“How can focusing on employability and entrepreneurship improve teaching excellence in my subject area? – exploring an ontology of employability best practice in higher education institutions.”


Author(s) Sian Rees


Why bother with employability – don’t the Swansea Employability Academy and our placement teams do that (if we are lucky enough to have placement teams)? This interactive presentation will challenge you to consider how employability best practice and entrepreneurial principles can enhance your own subject level teaching, as well as lead towards better employability outcomes for students. The session will demonstrate the application of authentic assessments within the teaching environment, as well as sharing the presenter’s recent macro, mezzo and micro level analysis of employability best practice in higher education institutions, including Swansea University. The session will share the ontology of best practice for higher education employability which has been developed from the research, alongside a wide range of highly practical ideas for delivering employability activities at lecture, module and programme level.


This session will present the author’s own recent pedagogical research study into subject, College and sector-level employability within higher education, with the aim of investigating how principles of employability pedagogical best practice can be used not only to enhance student employability outcomes, but also enhance subject level teaching through the use of authentic assessments, skills frameworks and an entrepreneurial approach. The study uses a micro, mezzo and macro analytical approach to interrogate employability approaches used within the subject of Media & Communication and the College of Arts & Humanities at Swansea University, alongside a wide range of case studies from other UK higher education institutions. A micro level analysis considers how engaging with employability and entrepreneurial principles has enhanced student satisfaction and teaching excellence for the department of Media & Communication (which has achieved 100% NSS satisfaction for two years running). A mezzo level analysis then provides an overview of Swansea University College of Arts & Humanities best practice encapsulated at its July 2016 Employability Conference, leading to a range of ideas for incorporating employability skills, outcomes and principles within a variety of subject areas. Finally at the macro level, a content analysis of academic journal articles and higher education employability reports is used to develop an ontology of higher education best practice from across the sector. The research results endorse some traditional approaches, but also reveal innovative ways in which both Swansea University, and the broader higher education academy, are tackling the issue of employability and seamlessly embedding employability outcomes within academic learning and pedagogy. Both the research outcomes, and the case studies described in the session, will provide ideas for programme directors, and more specifically teachers, for embedding employability ideas, outcomes and approaches within even the most seemingly non-vocational subjects. It will also provide replicable approaches and insight into how principles of employability and entrepreneurship can be used to enhance subject teaching and assessment. This innovative and interactive session will embed a living demonstration of an authentic assessment style. Participants will engage in a live brainstorm considering different ways of embedding real-life scenarios across a variety of modules and subject areas, thereby kinetically involving participants in applying the ideas to their own authentic teaching environments. A range of discursive break-out techniques will be used to bring the subject to life and encourage the application of ideas to participants’ own subject areas, thus providing replicability of best practice shared in the session. The session will provide participants with knowledge of contemporary pedagogical enquiry into how employability can work alongside everyday subject teaching. It will also provide specific ideas and best practice case studies which can be applied to participants’ own teaching environments. Specifically the session aims to bring employability out of its box and demonstrate how principles and activities can enhance subject teaching through engaging with authentic assessment and employability outcomes. To ensure relevance for all participants, the presented research and practical teaching ideas will consider aspects of employability within teaching across a wide range of university subjects.

Key Words

Employability, pedagogy, innovation, outcomes, authenticity

Key Messages

• Employability and entrepreneurial principles can be used to enhance subject level teaching. • There are ways to embed employability skills, attributes and outcomes in a wide variety of subject-level teaching modules. • Employability outcomes are important to students, to universities and also to excellent teachers.

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