Teaching Matters

Presentation 5 TR

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Teaching Matters 2018 | Presentation Details | 2018


Learning for an unknown future: Developing graduate attributes using critical realism


Christine Adams, Tasmanian School of Business and Economics


Excellent teaching produces excellent students

Presentation Type



Tamar Room




The world is characterised by multiple experiences, and interpretations creating a sense that the future cannot be known. This challenges educators to develop curriculum to engage and enable students to develop graduate attributes that equip them for personal and professional situations in an uncertain future. There is limited research focusing on how graduate attributes and student identity can be or are supported in the learning environment.

This research goes some way in addressing the question: ‘How can students engage with the learning environment to think, learn and demonstrate graduate attributes?’ The aim is to develop a framework that others can empirically test to confirm the personal, institutional and environmental factors that need to be aligned for the emergence of communication, problem-solving and social responsibility skills. It presents a case study of the experiences of educators and undergraduate students in different modes of delivery within the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics. Sayer’s (2000) philosophical underpinnings of critical realism are employed, through a mixed-methods explanation-based case study, and Activity Theory is used as a lens for analysing the data.

This research offers important insights into the dynamic relationship between the student and elements of the learning environment and the implications this interplay has for the nature of learning and graduate attribute development. Using Activity Theory helps to explain what interactions with the learning environment will increase the potentiality of students to alter, develop, increase and maintain key traits and dispositions needed for graduate attribute development.


Sayer, A. (2000). Realism and social science: a realist approach, Sage Publications, London.

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