Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Isabella McMurray,
Pat Roberts,
University of Bedfordshire,
Luton, England

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In designing a Psychology curriculum teachers of Psychology in the United Kingdom need to ensure that students are taught the core subject specific areas of Psychology as specified by the British Psychological Society. In addition, the curriculum needs to provide opportunities to foster students’ personal development planning (PDP) skills. There are a variety of interpretations of developing these skills, within an established strong association between PDP skills and graduates future employability. Furthermore a systematic approach to PDP and employability skills is essential as Higher Education institutions are under more pressure than ever to produce graduates with the skills and attributes to compete in the current global workforce. The overall aim of the current research was to assess the skills and competencies identified in the undergraduate psychology curriculum and map these with the skills employers require.

The research involved three phases, firstly to undertake an audit of the key skills recorded in the psychology undergraduate curriculum teaching strategy. This involved mapping the key skill descriptors from each subject with the Quality Assurance Agency Psychology Benchmark descriptors. In the second phase a survey was conducted with 76 Psychology undergraduates to ascertain their perceptions of the skills they considered they had gained during their studies. In the third phase interviews were conducted with 10 employers of Psychology graduates.

Consolidation of the results from the three phases found that within the audit and the student survey that the teaching strategy focused predominately on developing students’ ‘communication skills’. Whereas, ‘Information technology’ and ‘improving own learning’ featured very much as peripheral skills. Career development skills were not explicitly represented in the Psychology teaching strategy, yet available within the University Careers service. The student survey indicated that students could not see a direct relationship between the curriculum and employability skills.

Graduate employers expected that graduates obtaining a good award, defined as Second Class Honours degree (Upper Division) would automatically have a high level of key generic skills, together with a strong sense of self efficacy. However, employers placed great emphasis on the attitudes of graduates towards their future clients or customers arguing that universities need to ensure that students’ self-reflection is directed at examining how they have an impact on those around them, rather than focusing purely on their own future development.

These findings have had a significant impact on the teaching and learning strategy within this psychology department. These have included:

  • Working with the University careers department to produce a developmental and integrated plan for incorporating ‘real world’ skills throughout the undergraduate curriculum.
  • Coherence and direction as important features in the construction of a curriculum so that learning activities can capture the relationship between subject content and employability
  • To have more graduates and employers involved in delivering aspects of the psychology curriculum.

In terms of identifying, developing and embedding employability skills in the curriculum, the findings reveal the need to match those skills that we might assume are being developed in any curriculum with both students’ perceptions of what they are learning and the requirements of employers.

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