A pathway towards a holistic skills framework in Biomedical Sciences

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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

We report on development of an analytical approach for governing curriculum innovation in Biomedical Sciences (BMS). This approach conceives skills as multidimensional and situational, and recognises the difficulty of meeting the employability agenda from within a higher-education setting.

Our project began with an analysis of the Research Skills Development Framework (Willison & O’Regan, 2007), which provides an appealing structure for enhancing skill development within the undergraduate BMS curriculum. But as we deconstructed this framework, we identified skills that appeared to sit across a number of almost independent skills ‘agendas’, including ‘employability’, life long learning, research and discipline-specific skills. An attempt to map the different agendas and skills onto our curriculum resulted in a number of complex and often poorly defined notions of skills and attributes. The broad generic graduate attribute statements blurred boundaries between hard skills on one hand, and attitudes and behaviours (attributes) on the other, and obscured the underpinning pedagogy around how we define and assess intangible attributes within a higher education setting.

We recognized that skills were complex domains and that simply teaching a skill in one context (e.g. a discipline setting) did not ensure that skill was then transferable (e.g. to the work place). To successfully transfer skills to different contexts required additional learning steps. This paper provides a foundation for re-visualising how personal and academic development is configured within the curriculum, as well as strategies for supporting and assessing skills development and graduate capabilities.

Keywords: Skills framework, employability, transferable skills.