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‘There will always be traditional forms of assessment, but it’s all the other practical and personal development opportunities that can make graduates stand out from the crowd.’

Deakin Business School (DBS) PhD student Lincoln Then James is well on his way to a future career in academia.

His honours thesis titled, ‘Authentic assessment in business education: its effects on student satisfaction and promoting behaviour’, was published in Studies in Higher Ed, a prestigious ‘A’ ranked journal in the ABDC listing – a first for a DBS honours student graduating in 2015.

Lincoln credits his outstanding achievement to plenty of hard work and also his thesis supervisor Dr Riza Casidy, who guided him with a hands-off approach until he needed to be steered back on track.

‘Staying focused and engaged was quite hard initially, but once I actually started writing my thesis it all clicked,’ explains Lincoln.

His thesis focuses on university education and graduate employability and highlights the benefits of authentic assessments to prepare students in becoming workplace-ready.

An authentic assessment, compared to traditional assessments such as multiple-choice questions and closed-book exams, mirrors professional practice; providing students with the opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and experiences to help them prepare for their future careers. 

‘By providing students with experience based on real-world scenarios, challenges and triumphs, they can be equipped with more than book knowledge,’ Lincoln says.

‘There will always be traditional forms of assessment, but it’s all the other practical and personal development opportunities that can make graduates stand out from the crowd.’

While vital, Lincoln says degrees are no longer an immediate gateway into professional practice, claiming employers want to see more experience so new staff can essentially ‘hit the ground running’.

‘In my research I noted in 2014 only 68 per cent of graduates found full-time work within four months of leaving university,’ he says.

‘‘In 2008, the percentage was around 85 per cent. There are many possible causes to this decline in graduate employability – the Federal government’s decision to uncap the number of places universities were allowed to offer, leading to an increased supply of university graduates and the decreasing value of degrees in the market and finally, the expectations of employers.

'The focus of my research was to explore one possible method for increasing graduate employability, authentic assessments, and how students perceive this type of assessment.

‘Today’s society is rapidly changing and students are preparing for careers of the future – some that may not even exist today. This requires students to learn a broad range of skills to be a complete package for employers to eagerly want to hire come graduation.’

Deakin proudly offers students a variety of experiential learning opportunities, such as work integrated learning, study abroad programs and mentoring positions.

Partaking in such experiences can make university a life-changing experience, both personally and professionally, which is something Lincoln highly recommends.

‘I’ve been on study programs to China and Europe and it was eye-opening. Particularly in relation to my research on university education, it gave me a first-hand experience of studying in China, which is very different to Australia,’ Lincoln explains.

‘During my undergraduate, I also worked as a Writing Mentor helping students adjust to university expectations, develop their academic skills and connect them to university services.

'These experiences have built up my skills in various areas and they also cemented my passion for pursuing a future in academia. I don’t want to leave, I love it here.’

‘Studies have shown the most satisfied students at university are the ones who are the most engaged and my research has helped to highlight what universities can do to modernise their offerings to their students.’