A morning with Beverley Oliver


It was my good fortune to hear Bev speak at the Australian Collaborative Education Network forum in Sydney in May 2011. Here is a summary of Bev’s presentation, which includes some real challenges for modern educators.

The purpose of higher education is to enable employable graduates. Bev reminds us that students, their families and governments are paying dearly for their education experience and want to receive value for their investment. In light of these expectations educators need to balance employer and graduate needs.  The emphasis for educators needs to be placed on graduate acheivement in the first five years of work.   Bev reminds us that the key to this goal is focusing on developing a capable and contributing citizen.

Bev’s starting point is the higher education curriculum, what and how students learn.  She wants to articulate and bring to life the qualities and characteristics of the “magic graduate”. This is the graduate everyone wants, the one who is capable and contributing to their employer and their community. The ‘magic graduate” can be brought to life through “constructive alignment’, a process of identifying the graduate attributes at an institutional level, and aligning programmes, courses, assessments and learning activities with those attributes. Bev believes that this process is giving students the best chance of a seamless transition form study to work.

Bev’s “magic grads” are both confident and capable. Their learning achievements have been guided by clear learning outcomes that focus on knowledge, skills, values, independence, collaboration, cultural and international perspectives, professionalism, technology, learning, thinking and information skills.  Students learn in an environment that is closely connected to the workplace. Students constantly demonstrate their capabilities through active and relevant learning tasks.

Bev is well aware governments, students and their families are wanting value, and she challenges teachers to ensure they can demonstrate student acheivement at all levels. She advocates for all students to leave higher education with a showcase portfolio, which demonstrates what they can do.  This portfolio will include a learners experiences in community, professional, and industry engagement.  She believes each course, programme of study and institution should have showcase portfolio which demonstrates student acheivement at each level of the higher education system.

Key to any significant change in higher education is good leadership, open and honest discussion about curriculum, and benchmarking with similar programmes, courses, and institutions. Bev tells us that the secret to ‘magic grads” is engaged and happy staff.  Teachers who share the vision, understand their role and the expectations upon them, who are supported and rewarded will make our “magic grads” come to life.

What does all this mean for a programme team involved in curriculum redevelopment? Bev suggests you “Focus clearly on having your students succeed in the first five years of work.  Ensure your study programme has appropriate academic standards, thorough learning outcomes, and evidence of student achievement that is relevant to the workplace.” 

To learn more about Beverley Oliver go to Assuring Graduate Capabilities




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