Where am I now and where do I want to be? Developing awareness of graduate attributes in pre-honours students.

Maxine V Swingler, Sarah Armour, Jason Bohan, Heather Cleland-Woods, Gordon B Curry, Archie W N Roy


There is increasing emphasis on the importance of making Graduate Attributes (GAs) explicit to students as part of their degree programme and the role of students themselves in proactively developing GAs. The aim of the present project was to encourage students to actively develop and reflect upon curricular and extra-curricular attributes at an earlier stage in their degree programme. To this end we developed and evaluated short-self-reflection exercises in second year (pre-honours) psychology practical classes which asked students to reflect on their curricular and extra-curricular activities and on how the practical skills gained from these activities are linked to graduate attributes.  Activities were followed by careers workshops focused on gaining confidence in communicating graduate attributes in an interview context, and the benefits of engaging with professional networking sites. We evaluated the impact of these activities on: 1) students’ levels of self-efficacy in specific GAs before and after the in-class exercises; 2) students' confidence in presenting their GAs in an interview situation; 3) student awareness of professional networking sites.  The activities resulted in increased self- efficacy ratings after the GAS reflection, increased confidence in presenting their GAs after the careers workshops, and an increased awareness of professional networking sites. The effectiveness of these activities as a method to increase student engagement in developing their GAs will be discussed in the wider context of embedding GAs and employability in pre-honours programmes across STEM disciplines. 

Keywords: Graduate attributes, employability, self-efficacy, pre-honours, professional networking


Graduate attributes; employability; self-efficacy; pre-honours; professional networking

Full Text:



Akhurst, J. (2005). Enhancing the employability of psychology graduates. York: Higher Education Academy Psychology Network.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Barrie, S. C. (2004). A research‐based approach to generic graduate attributes policy. Higher Education Research & Development, 23(3), 261-275. doi:10.1080/0729436042000235391

Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., Felten, P., Millard, L. & Moore-Cherry, N. . (2016). Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student-staff partnerships. Higher Education, 71, 195-208. doi:10.1007/s10734-015-9896-4

Cheng, M., Pringle Barnes, G., Edwards, C., & Manousos, V. (2015). Transition skills and strategies: self-efficacy Retrieved from: www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk

Cowan, J. C., D. . (2012). The learner’s role in assessing higher level abilities. Practitioner Research in Higher Education, Vol 6, (No 1), 12-22.

Curry, G. B., Copsey, D., Brown, C., Harrison, J., Wightwick, J., Deeley, S., Coupar, S.A., Voute, L., Croudace,R., Woodruff, S., & Campbell, L. (2012). Mahara and reflection to illustrate development of graduate attributes. Paper presented at the 5th Annual University of Glasgow Learning and Teaching Conference: Empowering Student Learners in Higher Education., University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, U.K. http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/learningteaching/events/annuallearningandteachingconference/2012conference/.

Gbadamosi, G., Evans, C., Richardson, M., & Ridolfo, M. (2015). Employability and students’ part-time work in the UK: does self-efficacy and career aspiration matter? British Educational Research Journal, 41(6), 1086-1107. doi:10.1002/berj.3174

Gore, P. A. (2006). Academic self-efficacy as a predictor of college outcomes: Two incremental validity studies. Journal of Career Assessment,, 14, 92-115. doi:doi:10.1177/1069072705281367

Green, W., Hammer, S., & Star, C. (2009). Facing up to the challenge: why is it so hard to develop graduate attributes? Higher Education Research & Development, 28(1), 17-29. doi:10.1080/07294360802444339

Higher Education Academy (2015). Framework for embedding employability-in-Higher Education. Retrieved from www.heacademy.ac.uk/frameworks-toolkits/toolkits

Hugh-Jones, S. S., E. . (2007). Employability: How to maximise the employability of Psychology graduates. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/p20070404_employability_miniproject_final_report.pdf

Morris, S., Cranney, J., Jeong, J. M., Mellish, L. (2013). Developing psychological literacy: Student perceptions of graduate attributes. Australian Journal of Psychology, 65(1), 54-62. doi:10.1111/ajpy.12010

Nicol, D. (2010). The foundation for graduate attributes: developing self regulation through self and peer-assessment. Retrieved from: http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/

O’Leary, S. (2016). Graduates’ experiences of, and attitudes towards, the inclusion of employability-related support in undergraduate degree programmes; trends and variations by subject discipline and gender. Journal of Education and Work, 1-22. doi:10.1080/13639080.2015.1122181

UCAS (2011). Balancing your work and study. Retrieved from https://www.ucas.com/ucas/conservatoires/finance-and-support/managing-money/balancing-work-and-study

University of Glasgow (2016). What are Graduate Attributes? Retrieved from http://www.gla.ac.uk/students/attributes/

Wadkins, T. A., & Miller, R. L. (2011). Structuring the capstone experience in psychology. In E. A. R. L. Miller, B. Marsteller Kowalewski, B. C. Beins, K. D. Keith, & B. F. Peden (Eds.), (Ed.), Promoting student engagement (Vol. Vol. 1: Programs, techniques and opportunities, pp. 95–102). Washington, DC.: Society for the Teaching of Psychology, US.

Wakeham, W. (2016). Wakeham Review of STEM Degree Provision and Graduate Employability. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/518582/ind-16-6-wakeham-review-stem-graduate-employability.pdf

DOI: https://doi.org/10.29311/ndtps.v0i11.580

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
We use both functional and performance cookies to improve visitor experience. Continue browsing if you are happy to accept cookies. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.

New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences

eISSN: 2051-3615