The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Developing employability skills have been identified as an Open University priority; there is evidence that these transferable ‘soft’ skills are often limited in science graduates entering the workplace. S285 (Investigative approaches in biology and chemistry), is a new STEM module for 21J which has been designed to closely follow the ‘OU Employability Framework’ enabling students to gain confidence and competence in these skill areas. As part of this, an online journal club (OJC) activity has been embedded into the module which maps to the areas of ‘Core skills and competencies’ and ‘Personal attributes and behaviours’ in particular. OJC has previously been included as an enrichment activity or part of a tutorial programme (S294 Early Start/SXL390/enrichment within science qualification pathways) however this is the first time, in STEM, that OJC has been an embedded assessed activity within a module. The premise for including the OJC was to enhance students presentational/DIL skills in readiness for level 3 study, develop their sense of community within tutor groups and develop their employability skills. Whilst previous internal scholarship studies show that voluntary participation in OJC is closely linked to development of these skills, in S285 students have been asked to engage in OJC activities as part of their assessed coursework, with less autonomy over their engagement.
We intend to use reflective questions from students’ assignments coupled with a student diary (throughout the OJC activity) and student focus groups to evaluate students’ perceptions of OJC particularly focusing on development of skills relevant to the ‘OU Employability Framework’, and the role of OJC in developing a sense of community and increasing student confidence. Additionally, we will use a focus group to gather the ALs’ perspectives of this activity on student behaviour and their own teaching practice.