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Does Industry Experience Influence Transferable Skills Instruction? Implications for Faculty Development and Culture Theory

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A major focus of innovation in higher education today is to improve faculty teaching, especially their focus on students’ career readiness and acquisition of workplace-relevant communication and teamwork competencies (i.e., transferable skills). Some contend that such instruction is best achieved through hiring faculty with prior work experience in industry, where the “culture” is preferable to academia where practical skills and career guidance are undervalued. However, little research exists on the topic and in this study we draw on person-centered views of culture to conceptualize industry experience as a form of cultural knowledge (i.e., cultural scripts) that can travel with a person (or not) over time and space. Using a mixed methods design where we gathered survey (n = 1,140) and interview (n = 89) data from STEMM faculty, we used thematic and HLM techniques to explore the relationships among industry experience, various situational factors, and transferable skills instruction. Results show that while most had industry experience (76.2%), transferable skills are rarely emphasized, a variety of individual (e.g., race) and institutional (e.g., discipline) factors are associated with transferable skills instruction, and that industry experience provides both generalized and specific cultural scripts for career- and skills-oriented teaching. We conclude that instead of promoting skills-focused instructional innovations via hiring policies that assume the value of one institutional culture over another, it is more useful and respectful (to faculty) to teach industry-based cultural knowledge via faculty development programming in a way similar to work-integrated learning (WIL) and communication in the disciplines (CID) initiatives.

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  1. The term “faculty” is used in this article to refer to all people – whether full- or part-time, tenure-track or non-tenure-track – who hold positions that involve teaching courses within a college or university. We sometimes also use the term “instructor” to refer to participants in our study.

  2. The inclusion of medicine into the more common acronym of STEM is increasingly apparent in national reports such as the National Academy of Sciences 2019 report on “The science of effective mentorship in STEMM.”


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Correspondence to Matthew T. Hora.

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The study reported in this paper was funded by the National Science Foundation (DGE#1561686). The authors declare no relevant financial or non-financial interests to declare. Approval for human subjects research was obtained from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Hora, M.T., Lee, C. Does Industry Experience Influence Transferable Skills Instruction? Implications for Faculty Development and Culture Theory. Innov High Educ (2024).

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