The perils of skills: Towards a model of integrating graduate attributes into the disciplines

The notion of graduate attributes - a surprisingly enduring idea in Australian higher education over the last decade or so - has been useful as a way of requiring academics and administrators to reflect seriously on the nexus between university learning and the demands that graduates will face in their subsequent professional lives. A potential danger of this movement however, is that increasingly these attributes will be thought of as discrete skills to be developed on courses, with a concomitant downgrading of the role of disciplinary content. Manifestations of such a trend are the emergence in recent years of a variety of extra-disciplinary courses such as ‘professional writing’ and ‘critical thinking’, as well as a lingering interest in the idea of generic skills testing prior to graduation (e.g., Graduate Skills Assessment test). The main argument of this paper is that if the graduate attributes idea is to continue to be a useful one in the framing of university curricula, it is important that effective ways are found to integrate the development of these attributes within the context of the disciplines. We outline one such method – a possible framework for the analysis and creation of assessment tasks – which, we think, has general applicability to learning in any disciplinary setting. The key element of this framework is the notion of ‘role’ – which can be used to explore with students (and also confer on them) a range of academic and professional identities.

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Hough, Brett
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Critiquing and reflecting: LAS profession and Practice. Non-refereed Proceedings from the National Biennial Conference, ANU, Canberra
Milnes, Stephen
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