Teachers’ perspectives on the development of employability attributes

Study 1

Quick summary

This study asked teaching staff what they understood by employability and how they developed employability in their courses. Divergent views were captured. Teaching staff lacked confidence in their ability to teach some capabilities.


The project team set out to discover what teaching staff thought about their role in developing employability. The aim was to explore staff perspectives of employability attributes and their role in their development.


Most respondents provided a short list of capabilities which they regarded as relevant to employability. The majority of capabilities identified were skills rather than attitudes, values or dispositions. Most participants appeared not to have had many opportunities to think about the future employability needs of their students and relate them to their teaching. The dominant strategy reported by interviewees for developing employability capabilities was to introduce work relevant exercises and assessments into the classroom. Respondents often reported that they provided opportunity rather than explicit teaching on the assumption that capabilities would emerge. Concrete examples of teaching employability capabilities tended to be of opportunities to develop observable skills such as those involved in giving a presentation.

Whilst none of the respondents rejected the idea that universities should prepare students for their futures, many explained that they were not sure how to perform this aspect of their role. This was voiced by one respondent as ‘I think a lot of us in teaching have done it by trial and error rather than a solid pedagogy’. Respondents identified a host of other constraints which limited their capacity to develop employability. These related to time, course and assessment requirements, legacy policies, student pushback, attitudes of colleagues and institutional hierarchies.

Click here to see further information about what our interviewees said, or…


Method – Interviews

Using a snowball approach, 20 volunteers were interviewed. The first set of participants were secured by invitation at the project’s kick off workshop and each participant was invited to suggest others who the researchers might talk to. Participants came from the Auckland University of Technology, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury as well as University of Otago, and included management, research, teaching, careers and academic development staff from the Arts, Business, Creative Industries, Mathematics, Medical and Science disciplines.

Next steps

 In response to the results of Study 1, a set of design principles for an intervention were developed. It appeared that a sustainable and impactful intervention should:

  • Provide an opportunity for staff to consider the capabilities students need;
  • Develop a research informed pedagogy for developing future ready capabilities that it is easy to learn and apply and works within systemic constraints.

This was utilised in Study 2, which is highlighted here.