How can university students choose academic courses that raise their prospects for employment upon their graduation?
This article summarises research that reports the skills that employers most seek in university graduates. Furthermore, many of the skills required for graduate employability are effectively developed through collaborative learning or group assignments. Collaborative learning is sometimes offered in end-of-programme (capstone) courses in engineering, science, business and medicine. However, forward-looking institutions are introducing collaborative learning immediately after students commence their university studies. The proactive student, concerned for their future prospects of employment, should seek out these courses early in their higher education studies, particularly those where the teacher applies fair and effective approaches to their conduct of group assignments.
Peer Assess Pro’s new infographic Develop graduate employability through Collaborative Learning introduces critical requirements that underpin the conduct of fair, valid and effective collaborative learning and group assignments in higher education. The interactive infographic presents the benefits of collaborative learning, research pillars, academic policies and other elements that reinforce effective collaborative learning.
But first, let’s now explore more deeply how collaborative learning contributes towards developing the skills employers most seek in the graduates they employ.
What are the skills that employers most seek in university graduates they seek to employ?
Employers seek a range of skills in university graduates that can vary depending on the industry and specific job roles. However, some skills are universally valued by employers across different sectors. Here are some of the skills that employers most seek in university graduates they seek to employ over the next 5 years (Collins, 2022; Geertshuis, & Lewis, 2020; Gray & Collins, 2022; The Four Career Competencies Employers Value Most, 2019, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, 2009; OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030, 2019; The Future of Jobs Report 2020, 2020).
Graduates who can demonstrate leadership skills, including team management, decision-making, and project management, are highly sought after by employers.
Critical thinking and problem-solving
Employers value graduates who can analyze complex problems, evaluate information, and develop innovative solutions.
Graduates who can communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, are highly valued by employers.
Global awareness and intercultural competence
Graduates who have experience working with people from different cultures and languages are highly valued by employers in a globalized economy.
Creativity and innovation
Graduates who can think creatively and come up with new ideas are highly valued by employers, particularly in industries such as design, marketing, and technology.
Adaptability and resilience
Employers value graduates who can adapt to change, work under pressure, and demonstrate resilience in challenging situations.
In today’s technology-driven world, employers look for graduates who are comfortable with digital technologies, including data analysis and management, programming, and social media.
A frequently asked question
To what extent do employers value graduates with proven leadership and teamwork capabilities?’ In this video, Peer Assess Pro co-founder Patrick Dodd responds to the question by referring to the recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, NACE (2022).
Overall, university graduates who possess a mix of technical, interpersonal, and critical thinking skills are likely to be most competitive in the job market over the next 5 years.
Collaborative learning helps develop graduate employability
Collaborative learning is a powerful pedagogical approach that helps improve the employability of students in higher education. A teacher can use collaborative learning to enhance their students’ employability in these ways (Barkley, 2018; Harland & Dealer, 2016; Holmes & Hilliar, 2018; Liu, Xiaohui & Cheng, 2020).
1. Encourage teamwork and collaboration
Encourage students to work in teams and collaborate with each other on projects, assignments, and discussions. This helps them develop interpersonal and communication skills, which are highly valued by employers.
2. Develop leadership and management skills
Collaborative learning provides opportunities for students to take on leadership roles, delegate tasks, and manage group dynamics. These experiences can help them develop leadership and management skills, which are highly valued in the workplace.
3. Foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills
Collaborative learning provides an opportunity for students to explore diverse perspectives and solve problems together. This helps them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential in many job roles.
4. Promote creativity and innovation
Collaborative learning can inspire creativity and innovation by encouraging students to share ideas, experiment, and take risks.
5. Provide opportunities for networking and professional development
Collaborative learning can provide opportunities for students to network with their peers, industry professionals, and potential employers. This helps students build professional relationships and develop industry-specific skills.
First contact. Students of operations management prepare to be briefed on their capstone collaborative learning challenge at The Pallet Company, Auckland
Overall, collaborative learning can help students develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to succeed in the workplace. By fostering teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, creativity, and networking, teachers can improve the employability of their students and prepare them for successful careers.
