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Teaching and Learning

Graduate Attribute 1: Intellectual Rigour


Intellectual rigour is defined as "a commitment to excellence in all scholarly and intellectual activities, including critical judgement (SCU Graduate Attribute 1)."

Intellectual rigour is having clarity in thinking and an ability to think carefully, deeply and with rigour when faced with new knowledge and arguments. This capability involves engaging constructively and methodically when exploring ideas, theories and philosophies. It also relates to the ability to analyse and construct knowledge with depth, insight and intellectual maturity. A student develops this attribute as part of the challenge of ongoing and systematic study. Intellectual rigour is encouraged for example during an assessment exercise where a debate or discussion occurs about a challenging topic. The challenge for the student is to have the ability to consider other points of view and make a thoughtful argument.

Strategies and Approaches

An example of how intellectual rigour is integrated into teaching practice is found in the post graduate course, Master of Osteopathic Medicine. An assessment asks students to write a report on the historical basis of osteopathic practice. To do this task, they have to research the literature, old and new and exercise critical thinking and judgement about the reliability of their research. They must understand the nature of evidence based practice, within the context of a historical legacy. Students must construct a critical evaluation of different kinds of evidence, analyse concepts and make judgements about their relevance to the potential development of their osteopathic practice. The assessment calls upon their intellectual rigour and critical judgement.

The table below highlights how this Graduate Attribute relates to unit learning outcomes, and demonstrates relevant learning strategies.

Learning Outcome and Intellectual Rigour (GA1)Assessment Task Examples

Learning Outcome: employ critical judgement and critical thinking in creating new understanding

Critical reflection activity:

  • Interpret and analyse relevant industry standards for own professional context

Learning Outcome: demonstrate an ability to apply legal research results to solve legal problems.

Research paper:

  • You receive a memo from the principal solicitor at the firm at which you are employed. Using the information in the memo and your legal research skills address the issues and work towards a constructive solution.

Further Reading

There have been several projects investigating graduate attributes, their integration and applicability in university curricula and teaching practice.


Understanding academic staff beliefs about graduate attributes project (B Factor) 2009

This study found that staff acknowledged the importance of Graduate Attributes but had a lack of confidence about how to integrate them into teaching practice in a meaningful way.

Increasing institutional success in the integration and assessment of graduate attributes across the disciplines by identifying academic staff beliefs about graduate attributes

The National Graduate Attributes Project (GAP) 2009

This project reported on the critical role of academic understanding of graduate attributes, and how this is essential to effective incorporation.

Integration and assessment of graduate attributes in curriculum

A National Teaching Fellowship on Assuring Graduate Capabilities: Evidencing levels of achievement for graduate employability fellowship 2011

This fellowship, led by Bev Oliver, looked at capabilities (attributes) and developed a range of resources to ensure graduate capability. This was followed by Good practice Report: Assuring Graduate Outcomes (2011).

Assuring Graduate Capabilities