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Caught between a rock and a soft place: Bridging the gap between university learning and the world of work

Vicki Banham
Edith Cowan University
How do courses, lecturers and students bridge the space between what Bronfenbrenner (1979) called the rock and the soft place, and what we will call rigour of university learning and relevance to the world of work? This question formed the basis of a two unit elective program at Edith Cowan University called GAPS (Gaining Access to Practical Skills) focussing on the utilisation of generic graduate attribute skills. The program is a centralised one that overlaps all faculties allowing access to every student irrelevant of their cognate area. The microsystem of the student is nested within the university with support and guidance from the CAS (Careers Advisory Service) that utilises a Career Management Skills model to facilitate and develop lifelong learning within the student. This approach is embedded within GAPS program where students engage in a process of self assessment, industry situational analysis, work based practice, reflection and refinement.

Thus, the GAPS and CAS are mesosystems linking the student to employers. The success at the macrosystem (university) level is dependent on the strength of the linkages between students and employers which is supported through university - industry panels. The GAPS program is a learning process that equips students with the skills to undertake work in the real world confident that they have skills beyond those they have learnt in the discipline context. It encourages students to become lifelong learners by instilling learning processes that can be applied in diverse settings and to all aspects of their lives.

However, this program presents a number of dilemmas that seek discussion. What graduate generic attributes will compose this bridge? What role do course designers play in embedding these attributes within courses? How do lecturers and tutors incorporate these skills in assessment? How do students record and validate these skills in their portfolio?

Author: Vicki Banham, Senior Lecturer, SICCS, Edith Cowan University

Presentation format: Demonstration of teaching

Please cite as: Banham, V. (2002). Caught between a rock and a soft place: Bridging the gap between university learning and the world of work. In Focusing on the Student. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5-6 February 2002. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/abstracts/banham-abs.html

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Created 1 Dec 2001. Last revision: 31 Jan 2002. HTML: Roger Atkinson [ rjatkinson@bigpond.com ]