The collaborative learning infographic
Peer Assess Pro’s new infographic Develop graduate employability through collaborative learning provides the foundation for a teacher to extend on the ideas presented earlier. The interactive infographic presents the research pillars, academic policies and other critical requirements that underpin the conduct of fair, valid and effective collaborative learning and group assignments in higher education. The interactive .pdf extends the resources for each illustrated panel by linking directly to the video resources and relevant sections in our online ePub.
- Summarises the benefits of #collaborativelearning
- Presents #research pillars, academic #policies and an industry-standard teammate peer assessment #rubric that underpin fair and valid assessment practice
- Introduces a 7-step teaching formula that maximises successful outcomes
- Addresses frequently-asked questions #faqs about the challenges of conducting collaborative learning through links to short video clips.
A key benefit of collaborative learning is that students feel a greater sense of engagement with the teamwork, and satisfaction with the results achieved. As Geertshuis & Lewis (2020) assert “Collaborative learning helps develop future-ready capabilities that are both hard to teach, and, when learned, last a lifetime.”
Addressing one of the challenges of group assignments, Gibbs (2008) found that ‘freeloading in collaborative assignments is less likely if students’ contributions will determine their grades.’ (Sprague, Wilson, & McKenzie 2019).
An important academic policy is that students should have a fair opportunity to adjust their behaviour and outcomes throughout the period of collaborative learning. That policy implies the early, proactive use of formative teammate peer assessment and feedback.
An industry-standard assessment rubric measures several elements, such as the degree to which a team member encourages contributions by others to the team’s output and processes. By using an industry-standardised rubric, a university can measure students’ progress as they progress through several courses towards their graduation. Combined with the other elements presented in the infographic, an academic programme can introduce the Teamwork Across the Curriculum, (TAC) approach (Mellalieu, 2020) to developing leadership and teamwork skills that contribute towards high employability.
One (of several) vital steps in adopting collaborative learning is to promote courageous conversations among your students through feedback gathered from teammate peer assessment (Step 6).
Frequently asked questions
You’ll have several questions about introducing collaborative learning. For example, ‘What are the challenges of group assignments… and how does teammate peer assessment address those challenges?’ Frequently-asked questions about fair and effective teamwork using teammate peer assessment
University graduates who possess a mix of technical, interpersonal, and critical thinking skills are likely to be most competitive in the job market over the next 5 years. Collaborative learning is one valuable teaching approach that can help students develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to succeed in the workplace. By fostering leadership, teamwork, creativity, critical thinking, and networking, teachers can improve the employability of their students and prepare them for successful careers.
Peer Assess Pro’s new infographic Develop graduate employability through Collaborative Learning establishes the foundation for a teacher to introduce and improve their practice of collaborative learning and avoid the challenges this pedagogy introduces. The interactive infographic presents the research pillars, academic policies and other critical requirements that underpin the conduct of fair, valid and effective collaborative learning and group assignments in higher education.
University students can raise their prospects for employment upon their graduation by including academic courses that use fair and effective collaborative learning as part of their teaching approach.
The author: Dr Peter Mellalieu
Peter is a technology educator with 35 years of experience leading a wealth of pre-employment experience-based courses for ambitious institutions of higher education in New Zealand, the United States and Africa.
Peter has a broad range of experience as an industrial engineer, senior academic, and educational technology entrepreneur. Having taught in MBA, applied postgraduate, and senior undergraduate programmes he is adept in all facets of curriculum design applying technology to deliver the solutions required to develop graduates with future-ready capabilities such as leadership, teamwork, communication and professionalism.
In addition to his teaching experience, Peter is the co-founder and chief technology director of the collaborative learning platform Peer Assess Pro™. The platform enables Peter to share his passion for helping teachers and students combine their creative insights with the analytics derived through advanced information technology.
A dual British and New Zealand citizen, Peter grew up in Chester and Cardiff. He now resides in Auckland, New Zealand with his US-born wife.
In his spare time, Peter enjoys cycling, photography, reading and visiting his family in London and Barcelona.
Download interactive infographic
Contact us to explore how the Peer Assess Pro platform for teammate peer feedback can improve the efficiency through which your teachers deliver efficient, fair and effective group assignments.
