In this post, Ros Claase, Rona Doig and Pauline Ferguson, explain how a PTAS-funded project helped them complete a skills-mapping exercise across all of the Edinburgh Business School’s undergraduate courses…
We all know how important it is for our students and graduates to be able to articulate the skills that they have developed over the course of their degree programmes. In the Business School, we recognised that we weren’t always making it easy for students to decipher where and how they were developing these skills, both in and beyond their taught curricula.
In Summer 2014, the Business School established its Student Development Team, whose remit was then to support the professional skills development of our MSc students. Working in close collaboration with the MSc Programme Directors, the team began to look at how and where particular skills, in particular those articulated through the University’s Graduate Attributes, were being developed and supported, both in the taught programmes, and through co-curricular activities within the school. The programme team have developed skills matrices, which are reviewed and refreshed annually, and are shared with new MSc students during their Welcome Week. These matrices provide the cornerstone of the Business School’s MSc Edinburgh Award in Professional Development.
The students assess themselves against these skills at the beginning of Semester One, with a view to developing three skills of their choice and personal priority through the structures, framework and support of the Edinburgh Award. The MSc Edinburgh Award in Professional Development now has 216 students actively participating, making it one of the most successful versions of the Award currently offered within the university. It is cited as a reason for choosing the University of Edinburgh Business School. Through the peer networks that the structures of the award facilitate, we find that it helps strengthen the bonds and relationships within and across the Programmes and the school, as well as enhancing students’ confidence and belief in their skills. Some of our most engaged recent alumni are former participants in the Award, and contribute to group input sessions as part of the Award, as well as other student experience initiatives within the school.
Mapping the skills across a set of discrete MSc programmes could largely be delivered by partnership working between the Student Development team and the relevant Programme Directors. When it came to the Undergraduate Programmes, which are structured and managed differently, in addition to being at greater scale, we needed to take a different approach. Using the evidence of the impact of the PGT skills mapping exercise, and its subsequent value to the professional development of our students, in 2016 we submitted a Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme application. This funded the time to undertake a mapping exercise across all of our undergraduate courses. One of our newly appointed academics, and now a Senior Teaching Fellow in Marketing, Dr Pauline Ferguson, took on this work in 2017.
Through this mapping work, which looked at course documentation and learning outcomes, we have been able to identify where we believe certain skills are actively being developed in the curriculum, and if they are connected to the stated learning outcomes. The mapping exercise has also provided teaching leadership with a good picture of how comprehensively we currently support skills development in the taught curriculum and where there may be particular gaps in our provision, which in turn can inform discussions around course developments and programme design. This has been a helpful prompt to ensure skills and graduate attributes are reported upon, and robustly discussed, in course development.
In due course, we hope that the UG matrix can be shared with students in the same way as we do for our MSc students, as a way of supporting their own reflection and articulation of their professional skills development over the progression of their four year degree. We also intend to conduct an assessment mapping exercise across all courses, in order to explore how these skills are – or could be – assessed as part of the taught programme.
We still have some work ahead of us to ensure that we are truly able to provide students with the greatest clarity on how, where, when and why they are being able to develop professional skills over the course of their degree with us. We hope that once we have been able to do so, our students will graduate knowing how far they have come since joining the school.
You can read the full PTAS report here.