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A case study examining Graduate Attribute implementation in a Higher Education Institute department and its Further Education college partners. Transformative education or ‘ticking the box’?

HINDMARCH, Duncan (2018) A case study examining Graduate Attribute implementation in a Higher Education Institute department and its Further Education college partners. Transformative education or ‘ticking the box’? Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

The development of Graduate Attributes (GAs) in higher education institutions (HEIs) around the world has contributed to its reorientation towards explicitly developing graduate level employability within a competitive globalised market (Kalfa and Taksa, 2015). Underpinning GAs is the contested view that such generic skills can be transferred outside learners’ subject expertise (Hughes and Barrie, 2012; Barnett, 2012). Key proponent Simon Barrie argues that GA implementation requires institution-wide transformation; changing approaches to teaching, assessment, quality and stakeholder engagement (Barrie, 2004; 2006; Hughes and Barrie, 2012). However, numerous problems relating to GA implementation have been identified, including differing conceptual viewpoints (Barrie, 2004; 2012), poor management and inconsistent application (De la Harpe and David, 2012; Bond et al., 2017). Additionally, resistance to change, defined by Starr (2011, p.647) as, “…negative actions and non-actions, ill will and resentment, and defensive or confrontational dispositions.”, was identified as a key hindrance to GA implementation by Jackson and Wilton (2016).
Currently, GA investigations have tended to debate the extent to which they develop personal, social and employability skills of young full-time undergraduate learners about to embark on their careers. This exploratory case study contributes to the field of knowledge by focusing on ‘non-traditional’ learners whose voice has yet to be considered within GA literature. It therefore gives voice learners who are mature, part-time and already employed within their chosen career sector (education), studying a degree either at an HEI or Further Education College (FEC). The study considers the extent to which such attributes hold relevance for their personal, academic and professional development needs.
The case study is framed through Barrie’s (2006) identification of systemic factors involved in GA institutional transformation. These have been simplified to focus on four lenses for the study: conceptualisation, strategic implementation, facilitation and quality. Data was gained through a documentary search, interviews with HE and FE based managers and lecturers as well as a scoping questionnaire which informed learner focus groups from each of the institutions.
The study found that the featured HEI had faced GA implementation difficulties commonly identified in research based in Australia and New Zealand (Hughes and Barrie, 2010; Bond et al., 2017), thus contributing to the body of research suggesting that problems may transcend national systems. Distinctively, the findings from within FEC settings revealed additional problems not identified in previous GA studies; policy clashes between the institutions, unaddressed training and support needs and conflicting dual roles for lecturers.
The study advocates the need for greater stakeholder involvement, including FEC partners, in GA formation to make them genuinely represent the ethos of an institution as was envisaged in their initial iteration (Bowden et al., 2000). In this respect, institutions need to give serious consideration to the appropriacy of such a policy for all undergraduates rather than just full-time learners. In terms of implementation, leadership grit and institutional resilience is required. This should acknowledge that genuine transformative change requires and a systematic, consistent and long-term approach which includes transparent reflective evaluation to inform future development. Further research emanating from this work will relate to policy implementation barriers between universities and their FEC partners as well as the extent to which HEI policies and education measurement metrics represent education values espoused by mature, employed, part-time learners.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Education
Depositing User: Jeffrey HENSON
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2018 13:02
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:50

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