Career Development Planning


Teaching the Career Development Planning course, a compulsory non-credit bearing course for second year undergraduates in the Business School, has its challenges.  The student cohort is large and diverse with students at all stages of career planning.  A key challenge is meeting the needs of students and getting them to see the course as relevant to them, rather than just “going through the motions”.  Added in to the mix is that lectures are delivered over lunchtime!

There are benefits too; perhaps the biggest being exposure to the entire undergraduate cohort and the opportunity to impress on them the importance of taking responsibility for their career planning in a time of uncertainty amid a dynamic labour market.

The course has run for many years and reviewing previous years’ course evaluations and submissions highlighted a number of key issues and I thought that changing my approach to assessment and feedback could address these.  Issues included poor attendance at lectures (well would you give up your lunch hour?!) and a small but significant failure rate.

So what did I do?

Students have always been required to submit an individual career action plan but this year I changed my approach to feedback on this assessment and I introduced a new assessment, a group labour market project.  Gibbs (2006) discusses the importance of feedback in the learning process and I felt this was particularly relevant here as there is no one right way to approach career planning and the concept of “career” is so subjective.  Through providing more formative feedback I hoped to demonstrate the elements of a good action plan and how to make a good action plan better, thus equipping students with skills for lifelong career management and increasing their chances of achieving their goals.

I introduced students to the action plan by showing exemplars of what success could look like and then I invited students to submit drafts to me for feedback.  This was useful for both me and the students as it highlighted a number of issues with the action plans (including lack of clarity around actions to be taken and timescales for completion) which I could then address through formative feedback with the whole class in lectures and announcements on Learn, before final submissions.

I also introduced some peer feedback in recognition of the diversity of the student cohort.  I made time in the lectures for students to work in small groups and give each other constructive feedback and share experiences and ideas before final submissions.  Brophy (2010) makes an important point in discussing the role of feedback in motivating students to learn and again I hoped that my change in approach to feedback on this assessment could encourage more students to engage in the course and with the assessments.

With the group labour market project my aim was to make the assessment more relevant to the students (they will be entering the labour market at some point in the future after all) and to embrace the concept of students as co-creators of knowledge. Groups were allocated sectors of the labour market to research and at the end of the course their reports shared with the whole class so that students would have a bank of up to date knowledge about the labour market.

So what was the result?

Well so far so good! I saw a significant improvement in lecture attendance this year and a lower attrition rate as the course progressed.  This year only a handful of students failed the action plan assessment, a significant improvement on previous years and all the groups passed the labour market research project. I’m still collating the groups’ reports to share with the whole class but I have been impressed with the amount of effort they put into the project and the thoughtful submissions I received, in particular students’ thoughts around how trends in technology and globalisation are likely to impact on different sectors of the labour market.

Changing my approach to assessment and feedback on this course has been incredibly useful, it’s helping students to create effective career action plans and take control of their futures and to learn about the labour market and the diverse range of opportunities available to them after graduation.


Brophy, J. (2010): Motivating students to learn 3rd edition London: Routledge

Gibbs, G. (2006): How assessment frames student learning in C. Bryan and K. Clegg (eds) Innovative Assessment in Higher Education London: Routledge pp28-30

Rebecca Valentine

Rebecca Valentine is a Careers Consultant in the University of Edinburgh Careers Service and works with students in the Business School and School of Informatics.  She has worked in careers and employability for 15 years and prior to joining the University in 2009 she worked as a careers adviser in secondary schools in Cumbria.  She has a special interest in career education and as part of her role she teaches a compulsory second year undergraduate course, ‘Career Development Planning’, in the Business School

One comment

  1. Fabulous initiative. More universities should adopt this kind of approach. Students are left largely with little clue of what they want to do once they finish their course. This gives them, if not a clearer idea, at least a starting point and gets them thinking about their career.

    Re the course itself, it probably worked better thanks to the project management aspect of it, with the feedback along the way and choosing examples of success stories. Either way, great work. And keep blogging about your initiatives.

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