I primarily teach in a third-year psychology class. Some of our students go on to complete postgraduate study to become clinical psychologists or psychology researchers. But many (probably most) of them go on to a job where they draw on the transferable skills they have gained through their psychology degree as much as or more than the content knowledge they gained. For this reason, in recent years we have worked on our course to draw more direct connections to Victoria’s Graduate profile. The graduate profile describes the ”attributes students should have when they graduate”. In other words the graduate profile describes the overarching, transferable skills that students gain through their university study.
In our third-year course we particularly focused on the attributes critical thinking, creative thinking, and communication. We made links between course content and these attributes more explicit by sign-posting them to the students using simple icons. Each time we described how a researcher had found a creative solution to a research problem, for example, we highlighted this with the “creative thinking” icon. This was a great idea that I got from a colleague in biology who had used sign-posts to good effect. We know that when we added sign-posts students were statistically significantly more likely to say on course evaluation forms that the course helped them develop these skills.
We hope (but need further research to demonstrate) that signposting helps students identify and describe the skills that they have gained through their degree to potential employers. I suspect that many of them have markedly developed their critical thinking, communication, and creative thinking skills over their degree but nevertheless primarily view their degree as providing content knowledge. This might mean that they do not do a good job of articulating the key transferable skills they do have to employers who value these skills. Our goal with sign-posting was to help them identify and describe the transferable skills they have learnt through our course. I also recommend to students that they read the university’s graduate profile (many of them have never heard of it!) when job hunting because the profile provides examples of terms and phrases that can help to communicate the skills they do have to employers in a way that makes it clear that those skills are transferable rather than discipline-bound.
Information literacy is also a crucial transferable skill that encompasses critical thinking, creative thinking, and communication. The Victoria Graduate profile also includes “demonstrate intellectual integrity and understands the ethics of scholarship” as an attribute. Thus the profile encompasses many key information literacy skills – it does not use this term explicitly however. Similarly, the Massey graduate profile encompasses many information literacy skills – critical thinking, communication and engagement, and independence and integrity, for example. Interestingly the Otago graduate profile does explicitly mention Information Literacy which it defines as the “ability to apply specific skills in acquiring, organising, analysing, evaluating and presenting information, in particular recognising the increasing prominence of digital-based activity”
I wonder whether it makes a difference to students where we help them to identify and describe the crucial information literacy skills they do have using the term Information Literacy. Does it help them feel more confident in their IL skills? Communicate them to employers? Or does it not matter exactly what words they use to communicate their IL skills? From the national IL survey we are conducting as part of this project we will be able to better understand what skills teachers and librarians identify and describe as “information literacy” and whether this relates to how highly they value these skills and invest time in supporting them in their students. I look forward to seeing what the data tell us.