Case study author: Dr Katherine Haxton
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Natural Sciences
CDF Framework: Authentic Assessment, Employability and Civic Engagement
In 2nd year, single honours and MChem students can choose a module on industrial chemistry. We look at the chemistry of industrial processes, how they have changed and must change to become more sustainable, and how the chemistry of technology works. There is a strong theme of environmental sustainability in the module and emphasis on skills development, this time focusing on skills for careers. The major piece of coursework is a project to design a product that could be made by a small chemistry company and helps you develop workplace skills and knowledge such as team working, finance, legal aspects and patents, health and safety, project planning, and designing a programme of research. This is complimented by a set of activities focussed on recruitment practices like assessment centres, application forms, and presentation skills, and opportunity to reflect on career development.
The module evolved from our Sustainable Chemistry - there was too much content for one 15 credit unit and so we created the 2nd year Industrial Chemistry as a focus for developing employability skills through authentic assessment, and to develop chemical ideas in the context of the global chemical industry. There was a clear need to provide more opportunities to give individual and group oral presentations within the degree, and to create an opportunity to write for a business audience through the group project.
Students have appreciated an opportunity to engage with careers focussed learning opportunities. The group project remains a bit of a love/hate experience although module feedback indicates most students appreciate it even if not all like it. Reflective writing linked to employability skills has encouraged many students to take time to think more deeply about the opportunities they need to find to support their future development.
This is still a work in progress - running for over 5 years.
Providing a specific space within the curriculum for students to take time and consider careers and the necessary skills is essential to building an inclusive and accessible education experience: many students simply do not have the time to balance their lives outside of study with the demands of their curriculum and take up all the opportunities afforded to them through co-curricular experiences. A minimum provision of careers space and time within the curriculum should be standard practice. Reflective writing, while hard to begin with, is an excellent way to support students for application processes and interviews and one that is broadly transferrable.