References and further reading
A stronger nation through higher education: How and why Americans must meet a “big goal” for college attainment. (2009). Lumina Foundation for Education. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED507875.pdf
OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030: OECD Learning Compass 2030. (2019). Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). https://www.oecd.org/education/2030-project/teaching-and-learning/learning/learning-compass-2030/OECD_Learning_Compass_2030_Concept_Note_Series.pdf
The Four Career Competencies Employers Value Most. (2019, March 29). NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition. https://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/the-four-career-competencies-employers-value-most/
The Future of Jobs Report 2020. (2020). World Economic Forum. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2020.pdf
Barkley, E. F. (2018). Collaborative learning in higher education: Evoking positive interdependence. This book provides an overview of collaborative learning and how it can be used to promote positive interdependence among students. It also includes practical strategies for implementing collaborative learning in the classroom.
Collins, M. (2022, October 24). Recruiters and Students Have Differing Perceptions of New Grad Proficiency in Competencies. National Association of Colleges and Employers, NACE. https://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/recruiters-and-students-have-differing-perceptions-of-new-grad-proficiency-in-competencies/
Geertshuis, S., & Lewis, N. (2020). Future Ready Graduates: Embedding Employability in the Curriculum: Strategies for the Development of Future-Ready Employability Attributes Within Advanced and Research Informed Programmes. Ako Aotearoa National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. https://ako.ac.nz/assets/Knowledge-centre/NPF-RFP17-205-Embedding-employability-in-the-curriculum/Future-Ready-Graduates-Final-Report.pdf
Gibbs, G. (2009). The Assessment of Group Work: Lessons from the Literature. Assessment Standards Knowledge Exchange, 1–17. https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/uploads/production/document/path/2/2425/Assessing_Group_Work_Gibbs.pdf
Gray, K., & Collins, M. (2022, October 18). New College Graduates and Employers Agree on Key Competencies, but at Odds About New Grad Proficiency. National Association of Colleges and Employers, NACE. https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/press/new-college-graduates-and-employers-agree-on-key-competencies-but-at-odds-about-new-grad-proficiency/
Harland, T. & Deaker, L. (2016). Collaborative learning for employability: Aligning student and industry needs. This article discusses the importance of collaborative learning in preparing students for the workplace. It also explores how collaborative learning can be aligned with industry needs to improve employability.
Holmes, C. & Hilliar, A. (2018). Employability skills initiatives in higher education: What effects do they have on graduate labour market outcomes? This article examines the impact of employability skills initiatives, including collaborative learning, on graduate labor market outcomes. It suggests that such initiatives can have a positive impact on employability.
Liu, W., Tao, X., & Cheng, X. (2020). Promoting employability skills through collaborative learning in higher education. This article explores how collaborative learning can be used to promote employability skills such as teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. It also includes practical recommendations for implementing collaborative learning in the classroom.
Mellalieu, P. J. (2020). How to teach using group assignments: The 7-step formula for fair and effective team assessment (ePub 1.0). Peer Assess Pro. This book is a comprehensive, practical guide for teachers undertaking group assignments and using teammate peer assessment to assure fair and valid assessment outcomes. https://ebook.peerassesspro.com/ebook
Sprague, M., Wilson, K. F., & McKenzie, K. S. (2019). Evaluating the Quality of Peer and Self Evaluations as Measures of Student Contributions to Group Projects. Higher Education Research & Development, 38(5), 1061–1074. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2019.1615417]
This article includes responses from Machine Language Augmented Conversations with ChatGPT using the following prompts.
Mellalieu, P. J. (Ed.). (2023). CCL001. What are the skills that employers most seek in university graduates they seek to employ over the next 5 years? (ChatGPT, Trans.; Machine Language Augmented Conversation No. 001; Conversations in Collaborative Learning). Peer Assess Pro.
Mellalieu, P. J. (Ed.). (2023). CCL002. How does a teacher improve the employability of their students through using collaborative learning In the context of higher education? (ChatGPT, Trans.; Machine Language Augmented Conversation No. 002; Conversations in Collaborative Learning). Peer Assess Pro.
Join the conversation on LinkedIn
Mellalieu, P. J. (2023, March 31). Develop graduate employability through collaborative learning: Suggestions for the proactive student. Peer Assess Pro | LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/develop-graduate-employability-through-collaborative-learning/