Students as Partners in Developing Employability Skills

This example relates to an optional module for up to 400 Business School students that covers the various stages of the application and selection process for those seeking a placement.  It discusses some of the ways in which students can be used as partners in the teaching process.

What did you do? Why did you do it?

Undertaking a placement can increase graduate employability and academic performance. However, the placement application and section process is challenging, with students applying to around fifteen companies before they are successful in being offered a placement. Moreover, students have to balance their time with learning and practising application and selection techniques, doing in-depth research about the company and sector, and balancing this with their full-time studies. There are also particular selection processes that students find especially difficult such as the recorded video interview.

Since inheriting the module some years ago, I have been actively engaging Students as Partners from different taxonomic levels using different methods.  For example, in the synchronous introductory workshop or in an asynchronous video, post-placement (year 4) students provide an overview of the placement, their experience of applying for placements, and other aspects of their placement such as applying for placements from an international student perspective. Also, current placement students deliver company-led workshops focusing on aspects of the application process such psychometric tests.

What was the impact of your practice and how have you evaluated it?

Using Students as Partners in terms of teaching delivery and content can help to promote students’ practical knowledge of the placement application and selection process. It has helped demystify what can be a complex process and promoted their confidence, resilience and networking skills. The provision of relatable examples can increase students’ sense of belonging.  The number of students gaining a placement has risen from 153 (2015-2016) to 226 (2019-2020).  Positive evaluation scores in relation to the module being informed by practice, material taught being relevant and teaching staff enthusiasm.  Qualitive feedback includes

it was nice to get advice from students who had actually done my course and got a placement.

How could others benefit from this example?

Literature recognises the breadth and substantial benefits of Students as Partner initiatives.  I have adapted Cook-Sather, Bovill & Felten’s (2014) ‘Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty’ collection of benefits of Students as Partners in relation to the module:

  • Engagement – by seeing students, some who also attended the same University and School that are just one to a few years above the students enrolled on the module motivates them as they act as role models and serve as a way of building their aspirations.
  • Enhancement – students feel more connected in terms of understanding what others have gone through in terms of facing rejection and ensures currency of information.
  • Awareness – getting honest advice from students or Alumni who undertook successfully gained a placement, deepens understanding of complex application processes and builds resilience.

With Students as Partners growing in prominence, the example of how to utilise this method in teaching is transferable to other modules and schools.

Further reading:

Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C. & Felten, P. (2014) Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Author:

Louisa Hill, Associate Professor, l.hill@leeds.ac.uk, Leeds University Business School