"For me it's like oxygen" : Using design research to develop and test a relational employability framework

Cook, Elizabeth and Lackovic, Natasa (2023) "For me it's like oxygen" : Using design research to develop and test a relational employability framework. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Abstract

My doctoral research thesis project aimed to inform a paradigm shift in graduate employability at Edith Cowan University (ECU) through the creation of a new relational employability teaching-learning framework (Cook, 2023). I sought to address the problematic nature of the prevailing skills-focused employability concept within universities by advocating for a more holistic concept that could be used by academics to foster critical thinking, global citizenship, creativity and connectedness among students, thus contributing to the mitigation of issues arising from the commodification of skills. To guide the research, I adopted a pragmatist standpoint and crafted a conceptual framework embodying two key concepts: relational higher education and Lacković’s (2019) relational graduate employability paradigm. The research objectives were to develop and test the new framework in units of study during one semester, collect and analyse data to assess the framework’s practical application and value for academics and students, and establish a basis for ongoing evaluation. By introducing the new concept of ‘relational employability’ to ECU academics and students, I aimed to expand their thoughts and actions regarding employability from solely individuals’ employment-related skills and outcomes to including relationships with others (humans, species, environments, artefacts, technologies, etc.) throughout careers (life and work). I employed a design research methodological framework that incorporated various data collection and analytical techniques across three phases: preparation and design; implementation over one semester; and analysis and sharing of practice. During the preparation and design phase, I completed two literature reviews (one of these is published), designed a prototype relational employability framework, and conducted pre-implementation qualitative interviews with 22 participants, including ECU academics, employability experts, careers practitioners and a senior learning designer. Codebook thematic analysis of the interview data provided insights into the meaning and value of relational employability among participants and enabled refinement of the framework. During the implementation phase, I collaborated with four academics from Medical and Health Sciences and Nursing disciplines to integrate the framework into five units, spanning undergraduate to postgraduate levels. After implementation, I administered student questionnaires and conducted qualitative interviews with three academics and three students to gain insights into their experiences and perspectives of the new framework and relational employability concept in existing teaching-learning and assessment. I also examined institutional unit level data to ensure there were no ill effects of the study on student outcomes and experiences and to establish baseline data to inform ongoing implementation and evaluation of the framework at ECU. The study revealed the benefits and some challenges of incorporating the framework into units of study. There were largely positive effects on student success and satisfaction, with the framework serving as a catalyst for holistic employability development and wider considerations of the implications of personal and collective interactions and contributions throughout careers. Academics discovered that integrating relational employability into existing teaching-learning and assessment was feasible and could enhance the meaningfulness of employability for students if they, themselves, understood the relational framework and could associate it with their discipline. The findings also suggested that the framework could assist academics to establish connections between technological considerations and the concept of employability. Questionnaire results revealed students felt the framework positively impacted their development, including confidence and self-esteem. Both academics and students shared a view that the framework should be integrated across the entire degree program, starting from first year and continuing through to graduation. The outputs of this research included a SharePoint site for staff that provides educational resources to support the adoption of relational employability within ECU. More broadly, the study offers 16 practical recommendations for educators and universities to incorporate relational employability principles into their educational practice.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
Subjects:
?? relational higher educationrelational employability frameworkacademicsintracurricular careers educationdesign researchevaluation ??
ID Code:
211886
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
05 Jan 2024 14:55
Refereed?:
No
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 06:06