’ve given me something to hold in both hands. So it’s it’s awesome.

Okay. So, one click. You go.

The portfolio for me is a really important tool, where we can actually allow students to think very broadly and very creatively about their experience The other thing that I truly believe about employability is that we’re not focused solely on what students do within their discipline and within their curriculum.

We have students who have such broad life experiences. We don’t know what they did before they came to Uni. We don’t necessarily know what they’re doing while they’re studying. So we need to provide this platform for them to actually be able to record all of their experiences that allows them to integrate their skills, their discipline knowledge, and their transferable skills, or whatever you want to call them.

In a way that they then can feel confident to articulate those skills to employers, and more importantly, to actually be able to apply those skills once they get the job. So that for me is where this record keeping process is is incredibly important, and of course that’s where the portfolio comes in. So Carol introduced that I was going to speak about a co curricular program. So in the sciences group, we have a program called Griffith Sciences Plus, which is quite literally professional learning for university students.

It’s a very simple process for students to engage in plus. Step one, they come to workshops. At the moment, I run these online, and that actually works really well for a co curricular program because it means students can fit it in. Around their other commitments, and I record all of the workshops so they can cut up afterwards if they can’t make it in person.

After each workshop, so the four orange squares.

I guess, at the top there, indication of the four workshops students attend at that bronze level. After each workshop, they write a reflection.

They do the same thing at the silver level, four more workshops, four more reflections.

Now importantly, in a co curricular program, we need to try to keep students motivated to come because they’re they’re opting in. They come by choice.

And one way that I do that, when they’ve reflected on it workshop and identified what is important to them, I actually then provide feedback.

So after every single workshop, they’ll get something from me that affirms that I’ve read their reflection. I’ve acknowledged that they have picked out the things that are important for them. And usually, I give, you know, it’s very positive, but I also write an individual comment as well. Now, I wanted to highlight here that this is actually embedded within the form in pebblepad or within the template.

So because this is a co curricular program, it’s only me running it. I needed to really streamline this process. So while I find the comment bank in Pebblepad very, very useful and the and the feedback panel, For the purpose of this program, I’ve put it directly into the template because it means I can read, I can quickly tick off a a feedback rubric and place a comment, and then move on. Okay?

So that’s something that evolved over time to really use the functionality of PebblePad. Again, I’ve also included now a checklist at the top. So this becomes a single point of truth.

Not only for me, but for the students. So as soon as they open up their template, they can see what I’ve looked at. So the ones in bold, I’ve obviously ticked off that the student has achieved at that level.

I can also produce a beautiful Excel spreadsheet out of this, which allows me to filter. So I can see who’s at bronze level? Who’s at silver level? Has someone done a reflection that I haven’t reviewed yet. Do I need to go and have a look for that? So this functionality is actually amazing to keep this co curricular opt in program moving really quickly.

Step three in How to Plus is to unlock rewards.

All of the rewards are linked to that career development. So it’s a review of resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and ultimately the portfolio at the gold level.

So again, over time, over evolved this PebblePad workbook, you can see it’s very large. You can see all the all the tabs across the top, and each of those tabs, of course, has a big menu item. But one thing I did do recently is actually take the rewards page out to a separate page. I’ve included this option so that I can see where students have made updates.

Again, using the functionality. So at a glance, do I need to have another look at this student’s measurement? So it becomes very manageable, Again, I’ve embedded the feedback, and this is more about motivational feedback. So it’s really about how to improve suggested areas for tips.

Tips to improve.

The additional feedback resume resume feedback there, these are the comments I just was typing over and over again. Rather than typing them over and over again, I put them in a nice interactive table within the the space where the student has submitted their resume, and I can very quickly provide that feedback. That’s just about managing my time. And then, of course, I can always add extra comments, so that’s just more examples of that.

So science plus, as a whole, it’s the bronze silver and gold approach. It picks up the fact that students are at different levels, they can choose areas to focus on and areas to action based on each of the workshops through that reflective practice.

At gold level, they do actually produce a portfolio and it becomes very self directed at that point. They’re required to pull in all of their experiences but also to relate those to the relevant industry competency framework for their particular industry. And in the STEM disciplines, pretty much all of our disciplines do have a competency framework. So at gold level students are actually earning digital badges in engineering plus ICT plus, environment plus, and so on. Okay. So we’re really connecting what they’re doing to the expectations of industry. And having them reflect the language to to evidence their skills and experiences.

That one’s just a slide showcasing some of the students celebrating their achievements on LinkedIn, so it really is very meaningful for them when they achieve either bronze silver or gold at all levels they’ll celebrate on LinkedIn.

Is it the silver bullet?

I think it works really well. I don’t think it’s a one size fits all. So very quickly in my last two minutes.

We’ve drawn from the plus program and the multiple resources that I developed over time. To actually embed employability in our degree programs. And each of these has very different needs as well. So in engineering, It’s about managing career development in a program that’s very highly structured and accredited. So a very linear kind of pathway.

Fully embedded from first to final year linked to engineering plus.

In science, it’s a bit different. Because it’s a much it’s more of a what they call a generalist degree, but there are many different pathways students can take. So part of the way we’ve addressed that is to embed different kinds of activities.

Activities where students can explore what their potential outcomes might be based on their study, because they don’t have that same kind of linear trajectory that somebody in engineering might expect.

So, again, it’s connected to the science threshold learning outcomes. And because of the structure, we do all of that in first year.

And using the pebblepad workbooks, we’re actually delivering these assessments.

To, you know, up to five hundred and eighty students in a single course, and there are at least two embedded in every trimester. So that’s a big number of student who are completing these assessments.

And then the last one there is how to be a planner.

So in planning, my I’ve worked very closely with a colleague Kimberly Reese to actually develop a workbook where there’s a very holistic approach to employability.

So not only the alignment with the Planning Institute of Australia competencies, but also, you know, the make vice bender program, cultural competence, connections to first peoples and so on. And students explore all of this in a a very comprehensive portfolio workbook where each stage is actually released to them as they need it. So it’s quite a lot of activity.

You can see with the menus there how extensive it is, but we don’t release that all in one go. We re release that progressively for students. So it’s really allowing them to scaffold their skills and and capability in that space.

So maybe the silver bullet’s at the next exit. Who knows?

Thank you.



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