Building the graduate capabilities of students in the Master of Professional Accounting through a skills development approach to assessment

You are here

Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

Student achievement of graduate capabilities, beyond discipline-based knowledge, leads to enhanced employability (Oliver, 2013). This paper reports on a coordinated, integrated, and intentional approach to a course to constructively align teaching, learning and assessment practices (Biggs, 2007) to enhance the graduate capabilities of students in Monash University’s Master of Professional Accounting. The process aligns the course curriculum with the skills statements in a number of governing frameworks: the AQF, Monash Graduate Attributes and Threshold Learning Outcomes for Accounting. Built into this alignment process is a close relationship to the professional associations. Students become cognizant of their skill development and can articulate and demonstrate their capabilities to potential employers.

The assessment mapping of the course exposed potential gaps in the skills development of students. These gaps were addressed by challenging lecturers to make changes to teaching and learning activities in their units, including assessment tasks and criteria- based rubrics (Sadler, 2005), in order to position core skills development activities strategically throughout the course. Such pedagogical review and renewal ensures skills development is scaffolded and explicit. The outcome is that students now follow a pathway through the course where professional skills such as critical thinking, problem- solving and professional communication are learned, practiced and assessed.

This paper shares how changes made to a final semester unit in the program have resulted in enhanced student performance, experience and employability. The unit provides students with the opportunity to develop and demonstrate graduate capabilities including written communication, knowledge, research skills and judgment in ‘authentic’ assessments that emulate the tasks required of recent graduates in the workplace. Student experience is enhanced as the expectations for demonstrating these capabilities become visible and accessible. Assessment redesign for this project is underpinned by pedagogy for sustainability, considered to be a driver of students’ lifelong learning (Boud, 2000 and 2007). The paper presents the project findings and recommendations for program-based change to learning and teaching for incremental skills development.

Keywords: constructive alignment, skills development, authentic assessment