Improving the Assessment of Transferable Skills in Chemistry Through Evaluation of Current Practice

  • Madeleine SchultzEmail author
  • Glennys O’Brien
  • Siegbert Schmid
  • Gwendolyn A. Lawrie
  • Daniel C. Southam
  • Samuel J. Priest
  • Kieran F. Lim (林百君)
  • Simon M. Pyke
  • Simon B. Bedford
  • Ian M. Jamie


The development and assessment of transferable skills acquired by students, such as communication and teamwork skills, within undergraduate degrees is being increasingly emphasised. Many instructors have designed and implemented assessment tasks with the aim to provide students with opportunities to acquire and demonstrate these skills. We have now applied our previously published tool to evaluate whether assessment tasks allow students to demonstrate achievement of these transferable skills. The tool allows detailed evaluation of the alignment of any assessment item against the claimed set of learning outcomes. We present here two examples in which use of the tool provides evidence for the level of achievement of transferable skills and a third example of use of the tool to inform curriculum design and pedagogy, with the goal of increasing achievement of communication and teamwork bench marks. Implications for practice in assessment design for learning are presented.



The project team acknowledges the collegial engagement in the workshops, activities and outcomes of the Assessing the Assessments project by Australian academics, particularly those who shared their assessment items and course/unit information. We thank Carmel McNaught, who contributed extensively to the project. We acknowledge funding from the Australian Government’s Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT ID14-3652).


