Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Communications, Health and Science

First Supervisor

Professor Ron Oliver

Second Supervisor

Dr Jan Herrington


Increasingly, higher education institutions are being asked by industry, government and funding bodies to produce graduates with versatile generic skills as well as subject knowledge and expertise. This is causing a major reappraisal of higher education institutions purpose, learning outcomes and research activities. Many institutions are experiencing problems in implementing effective teaching and learning strategies to promote the development of these skills. The study sought to investigate ways of developing students' generic skills through the design and implementation of a learning environment that incorporated three key learning principles - authenticity, self-regulation and reflection. These were integrated into a course design methodology that focused on creating appropriate learning tasks for the given course objectives. The development of learning resources and supports was considered only after key learning tasks had been established for the given context. Using this instructional strategy, a learning environment was created using both face-to- face and online delivery, and tested with a class of final year higher education students. Eleven generic skills were identified as being important for these students. These included - time management, learning-to-learn, self-assessment, leadership, collaboration, communication, peer-assessment, research, analysis/ synthesis, problem solving and task management. A range of data was collected and analysed by triangulating various qualitative and quantitative research methodologies that provided a rich representation of how the students engaged with the learning activities. Results showed that the design of the learning environment was effective in promoting the development of these generic skills, and that the authentic activities were instrumental in motivating students. Once motivated, students then actively engaged with self-directed and reflective activities, which helped construct knowledge and promote generic skill development. The major implication of the study is that generic skill development and deep approaches to learning can be achieved without having to take extra time to specifically teach these skills. Developing generic skills becomes a natural consequence of students actively engaging with learning tasks that are authentic, student-centred and reflective. Using this approach to teaching and learning, course coordinators need to consider which generic skills should be targeted at different year levels to cover the necessary skills.