Day 9: Embedding Graduate Attributes within the Psychology curriculum

Graduate Attribute Infographics: Embedding graduate attributes in the psychology curriculum

Dr Steven McNair, School of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Professional development is a key focus of the University of Glasgow’s current learning and teaching strategy (University of Glasgow, 2021a), and at college-level one priority is to “Embed employability into our curricula” (University of Glasgow, 2021b). Though there is a general awareness of the importance of employability in undergraduate student populations, long-term (career building) implications of employability are less well understood in the early years of higher education (Tymon, 2011). This blog post will focus on a case study in which we raised awareness of graduate attributes (University of Glasgow, 2021c) and their relevance to specific careers in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience (SPaN).

We raised awareness of graduate attributes in psychology through the creation of a series of infographics tailored towards our undergraduate and postgraduate conversion programmes. We clustered the graduate attributes around key themes: problem-solving attributes (comprising of Subject Specialist, Investigative, and Independent and Critical Thinker), social attributes (comprising Effective Communicator, Confident, Experience Collaborators, and Ethically and Socially Aware), and self-management attributes (comprising Resourceful and Responsible, Adaptable, and Reflective Learners). Using an approach driven by Advanced HE guidance in embedding employability in the curriculum (see Stage 1 Defining employability and Stage 2 Auditing and mapping, Tibby & Norton, 2020), these infographics explain each graduate attribute in terms of key capabilities within the study of psychology, and map graduate attributes onto specific tasks and behaviours in which they are developed across the SPaN curricula. Two further infographics were created to communicate how graduate attributes map onto competencies required by employers in specific career areas, both within and outside of psychology (See Stage 3 Prioritising Actions, Tibby & Norton, 2020).

The infographics are largely a resource available, via Moodle, to psychology students at any level within our undergraduate and postgraduate conversion course programmes for guidance in understanding what graduate attributes mean for them as psychologists, and to help them build a portfolio of experiences on which they can draw in job applications and interviews. Recently, they have been used as a tool to help students reflect on their graduate attribute development as part on a level 3 Professional Skills course (see Case Study 1: Graduate Attributes Reflection, Swingler & Copsey, 2021).

The full collection of Psychology Graduate Attributes Infographics are publicly available via the Open Science Framework (McNair, 2021). There may be aspects of the infographics that do not translate exactly into other subject areas or contexts, but they are designed to be flexible and updatable as needed in your teaching practice. Moving forwards, I would like to encourage further discussion and knowledge-exchange on this topic. Areas of good practice in embedding graduate attributes in the curriculum are emerging across the university (see Graduate Attributes Roadmap, University of Glasgow, 2021d). I would be keen to collaborate with those with a shared interest in this area in developing ideas or proposals for a wider knowledge-exchange session (e.g. SoTL network meeting, Learning and Teaching Conference workshop).

Graduate Attributes Roadmap

Dr Maxine Swingler, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Dr Dickon Copsey, Employability Officer for the College of Social Sciences.

The Graduate Attributes Roadmap compiles case studies of the successful integration of graduate attributes and employability into the curriculum. These case studies offer practical advice to teachers in any discipline who are interested in incorporating similar activities into their teaching. In this blog and infographics, we present two case studies from the roadmap on the themes of raising general awareness, reflection and the development of employability skills, with links to teaching materials and examples of students’ work. We also invite the TILE network to contribute a case study on embedding employability skills in their teaching. Case studies will be published as a University of Glasgow LEADS good practice resource


The University of Glasgow’s most recent Learning and Teaching Strategy places “professional development and skills development” at its core and aspires to achieve this through the embedding of “work-related, professionally recognised learning opportunities for students” (University of Glasgow, 2021). This emphasis on skills, employability and an applied curriculum aligns broadly with HE sector’s increasing focus on embedding employability into all learning and teaching policies and practices to equip graduates to successfully transition on graduation and throughout their lives (HEA, 2015; Tibby and Norton, 2020). The motivation for this curriculum change stems in part from a learning and teaching pedagogy which recognises the value of applied, experiential and active learning (Lewis & Williams, 1994; Moon, 2004), and in part from a broader labour market shift, which has seen the skills needs of employers rapidly evolving (Schwab, 2017).

The vehicle employed to affect this curriculum change at the University of Glasgow is our Graduate Attributes Framework (University of Glasgow, 2010), which encompasses all of the core attributes developed through our academic education and broader university experience. This framework is a lens through which students, academics and employers can assess the value of our academic and extra-curricular student experience. In spite of this aim, evidence from employers suggests that further support from universities is needed for students to effectively market and evidence their skills (Artess et al., 2017; Green et al., 2009). It also suggests that engaging students in employability activities can be challenging (Bradley et al, 2019). Having achieved a widespread adoption of the graduate attributes (GAs) within our course and programme intended learning outcomes, our focus now is on bringing these attributes to life for students within the curriculum. The Graduate Attributes Roadmap is our first attempt to identify those best practice examples, that have achieved this goal.

The Graduate Attributes Roadmap focuses on the practicalities of integrating employability into our teaching through raising general awareness through reflection, development of transferable skills and subject specific work-related learning. One size does not fit all, and the case studies described here are intended to be flexible and adaptable for your teaching context and subject discipline.

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