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Teaching and Learning

Graduate Attributes 6: Communication and Social Skills

Overview

Communication and social skills is defined as "the ability to communicate and collaborate with individuals, and within teams, in professional and community settings (SCU Graduate Attribute 6)."

The ability to communicate clearly and to work well in a team setting is critical to sustained and successful employment. Good communication and social skills involve the ability to listen to, as well as clearly express, information back to others in a variety of ways - oral, written, and visual - using a range of technologies. It involves the ability to be respectful with precision of thought and clarity of expression.

A student demonstrates well-developed communication and social skills when they listen, understand and convey their ideas and issues in a way that is comprehensible and appropriate. Teamwork hinges on effective communication skills that are equally about listening, as well as expression.

Strategies and Approaches

An example of how communication skills are embedded in teaching practice is found in an online third year unit from the Bachelor of Business course. A number of smaller assessments build upon one another towards a final Blackboard Collaborate presentation. Communication skills of the students are developed in various stages and involve the use of different technologies.

The student first uses a wiki to record the research for their chosen topic. Other students then provide comment and contribute to the research, developing a collegial approach to learning.

The student then prepares for a 30 minute presentation using Blackboard Collaborate. The first stage involves an opportunity for practice where the student self-critiques their own presentation recording. The final Blackboard Collaborate live presentation before teacher and peers, involves a 20 minute presentation followed by a 10 minute Q&A.

The last assessment involves the student to watch and self-reflect on their live presentation by typing into an online learning journal. After watching their live recording students are able to identify their communication strengths and weaknesses as the assessment requires a high level of student-to-student interaction.

Self-reflection is critical to help deepen the student's understanding of the importance and value of good communication skills. These communication strategies and the incorporation of a range of tools are purposefully designed to encourage students to learn that communication happens in different ways and through different media. Familiarity with different communication strategies is an important graduate skill.

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

Learning Outcome and Communication and Social Skills (GA6)Assessment Task Examples

Learning Outcome- effectively communicate (written and oral) with medical specialists and non-specialist in cross-cultural contexts

Laboratory manual questions and laboratory session:

  • Research and respond to weekly questions in the manual. Read the scenario, analyse the patient problems and prepare for your assigned role. Engage in the laboratory session activities with your group. Give yourself and peers a score relating to the marking criteria. Your tutor will do the same.

Learning Outcome- discuss the range of coastal management problems in Australia and the agencies involved in decision making for the coastal zone

Blog post and reflection, followed by peer review:

  • Post your activity and include a 100-word reflection to your blog after watching the podcast and completing the related activity. Your peers in your assignment group will review and post to your blog.

Further Reading

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

ProjectResource

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