  1. Aritzeta, A., Swailes, S., & Senior, B. (2007). Belbin’s team role model: Development, validity and applications for team building. Journal of Management Studies, 44, 96–118. Scholar
  2. Barrett, H. C. (2007). Researching electronic portfolios and learner engagement: The REFLECT initiative. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 50, 436–449. Scholar
  3. Barrie, S. C. (2004). A research-based approach to generic graduate attributes policy. Higher Education Research & Development, 23, 261–275. Scholar
  4. Barrie, S. C., Hughes, C., Crisp, G., & Bennison, A. (2012). Assessing and assuring Australian graduate learning outcomes: Principles and practices within and across disciplines. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  5. Belbin Associates. (2018). The nine Belbin team roles. Accessed October 28, 2018.
  6. Bennett, D., & Evans, C. (2018). Using critical reflection to get the most out of your learning. Accessed December 2018.
  7. Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32, 347–364. Scholar
  8. Biggs, J. (1999). What the student does: Teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 18, 57–75. Scholar
  9. Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does (3rd ed.). Maidenhead: SRHE and Open University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bodner, G. M. (2016). Introduction to plenary session. Greeley, CO: Biennial Conference on Chemical Education.Google Scholar
  11. Bolton, G. (1999). Reflections through the looking-glass: The story of a course of writing as a reflexive practitioner. Teaching in Higher Education, 4, 193–212. Scholar
  12. Boud, D. (2001). Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 90, 9–17. Scholar
  13. Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (2006). Aligning assessment with long-term learning. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31, 399–413. Scholar
  14. Committee on Professional Training. (2015). Undergraduate professional education in chemistry: ACS guidelines and evaluation procedures for bachelor’s degree programs. American Chemical Society. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  15. Confederation of British Industry. (2016). The right combination: CBI/Pearson education and skills survey. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  16. Crebert, G., Patrick, C.-J., Cragnolini, V., Smith, C., Worsfold, K., & Webb, F. (2011). Griffith graduate attributes professional skills toolkit. Brisbane: Griffith University.Google Scholar
  17. de la Harpe, B., & David, C. (2012). Major influences on the teaching and assessment of graduate attributes. Higher Education Research & Development, 31, 493–510. Scholar
  18. Dijkstra, J., Latijnhouwers, M., Norbart, A., & Tio, R. A. (2016). Assessing the “I” in group work assessment: State of the art and recommendations for practice. Medical Teacher. Scholar
  19. Dunne, E., & Rawlins, M. (2000). Bridging the gap between industry and higher education: Training academics to promote student teamwork. Innovations in Education and Training International, 37, 361–371. Scholar
  20. European Chemistry Thematic Network. (2016). Chemistry Eurobachelor label: Guidelines for applications. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  21. Gabelica, C., Van den Bossche, P., De Maeyer, S., Segers, M., & Gijselaers, W. (2014). The effect of team feedback and guided reflexivity on team performance change. Learning and Instruction, 34, 86–96. Scholar
  22. Gibbs, G., & Simpson, C. (2004). Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 2004–05, 3–31.Google Scholar
  23. Green, W., Hammer, S., & Star, C. (2009). Facing up to the challenge: Why is it so hard to develop graduate attributes? Higher Education Research & Development, 28, 17–29. Scholar
  24. Hager, P., Holland, S., & Beckett, D. (2002). Enhancing the learning and employability of graduates: The role of generic skills. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  25. Heckman, J. J., & Kautz, T. (2012). Hard evidence on soft skills. Labour Economics, 19, 451–464. Scholar
  26. Hill, J., Walkington, H., & France, D. (2016). Graduate attributes: Implications for higher education practice and policy. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 40, 155–163. Scholar
  27. Hughes, C., & Barrie, S. C. (2010). Influences on the assessment of graduate attributes in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35, 325–334. Scholar
  28. Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2009). An educational psychology success story: Social interdependence theory and cooperative learning. Educational Researcher, 38, 365–379. Scholar
  29. Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., Ortiz, A. E., & Stanne, M. (1991). The impact of positive goal and resource interdependence on achievement, interaction, and attitudes. The Journal of General Psychology, 118, 341–347. Scholar
  30. Jones, S. M., Yates, B. F., & Kelder, J.-A. (2011). Science learning and teaching academic standards statement. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  31. Knight, P., & Page, A. (2007). The assessment of ‘wicked’ competences. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  32. Koh, E., Hong, H., & Seah, J. (2014). An analytic frame and multi-method approach to measure teamwork competency. Paper presented at the 14th International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies.Google Scholar
  33. Lawrie, G. A., & Grøndahl, L. (2015). Wiki technologies and communities: New approaches to assessing individual and collaborative learning in the chemistry laboratory. In J. García-Martínez & E. Serrano-Torresgrosa (Eds.), Chemistry education: Best practices, opportunities and trends (pp. 671–691). Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.Google Scholar
  34. Lawrie, G. A., Grøndahl, L., Boman, S., & Andrews, T. (2016). Wiki laboratory notebooks: Supporting student learning in collaborative inquiry-based laboratory experiments. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25, 394–409. Scholar
  35. Lee, N., & Loton, D. J. (2015). Capstone curriculum across disciplines: Synthesising theory, practice and policy to provide practical tools for curriculum design. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  36. Loshbaugh, H. G., Laursen, S. L., & Thiry, H. (2011). Reactions to changing times: Trends and tensions in U.S. chemistry graduate education. Journal of Chemical Education, 88, 708–715. Scholar
  37. Loughry, M. L., Ohland, M. W., & Moore, D. D. (2007). Development of a theory-based assessment of team member effectiveness. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 67, 505–524. Scholar
  38. Meslec, N., & Curşeu, P. L. (2015). Are balanced groups better? Belbin roles in collaborative learning groups. Learning and Individual Differences, 39, 81–88. Scholar
  39. Mezirow, J. (1990). How critical reflection triggers transformative learning. In J. Mezirow (Ed.), Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  40. Ohland, M. W., Loughry, M. L., Woehr, D. J., Bullard, L. G., Felder, R. M., & Finelle, C. J. (2013). The comprehensive assessment of team member effectiveness: Development of a behaviorally anchored rating scale for self- and peer evaluation. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11, 609–630. Scholar
  41. Peat, M., Taylor, C. E., & Franklin, S. (2005). Re-engineering of undergraduate science curricula to emphasise development of lifelong learning skills. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 42, 135–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pyke, S., O’Brien, G., Yates, B., & Buntine, M. (2014). Chemistry academic standards statement—Revised. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  43. Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to teach in higher education (2nd ed.). London: RoutledgeFalmer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reeves, T. C. (2000). Alternative assessment approaches for online learning environments in higher education. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 23, 101–111. Scholar
  45. Robles, M. M. (2012). Executive perceptions of the top 10 soft skills needed in today’s workplace. Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 453–465. Scholar
  46. Sadler, D. R. (2015). Three in-course assessment reforms to improve higher education learning outcomes. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. Scholar
  47. Sarkar, M., Overton, T., Thompson, C., & Rayner, G. (2016). Graduate employability: Views of recent science graduates and employers. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 24, 31–48.Google Scholar
  48. Schmid, S., Schultz, M., Priest, S. J., O’Brien, G., Pyke, S. M., Bridgeman, A., et al. (2016). Assessing the assessments: Development of a tool to evaluate assessment items in chemistry according to learning outcomes. In M. Schultz, S. Schmid, & T. Holme (Eds.), Technology and assessment strategies for improving student learning in chemistry (pp. 225–244). Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schultz, M., Mitchell Crow, J., & O’Brien, G. (2013). Outcomes of the Chemistry Discipline Network mapping exercises: Are the threshold learning outcomes met? International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 21, 81–91.Google Scholar
  50. Spatar, C., Penna, N., Mills, H., Kutija, V., & Cooke, M. (2015). A robust approach for mapping group marks to individual marks using peer assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40, 371–389. Scholar
  51. Spronken-Smith, R., McLean, A., Smith, N., Bond, C., Jenkins, M., Marshall, S., et al. (2016). A toolkit to implement graduate attributes in geography curricula. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 40, 254–266. Scholar
  52. Su, Y. (2014). Self-directed, genuine graduate attributes: The person-based approach. Higher Education Research & Development, 33, 1208–1220. Scholar
  53. The University of Sydney. (2016). 2016–2020 strategic plan. Sydney. Accessed October 29, 2018.
  54. Towns, M. H. (2010). Developing learning objectives and assessment plans at a variety of institutions: Examples and case studies. Journal of Chemical Education, 87, 91–96. Scholar
  55. van Dierendonck, D., & Groen, R. (2011). Belbin revisited: A multitrait–multimethod investigation of a team role instrument. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 20, 345–366. Scholar
  56. Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Google Scholar
  57. Wolfe, J., & Powell, E. (2014). Strategies for dealing with slacker and underperforming teammates in class projects. Paper presented at the 2014 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (IPCC), 13–15 October 2014.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madeleine Schultz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Glennys O’Brien
    • 2
  • Siegbert Schmid
    • 3
  • Gwendolyn A. Lawrie
    • 4
  • Daniel C. Southam
    • 5
  • Samuel J. Priest
    • 6
  • Kieran F. Lim (林百君)
    • 1
  • Simon M. Pyke
    • 7
  • Simon B. Bedford
    • 8
  • Ian M. Jamie
    • 9
  1. 1.Deakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  3. 3.The University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia
  5. 5.Curtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  6. 6.University of Adelaide CollegeAdelaideAustralia
  7. 7.University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  8. 8.Western Sydney UniversityPenrithAustralia
  9. 9.Macquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations