Parallel 6

Employability & civic engagement

The purpose of the Legal Advice Clinics is to provide students the opportunity to apply their academic learning to the real-world situations of actual clients. In addition, it embeds a positive view of pro bono work and enhances student employability through meaningful and relevant practical work.

However, in a results-based environment, what impact can practical and analytical work have on the academic progress and attainment of students? What patterns can we identify in their exam results? Can these results be linked to the practical nature of their clinic work?

In this presentation, we will evaluate the results of several level-six Keele Law School students. All were self-selecting in two ways: all volunteered to undertake pro bono work within the Legal Advice Clinic, and all chose the elective Commercial Law module. Through anonymised results and tutor evaluation, we hope to show that the commercial work undertaken by these students had a significant effect on their confidence, participation and attainment. This outcome was apparent in three general areas:

  1. within the specific context of the extra-curricular work done within the realm of the clinic;
  2. amongst the community of clinic students;
  3. in the context of academic achievement.

Industrial Chemistry gives 2nd year chemistry students a flavour of the 21st century chemical industry and time to work on employability skills with a reflective diary deliberately designed to be space within a busy semester to take time to reflect and think on career aspirations. Many chemistry students find the designation ‘reflective diary’ off-putting, too many steps removed from the third person passive comfort of scientific writing. Over recent years the reflective diary has evolved into a portfolio of formative careers oriented tasks and reflections, and this year involves a HEA fellowship-esque task replete with ‘professional standards framework’ outlining the skill development opportunities available to students, including workplace relevant digital skills prompted by our shift to online delivery. This gives students ‘CV-ready’ language to articulate the skills they have made progress on, and practice incorporating such language into written responses to prompts. Submission of reflections and return with timely personalised feedback has been a challenge overcome this year by use of OneNote in combination with MS Teams assignments creating a streamlined reflection and feedback cycle for students and staff. This presentation will outline the benefits and areas to develop as we explore digital education further in 2021.

Delivering learning and teaching during a climate emergency offers opportunities to develop essential skills and competencies that students can apply across their professional and personal lives. The global pandemic also highlighted a need for flexible and hybrid learning activities. These areas can be combined to develop graduates with the skills and attributes required for climate resilience and to help contribute to building solutions to the sustainability challenges our society and planet are facing as part of a green recovery.

E:Mission is a text-based online game which was co-created with student-staff and through international collaboration with colleagues at Iowa State University.The game immerses students in an environmental museum in the future, developing sustainability and carbon literacy through mini-games focusing on different aspects of carbon footprints, alongside an overarching narrative. The game was played at Keele and Iowa State by student cohorts, enabling learning to be derived from gameplay. E:Mission can tackle a number of current challenges experienced in HE through offering an online activity which can be played asynchronously, with wraparound activities being used to enable reflection. We will share our learning and reflections on our mission to develop sustainability competencies, carbon and sustainability literacy through developing the E:Mission game.

Reflector: Rob Meredith

Reflections of Parallel 6

Graduate employability remains a focal point for Higher Education. At Keele University, employability and civic engagement forms a part of the Curriculum Design Framework, embedding  employer engagement throughout programme design. In this parallel conference session, Lisa McWilliams, Head of the Careers and Employability Service at Keele University, welcomed delegates and led us into each of the case study presentations focusing on areas of recent development or exploration in education delivery.

The first case study, presented by Sonja Dale and Catherine Edwards, focused on Clinical Legal Education, and the value of a work experience programme which saw students undertaking experiential work as part of the Legal Advice Clinic (2021). Under supervision, students could undertake client focused, task oriented, legal work experience with the aim of enhancing communication skills, boosting self-confidence, closing the skill gap between study and work, and boosting overall cohort employability. 

Mean module assessment results of 12 students involved in the most recent cohort demonstrated that there was a 10% increase on final grade. Module leader, Dr Eliza Varney reported a significant increase in the general cohort’s attainment too. For the first time a final grade 90 was achieved in not just one, but two students, which could be attributed to the experiential learning programme. 

When asked about the scope of the programme for future cohorts, presenters reaffirmed the value, but also the significant commitment in time and resources required. Compliance, in terms of the personal and professional lability was not to be understated. Of the hundreds that apply to take part, 60 of the most talented and committed are allocated a place, split down the middle between two supervising practitioners. 

The next case study, presented by Katherine Haxton, focused on an Industrial Chemistry 2nd year module involving reflective assessment exercises (KIITE, 2021). After providing an overview of the module Katherine discussed the positive impact of the move to digital delivery, necessitated by the onset of the pandemic last year. Having previously experienced difficulty with chemistry students writing reflective pieces, this year’s focus on PAWES (Purpose, Accessibility, Workload, Engagement, Success) supported by online platforms for recording, such as MS Teams and OneNote, saw an improvement in student reflections. 

Part of the assessment involved a group project to create a product which students would then sell through assessed posters and interviews. This provided students the opportunity to learn about finance, planning, marketing, and team-work skills in the context of industry. Despite students not immediately understanding the reasons for these in the wider course context, this was bolstered by reflective diaries. 

The final case study, presented by Sarah Briggs, focused on a research project looking at developing sustainability literacy through game-based learning. This involved the development and evaluation of an open-source text-based game; developed collaboratively by students, with input from Keele University and Iowa State University staff, as well as student-staff from Computing and Mathematics, English Literature, and Geography courses. 

The game itself, Impact on E:Mission, lent from UNESCO sustainability literacy and competencies (Rieckmann, 2018). The idea was to link these competencies to the cognitive, motivational, emotional, and social benefits. Evaluation involved tracking players through the game which called for them to move around a museum solving puzzles, allowing them to gather documents and letters. Using clues to unlock various items, a final code was then revealed to unlock a journal. 

Evaluation of 83 play sessions revealed an increase in the importance attributed to sustainability and an increase in individual’s intention to make sustainable choices. There was also increased awareness of sustainability goals, in which action was seen as an important element in meeting them.  Overall, this equated to a boost in sustainability competency. Additionally, the student-staff involved in game-development were also found to have advanced sustainability competencies themselves. 

Each of these three different presentations, though seemingly disparate in focus and output, each contain pedagogical significance for the integration of diverse experiential and work-based learning. They highlight the paramountcy of work experience embedded in the curriculum, and the need for continual growth in both the offering and mode of delivery. The legal practice module case study demonstrates the academic value in professional practice, whilst the industrial chemistry module case speaks to the value of flexible approaches to traditional assessment practices. Finally Impact on E:Mission signals the next steps in pedagogical innovation with the gamification of education and the value of co-curriculum projects. Together these stands, when pulled together, describe a stronger piece of string, tying together industry-led, research informed, and practice-based learning to the produce a single thread of curriculum based social learning.


Recording: employability and civic engagement