Enhancing Students’ Confidence in Employability Skills through the Practice of “Recall, Adapt and Apply”

  •  Alison J. Sinclair    


The ability to apply prior knowledge to new challenges is a skill that is highly valued by employers, but the confidence to achieve this does not come naturally to all students. An essential step to becoming an independent researcher requires a transition between simply following a fail-safe set of instructions to being able to adapt a known approach to solve a new problem. Practical laboratory classes provide an ideal environment for active learning, as the primary learning objective of these teaching sessions is to gain skills. However, laboratory handbooks can be presented as a series of fail-safe recipes. This aids the smooth running of practical classes but misses the opportunity to promote engagement with the underlying theory and so develop confidence in recalling approaches and adapting them to a new problem. To aid the development of employability skills, a practical laboratory series was developed for Bioscience teaching that requires on-the-spot decision-making, the recall of skills and their adaptation to new challenges. After using this approach, the proportion of student’s expressing a high level of confidence with each of eight key employability skills rose by between 9 and 35% following the practical sessions, showing that the approach of recalling, adapting then applying prior knowledge and skills can increase the confidence that students have in their employability related skills. The approach was developed for use within biological sciences practical laboratories but the principles can be adapted to any discipline involving project work.

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