Perception of academic learning environments and perceived impact on articulation of employability skills; a mixed methods study

Catherine Hayes, Siobhan Devlin, Diane Westwood, Iain Garfield, Philip Beardmore, David Archer, Michael Collins, Lewis Bingle


This study reports on the findings of a mixed methods study that was undertaken to establish student perceptions of academic learning environments and the perceived impact of these on their articulation of employability skills. This was so student perspectives on employability could be used to inform reflection on pedagogic practices for their educators in higher education. Using a purposive sample of 250 students based in a recently modernised Sciences Complex Building in a Higher Education Institution (HEI), the study was cross sectional and descriptive by design. The social learning spaces researched were perceived by participants to provide optimal academic learning environments for their development of knowledge, skills and professionalism through certain signature pedagogies as they progressed through their programmes of study. Students also expressed the view that their acquisition of functional skills were significantly more important than any personal attributes/characteristics that they brought to programmes. What also mattered was whether the importance of certain graduate skills to the workplace had been made explicit to them so that they could see the relevance of their studies to practice. In defining 'graduateness', in employability terms the research concluded that it was necessary to consider how it was shaped by the context of delivery of subject disciplines, stages of academic progression, and the use of social learning spaces, as they all had a significant impact on the perceptions students held about their potential employability upon completion of their academic programmes.


learning environments; employability; signature pedagogies; situated cognition; problem based learning

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ISSN: 1759-667X