Improving undergraduates’ performance via an embedded generic skills program

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 33 : Reshaping Higher Education

July, 2010, 654 pages
Published by
M. Devlin, J. Nagy and A. Lichtenberg
0 908557 80 9

Government and students expect universities to provide skills, knowledge and attributes that contribute to the country’s and individual’s gain. In 2008, the Bradley Report highlighted deficiencies in this regard, and called for universities to provide quality academic provision, increased student enrolments and higher completion rates. Central to achieving this is the development of generic skills, which provide the foundation through which discipline specific knowledge and skills are demonstrated. Whilst their importance is universally recognised, research into their successful development is limited and shows mixed performance results. This paper aims to contribute to these goals by reporting on the preliminary findings of an embedded intervention program targeting first year management students at Swinburne University of Technology. The program invites students to identify perceived areas of concern in their generic skill sets, which are then used to customise a workshop delivered early in the term as part of their unit. Preliminary analysis shows most students entered the management unit with both high, unrealistic result expectations and significant confidence in their generic skill sets. During the term, both changed, with over 50% finding the embedded program useful. The overall impact of the program on academic results compared to previous years was marginal but insights into specific areas of concern were identified. These may assist those considering implementing generic skill support programs. More research is now needed to identify the parameters of the response needed to bring significant change in performance.

Keywords: generic skills pilot study, improving academic performance