Questions of outcomes: Generic skills and attributes and the transfer of learning

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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

Pressure from government and industry has seen Australian and New Zealand universities join an international trend of universities demonstrating their contribution to the knowledge economy and to their nation’s international competitiveness through projects such as the articulation of graduate attributes and generic skills outcomes. Critics identify the weak theoretical basis, poor conceptualisation of the desired attributes and skills, and the lack of empirical research justifying these projects. The criticisms are sufficient to undermine the claims implicit in institutional graduate profiles of generic skills and attributes. This paper makes links between generic skills and attributes for graduates and research on transfer of learning. In addition to discussing the literature, the paper provides insights from a study of a group of business students. The findings discussed in this paper related to one dimension of a wider study of student perceptions of transfer of learning of generic skills from their degree studies to their everyday lives. The data reported here is drawn from interviews with 30 students. The findings give support to possibility of the transfer of learning of generic skills, and also to calls to reconceptualise transfer of learning as preparation for future learning (PFL).

Keywords: transfer of learning, generic skills, graduate attributes