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Preparing students for a graduate job using authentic assessments

19 Jan 2024 | Otermans, PCJ; Baines, S In advance of the publication of ‘Lighting the Labyrinth: Enhancing Student Success through the 3Es’, the new case study collection from Advance HE, Dr Pauldy Otermans and Dr Stephanie Baines, both Senior Lecturers in Psychology at Brunel University London, share their thoughts on how assessments can be used in an authentic way to prepare students for the graduate world.

The job market is an ever-changing environment and can be difficult to navigate for our current study cohorts. In addition, for many students their career path following graduation is not clear and there are multiple avenues they can follow. Therefore, it is our responsibility to prepare our students in the best way possible to the many opportunities they may pursue following their studies.  

Transferable skills 

One way to do this is by ensuring we equip them with a comprehensive set of transferable skills. This can be done in many different ways, ie in teaching sessions, outside of the curriculum, and their assessments. In our project featured in 'Lighting the Labyrinth: Enhancing Student Success through the 3Es’, the new case study collection from Advance HE, we focus on adapting our assessments to be more authentic. This leads us to the following research question: how can we incorporate elements of authenticity into our assessments to ensure our students have the right skills, knowledge and experience to best prepare them for the ever-changing graduate workplace and the variety of jobs students get into? 

Embedding authenticity 

Our approach is based on Gulikers, Bastiaens, & Kirschner (2004) framework on authentic assessments.  

The five dimensions of this framework are:  

1) Assessment task: this is what the students are producing.  

2) Physical context: an assessment in which the knowledge, skills and attitudes used in professional practice are well reflected. This includes fidelity, the number and kinds of resources available and the time available.  

3) Social context: this relates to the social interactivity in the assessment and how these resemble the level of interactivity (or not) of the real-world task. Here, we can distinguish between collaborative tasks and individual tasks. 

4) Assessment result or form: this is the actual output of the assessment (ie the product) which is independent of the process of producing the assessment.  

5) Assessment criteria: these are the areas that the students will be assessed on. 

These five dimensions allow us fine-grained detail, however, sometimes it is helpful to condense this to two dimensions, namely product (the output produced) and process (the steps taken to produce the output). We created a questionnaire to quantify each assessment based on these dimensions for ease of comparison across years and progammes of study.  

We can (and did) use product and process to identify areas on a programme level where assessment strategy lacked diversity. Some examples of our authentic assessments include:  

  • a visual presentation where students are required to combine the knowledge they gained about brain anatomy and cognition to create a visual presentation (eg infographic, tiktok-style video, gif);  
  • a poster presentation where students create a poster based on a research article and present this in the style of a conference poster presentation;  
  • a dyslexia assessment, using the knowledge they gained in the module, students will be provided with a case study, and they must assess what is happening with the patient and develop a treatment plan. 

This approach allowed us to review the assessments in our Psychology undergraduate programme using a programme-level approach. To conclude, embedding authenticity in the programme is key for students' development of transferable skills that are needed in the workplace.  

The fifth publication linked to Advance HE's Employability Symposia, ‘Lighting the Labyrinth: Enhancing Student Success through the 3Es’, brings together over 20 examples of sector practice regarding Employability, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. It will be published on 25 January 2024.


Employability Symposium 2024: Distilling The 3Es: ‘What works – and what doesn’t’ 

This event on 25 April will provide a space to discuss and share latest practices in embedding employability among a network of peers. Find out more.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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