Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Management

Faculty

Faculty of Business and Law

First Advisor

Prof. Susan Stoney

Second Advisor

Dr. Stuart Garner

Abstract

The demands of the knowledge economy have placed renewed emphasis on graduate employability and the development of higher-order thinking skills. Preparing graduates for the workplace requires new instructional approaches to develop a matrix of interrelated skills. This study investigates an immersion approach to developing employability skills with emphasis on the infusion of critical thinking skills in an undergraduate business degree.

The research is situated within the pragmatic paradigm and comprises a mixed methods approach. Analyses of project instructions, student reflections and test scores are presented in an explanatory case study in three parts: the infusion of critical thinking skills in a program that targets employability, the process of critical thinking within a community of inquiry, and the performance of students in a standardised critical thinking skills test after completing the first year of the program.

The study shows critical thinking skills to be central to the development of employability skills in an immersion approach and that the project tasks engaged students in a critical thinking cycle. Analyses of test results show that participants in the program outperformed nonparticipants, but that not all participants improved their own performance. Participants from non-English-speaking backgrounds achieved lower means, but still outperformed nonparticipants. It was therefore found that participation in the program can improve student performance in a standardised test, but also that test scores in a standardised test may not be an ecologically valid indicator of critical thinking skills development in authentic learning environments following an immersion approach.

The study provides new insight into the infusion of critical thinking skills in an immersion approach and makes explicit a model for employability skills development that will enable business education to deliver graduates who can participate effectively in the workplace of the 21st.

century.

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