Graduation hats being thrown in the air
Annual NTF Symposia

Evidencing effectiveness and impact in graduate ability – an employer perspective

Dr David Gordon, De Montfort University, Leicester 

This presentation at the ANTF2024 symposium featured the output of an action research project into how organisations view the employability value of university teaching, and particularly assessments. The study considered a spectrum of variables associated with graduate employability; a focus on course content, learning and assessments, experiences that provide a proxy for internships and bring live, problem-based commercial situations into the classroom.  

The research aimed to identify graduate employers’ views of UK university degree classroom preparation for employment. It explained how bringing real situations enhanced student engagement and involvement (interest & attendance) and influenced employability (LinkedIn-ready content, interview discourse and ultimately recruitment). It consisted of feedback from 50 cross-sector commercial organisations who have extensively interviewed and recruited university graduates of Finance, Business, Management, Marketing, HR, and Enterprise. 

The study revealed a spectrum of appreciation of commercial higher education, with a focus on two specific areas.  

A.  An overriding recognition that assessments designed with external organisations and are authentic and live in the context, provide the greatest demonstration of experience, and evidence an enjoyable learning process.  

B. How universities could design authentic assessments that are representative of industry aligned graduate work and provide illustrative content for evidencing on employability related social media platforms, on a CV, and especially during the interview discourse, aiding the employability process. Employers didn’t want case studies or achievement in quasi-current situations. They want examples of real, live situations that are evidence of what they can do, not just what they know. 

Employers often feel that not enough students pursue and attend a placement year at university (the traditional gap year between year two and three) but authentic assessments can provide a replacement for this type of tangible, consultative, and impactful experience. Authentic assessments are a spectrum of experience types, from the traditional capstone study project at the end of a UG or PG course, individual module assessments with the foundation of theory and concepts but overlaid with real commercial situations. Additionally, authentic assessments could be having class assessment visits to a company, and part of the reassessment being a live presentation to the company 

Additionally, the briefing summarised an important segment of employers that value models and frameworks, but don’t understand the notion of conceptual thinking. The session provided a perspective on the intrinsic value correlation between education, assessments, and learning environment. 

The research comes after 25 years in commercial industry management, 27 years in academia, and 22+ years recruiting graduates. It challenges current perceptions of contextual application pedagogy and reevaluates the importance of assessments. The session crystalised an employer view of being a researcher/junior consultant in practice, through live authentic assessment that are perceived as employability value creators. 

Dr David Gordon

I have spent several years helping other university faculties, departments and teams with structuring and compiling an authentic assessment strategy and tactics, at zero cost for my time. I have also presented to learning and teaching teams at a multitude of conferences and University meetings. Please contact me if you’re interested in my free of charge assistance 


Gulikers, J.T., Bastiaens, T.J. and Kirschner, P.A., 2004. A five-dimensional framework for authentic assessment. Educational technology research and development, 52(3), pp.67-86. 

Herrington, J. and Herrington, A., 1998. Authentic assessment and multimedia: How university students respond to a model of authentic assessment. Higher Education Research & Development, 17(3), pp.305-322. 

Hosain, S., 2020. The role of social media on talent search and acquisition: Evidence from contemporary literature. Journal of Intercultural Management, 12(1), pp.92-137. 

Mueller, J., 2005. The authentic assessment toolbox: enhancing student learning through online faculty development. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 1(1), pp.1-7. 

Newmann, F.M. and Archbald, D.A., 1992. The nature of authentic academic achievement. Toward a new science of educational testing and assessment, 71, p.83. 

Image: Image by Gillian Callison from Pixabay