Connecting experiences to employability through a meaning-making approach to learning
Keywords:employability learning, experiential learning, reflection, meaning-making, experiences, transfer, employability narratives
A key part of the student experience in the higher education context is employability. There is an expectation that universities will contribute to their students’ employability and indeed they are measured on this contribution and are allocated funding based on it. Despite the importance of employability in higher education, it remains a complex and contested concept, often conflated with employment – graduates in jobs and the roles they occupy – and seen as a quantifiable outcome of the student experience. Where employability is understood as an individual’s knowledge, capabilities, and personal attributes that make them more likely to gain employment and be successful in their professional lives, it is often framed by the discourse of skills. There are some employability models, however, that champion a more holistic view of employability and highlight the role that experiences play in individual employability development. This paper reports on the development of an institutional employability framework and reflective process in an Australian research-intensive university. The paper discusses the experiential learning theories that underpin the reflective process that supports students to understand and articulate employability learning, for framing narratives around the potential to contribute to an organisation for employment, and for the transfer of this potential to professional contexts. The framework and reflective process represent employability as a learning process through which students make meaning from their experiences and learning opportunities. This involves understanding the value of their experiences, how to articulate that value, and how to transfer it to workplace performance
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