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Queen Mary Academy

Mapping graduate attributes and the undergraduate curriculum in Psychology: A co-created approach

A small group of students work together on laptop and paper
Dr Paraskevi Argyriou profile pic

Dr Paraskevi Argyriou

Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Director of Graduate Opportunities & Employment, SBBS

In Psychology, we completed a mapping exercise relating the new Queen Mary Graduate Attributes with modules, which highlighted existing strengths and suggested areas for further enhancement. This will help staff to enrich their practice by placing focus on skills development, and students to feel better equipped for their future by using their curricular experience to showcase their skills.

In line with existing studies on reduced student awareness of competencies[1], student feedback via an online survey (n= 21 Psychology students) highlighted the low levels of awareness for course-level graduate attributes (e.g., 76% of the respondents noted that they haven’t heard of Graduate Attributes). In addition, at Queen Mary and across the sector it appears that the proportion of Psychology graduates undertaking further education or finding a professional job by 15 months after graduation is relatively small compared to other degrees[2] (e.g., Psychology historically scores lower than the university average in the Graduate Outcomes Survey). Furthermore, it is crucial to recognise that not all students can participate in extra-curricular activities for their professional and personal growth[3], and that all students should be able to leverage their academic experience to enhance their transition to work[4].  

This project aimed to:

  1. use the new graduate attributes list to enable educators to reflect upon their practice and students upon their experience;
  2. raise students’ and educators’ awareness of graduate attributes;
  3. ensure that our curricular activities in psychology best equip our students for their future (i.e., via identifying practice to maintain and areas for improvement).


The QM Academy’s co-creation toolkit[5] was used, and members of staff and undergraduate students from the Department of Psychology collaborated as co-researchers and pedagogical consultants for completing a mapping exercise between graduate attributes and the curriculum. Students and staff were introduced to the new graduate attributes, discussed the list, reflected on the programme curriculum and recorded which learning activities they think help students develop each graduate attribute, to what extent and how. This was completed during four workshop sessions with students and staff led by the author. More specifically, six students and 24 members of staff reflected upon 23 (out of 28) modules of the BSc Psychology, they rated on a scale from 1-5 how helpful each module is for the development of each of the thirteen graduate attributes and offered examples of learning activities to justify their rating. The use of shared documents and online surveys (e.g., Microsoft forms) facilitated the collaboration and recording of reflective comments.


  • Both students and staff overall rated the programme as equally helpful for the development of most attributes (Figure 1). Some notable exceptions are observed with the attributes of engaging critically with knowledge, applying expertise and being flexible, where students and staff disagreed. Reasons for this incongruency will be explored further (e.g., could signposting the attributes more improve student awareness?).
  • The Psychology programme curriculum fosters all attributes, with both students and staff perceiving Year 2 and 3 as more helpful than Year 1 to skills development.
  • There is a variety of curricular activities that foster the development of attributes including in-class discussions, elements of coursework, and module content (an example outcome is outlined in Table 1 demonstrating that students develop communication skills via a variety of curricular activities in at least six modules). 
Figure 1 Mean rating on a scale from 1-5 on “how helpful the BSc Psychology modules are for developing each graduate attribute”. Based on 6 students and 24 members of staff reflecting upon 23 (out of 28) modules.

Table 1 Example of the mapping exercise between graduate attributes and programme curriculum.

Graduate Attribute 

Learning activities 


Communicate effectively in a range of formats for different purposes with a diverse range of people  

  • Group work 
  • In-class interview of visiting professionals 
  • In-class debates 
  • E-poster presentation 
  • Oral presentation to peers and supervisor
  • Video presentation for lay audience 
  • In-class discussions (including via menti)
  • Collaboration with international students for assessment and via several platforms
  • Written lab-report, essay, article

Essential Skills for Psychologists (year 1), Emotion (year 1), Social Psychology (year 2), Research Methods (year 2), Research Project (year 3), Business Psychology (year 3) 

Being part of this working group, I felt my experiences were recognised and valued, making me proud of my student identity. This space gave all members an opportunity to voice our outlooks and opinions, leaving us with a sense of impact and efficacy.
— Jodi Taylor-Nettleton, Year 3 Student BSc Psychology


The project was positively received by both students and staff.

A report of the project outcomes was sent to educators, including a table which outlines each attribute, the learning activities that foster attributes’ development, a list of modules where development occurs and recommendations for their practice. This way all educators have a battery of curriculum activities they could consider highlighting, adapting to help skills development, and they have the confidence to maintain and update their practice accordingly. In addition, the outcomes of this project serve as a first step to guide improved practice at a programme level (e.g., enhance continuity of skills development through modules; identify ways to embed attributes development via the design of new modules and/or curricular activities).

The student co-creators will continue working on this area with the aim to develop ideas for how to engage all students in this reflective activity (e.g., embed reflection over graduate attributes during modules and submit a reflective piece).

Outcomes of the work in this area will continue to be monitored longitudinally to assess impact on improved student self-awareness of competencies.

I found this reflection and discussion exercise very useful. It helped me to focus on attributes and put them in the context of my teaching. It also helped me to connect with colleagues and exchange ideas in a constructive and positive way.
— Dr Elisabetta Versace, Senior Lecturer in Psychology


The project provides a useful example of an approach to graduate attributes which could be adopted at School or Institute level. Some important considerations for implementing a similar approach include:

  • Allow time so that both students and staff become acquainted with the attributes and discuss what they mean in the context of the programme.
  • Attempt to explore qualitatively any incongruencies between student and staff perceptions over an attribute.
  • Create a safe space to allow reflection and open discussion and avoid biased reporting.
  • Encourage participants to thoroughly review the curriculum in all its entirety to allow a comprehensive approach (e.g., review all learning activities and not assessment only).
  • Re-do every couple of years to monitor changes.

Share and use outcomes to inform future practice and scholarship activities. 

Reference list

[1] Bautista-Mesa, R., Molina Sánchez, H., & Ramírez Sobrino, J. N. (2018). Audit workplace simulations as a methodology to increase undergraduates’ awareness of competences. Accounting Education, 27(3), 234-258. 

[2] Woolcock, N., & Ellis, R. (2021). Graduates face tougher job hunt after psychology and business degrees. The Times.  

[3] Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan, J., Solomon, L., & May, S. (2011). The impact of engagement with extracurricular activities on the student experience and graduate outcomes for widening participation populations. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(3), 203-215. 

[4] García-Aracil, A., Monteiro, S., & Almeida, L. S. (2021). Students’ perceptions of their preparedness for transition to work after graduation. Active Learning in Higher Education, 22(1), 49–62. 

[5] Queen Mary Academy. (n.d.) ROADMAP - for planning and implementing co-creation projects.  

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