LAM Siew Hong and CHAN Tze Cheng Tricia
Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science (FoS)
Siew Hong and Tricia share findings and lessons learnt from a survey conducted to find out students’ perceptions of the usefulness of Department-produced e-resources to enhance the acquisition of generic skills in a Life Sciences internship programme.
Lam S. H., & Chan, T. C. T. (2022, June 29). E-resources as instructional support for enhancing generic skills during internship: three findings and lessons learnt. Teaching Connections. https://blog.nus.edu.sg/teachingconnections/2022/06/29/e-resources-as-instructional-support-for-enhancing-generic-skills-during-internship-three-findings-and-lessons-learnt/
Generic skills are transferable across disciplines and essential for lifelong learning. These could range from cognitive, intrapersonal to interpersonal skills, and attributes such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, teamwork, resourcefulness, and resilience. Internship programmes incorporated into the Life Science curriculum provide an excellent opportunity for undergraduates to pick up generic skills and develop them (Cranmer, 2006). However, students may not be aware of these skills and do not know how to develop them. Unlike disciplinary-based hard skills, generic skills are seldom taught explicitly in disciplinary curricula; hence, students likely have not received any academic instructions for these skills. To bridge this gap, we have produced e-resources consisting of nine e-booklets in three series—cognitive skills, intrapersonal skills, and interpersonal skills—as instructional support for the learning of generic skills during internships (Figure 1).
Providing instructional support in parallel with an immersive learning experience may enhance generic skills training (Lam & Ip, 2018). The e-resources are beneficial to students in that they provide instruction to support the learning of these skills, while the internship experience provides the opportunities and authentic environment for students to practice and develop them. We therefore investigated1 if providing these e-resources as instructional support will enhance the perceived learning of generic skills by students doing their internship2 as part of the Department’s Life Sciences curriculum.
Three Main Findings
The e-resources were introduced to students through a briefing session and made available at the beginning of their internship. An online survey was conducted at the end of their internship to determine their perceived usage and usefulness of the e-resources, and their perceived learning gain of 12 generic skills was calculated by subtracting the proficiency rating of these skills at the end from the start (rated retrospectively) of their internship. The following are the three main findings:
- Proportion of moderate-to-high users was lower than non-to-low users. For ‘moderate-to-high users’, 35.8% (64 out of 179) respondents indicated that they sometimes/often/always referred to the e-resources for instruction during their internship. The remaining 64.2% (115 respondents) indicated that they did not or rarely refer to the e-resources during their internship; these were grouped as ‘non-to-low users’.
- Perceived learning gains in several generic skills were significantly higher in moderate-to-high users than non-to-low users. These skills included written and verbal communication, time management and organisation, as well as adaptability and learnability (Table 1).
- E-resources perceived as moderate to very useful instructional support for developing generic skills during internship. Among the moderate-to-high users, 62.5% (40) respondents found that the e-resources were useful/very useful, while 34.4% (22) respondents found that they were moderately useful as instructional support for developing generic skills during their internship (Figure 2).
Comparison of perceived learning gain for 12 generic skills between non-to-low users and moderate-to-high users of the e-resources
- The e-resources may serve as useful/very useful instructional support for learning of generic skills if students were to use them at least moderately, based on their perception.
- Although there was a general trend where higher perceived learning gain was observed in the ‘moderate-to-high user’ group than the ‘non-to-low user’ group (Table 1), only a few generic skills were significantly different. Instead of just leaving the e-resources for the students to refer as needed, a more structured delivery of the e-resources may be required for greater learning impact.
- The low engagement of students with the e-resources suggests that a more integrated approach may be needed to engage them.
- To achieve the above, a short pre-internship training module or workshop that requires students to go through the e-resources with quizzes can be integrated as part of fulfilling the internship programme. Additionally, it can be part of the programme’s requirement for students to include learning of generic skills as part of their reflection report. Short emails can be sent to remind students of relevant content from the e-resources. Moreover, we could also collaborate with supervisors/mentors during the internship to identify skillsets that are lacking and to create opportunities to use these e-resources. These approaches may provide students with greater interaction and incentive to use the e-resources to enhance the learning of generic skills during their internship.
LAM Siew Hong is an Associate Professor and teaches at the Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, NUS. He is also the Co-chair of the Department’s Teaching Committee. His research interests encompass transcriptome, molecular and functional characterisation of adaptive response in organ-tissues of fish and other organisms under specific environmental stressors. He is interested in creating rich environments for active learning and enhancing transferable skills for future-ready graduates.
Siew Hong can be reached at email@example.com.
|Tricia CHAN was recently an undergraduate student at the Faculty of Science in the National University of Singapore. She has completed her studies and will graduate in 2022.|
- This project to evaluate and enhance the effectiveness of a new internship programme in the training of essential generic skills for future-ready graduates was made possible due to the generous support of a Teaching Enhancement Grant (TEG) from the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL).
- The internship programme requires students to be attached as fulltime interns for a semester in Singapore-based corporations, organisations or institutions that are related to Life Sciences.
Cranmer, S. (2006) Enhancing graduate employability: best intentions and mixed outcomes. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 169-184. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070600572041
Lam, S. H., & Ip, Y. K. (2018). Equipping our undergraduates with essential generic skills for future competitiveness: Why, what, when, and how? Asian Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(2), 235-248. Retrieved from https://nus.edu.sg/cdtl/engagement/publications/ajsotl-home/archive-of-past-issues/v8n2/equipping-our-undergraduates-with-essential-generic-skills-for-future-competitiveness-why-what-when-and-how.