WIL & Authentic Assessment
05
MAY, 2019
Work Integrated Learning
Teaching & Learning
Authentic Assessment
By Dr. Craig Parker, Senior Lecturer in the Masters of Information Systems in the Faculty of Bus-Law; and, Dr. Harsh Suri, Senior Lecturer in the  Deakin Learning Futures Bus-Law Faculty Pod.
International students often want, but struggle, to find work in Australia after graduation, because they lack the Australian work experience required by local employers. Further, students often leave it too late in their course to identify and implement strategies, which could have improved their employment outcomes. Another problem is that coursework units in business disciplines often base assignment work on published case studies and/or those written by academics. These are authentic, but the result is that students do not get experience applying knowledge in a real business often until the WIL and capstone units. We are passionate about creating authentic learning which challenges students, encourages them to learn from each other, and helps them prepare for a job. We incorporated this philosophy into various units and initiatives to support our dominant cohort; international masters students studying information systems:

  • Graduates summarise their course journey (e.g. part-time work, internships, lessons learned) which led to employment.
  • Students in first year use these journeys, plus job research, to complete an assignment where they identify skills they need to develop during the course, and outline self-development strategies to improve job readiness. Students submit a draft for peer-review. The final submission includes a response which outlines the changes made, or justifies why changes were not needed.
  • Students in second year complete a coursework assignment where they find a real business, interview staff about how they perform a specific process, and then draft business-specific details. Students research and evaluate the feasibility of a change for the business, and submit questions and drafts for staff feedback in an open CloudDeakin forum. Students learn from other students’ questions, drafts and feedback (e.g. why change feasibility depends on the business), which helps them produce better quality work for marking.

The graduate journeys and job research assignment increases students’ appreciation of the challenges of gaining employment, while emphasising that past students have succeeded. The graduate journeys are written by students, based on their lived experience, to improve employability outcomes for other students. The peer reviews of the self-development strategies help by encouraging students to handle critique, and to understand communication issues including “knowing what we meant”. We know this problem from our own experience when we write journal publications!

The feedback students receive on drafts of their “real business” assignment simulates the real world, where professionals engage with clients through cycles of feedback about the professional’s understanding of client problems and solution suitability. We believe assignments can be viewed the same way, where instructions are the client problem to be understood, and the submission is the solution. Students ask questions to seek elaboration on complex and incomplete assignment requirements, which simulates real-world experience with clients. This assignment also enables students to gain additional real experience for their resume, while learning and applying coursework concepts.

“I have been regularly drawing upon aspects of Craig’s implementation of these approaches to teaching as examples of good practice within our faculty and the broader Business Education community nationally and internationally.” – Harsh Suri
Other T&L teams can adapt our graduate journey template for use in their own courses, and incorporate these into relevant career readiness assignments. We encourage other T&L teams to consider whether students in other courses can benefit from doing one or more coursework assignments by going to a real business.

For example, we have incorporated this idea into a third-year undergraduate unit. It can take a few iterations to work out a suitable assignment design to address challenges, including that each student (or group) could do the assignment on quite different businesses. But this results in more interesting, real world discussions with students as they grapple with the difficulty at times of putting theory into practice.

Useful Resources

BCEL – Bus-Law Teaching and Learning Site

https://blogs.deakin.edu.au/learning-innovations/

Masters of Information Systems Graduate Journey Template

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