University of Strathclyde



The project aimed to contextualise Graduate Attributes by developing a model of innovative learning and teaching practices to support Initial Teacher Education (ITE) students transitioning beyond Strathclyde. Drawing on work-based learning experiences encountered by recent graduates in their Probationary year, we developed an authentic Problem-Based learning (PBL) task that was used with current ITE students. Students followed the PBL procedure (see links/attachment) as they worked through a given scenario. They reflected on the attributes and skills developed during their studies and discussed solutions. More specifically:

Firstly, recent graduates were invited to a focus group conducted by the intern, where they shared experiences and challenges they faced in their workplace during their probationary year. While the main purpose was to use the focus group data to develop the PBL activity for current students, it also became apparent that this was an opportunity for these early-career teachers to share common issues encountered in their probationary year and to discuss solutions to these issues. Different perspectives allowed them to offer each other support, making this reflective process more relevant and meaningful. Initial analysis of the focus group data identified a range of work-based learning experiences and attributes.

We then mapped participants’ accounts onto the P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning[1]. We identified five different 21st century skills particularly relevant to our focus group:


  • Creativity & Innovation
  • Flexibility & Adaptability
  • Initiative & Self-direction
  • Critical thinking & Problem-solving


  • Communication & Collaboration


Based on initial analysis and synthesis of the data, eight themes emerged exemplifying Graduate attributes in the context of teacher professional learning. These themes formed the basis for developing the PBL activity for current students. Utilising a PBL approach, students were first presented with the problem. They then worked within their own group to brainstorm, research, and discuss the problem. Once they came to a shared solution to the problem, they presented it to other groups. They also had a chance to learn from the probationary teachers’ problem-solving process, while they developed their own solutions.

A summary of the research findings from this project is also available: From Being (a Student) to Becoming (a Graduate): Exploring Graduate Attributes in the 21st Century - Summary of Research Findings

This work was supported by Enhancement Theme funding from the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland




School of Education


Contact Details


Dr Eleni Karagiannidou

Dr Alan Huang

Jennifer Zike (




Student Transitions



The project looked at ITE students’ transitions beyond Strathclyde and into their probationary year with a particular focus on supporting the development of graduate attributes.

Once student teachers complete an ITE programme – either through the BA or postgraduate degree in education (PGDE) – they must complete a probationary year to obtain full registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). Research has shown that there remains a gap between University-based learning and its real-world applications during teachers’ probationary year and beyond. This project was designed to address this gap.

We utilised a PBL approach - a useful avenue for students to reflect on attributes, learn and apply skills that are important to solving work-based problems.



This small-scale case study provided us with an in-depth understanding of some of the challenges new teachers face during their Probationary year. It made a significant contribution to increasing student engagement and strengthening partnership to support student transitions beyond Strathclyde.

In addition, the graduates interviewed indicated that the project was useful as it highlighted the challenges that probationary teachers tend to face. They welcomed the opportunity to work on solutions to work-based problems in a collaborative manner, linking it to skill development and professional learning.

Furthermore, current students had the opportunity to work through the problem-solving process in a systematic way, supported by their classmates and the intern. They indicated that the PBL approach was effective and that they could picture themselves in the teacher’s place. This suggests that this approach can be further embedded when developing modules and courses.

A further strength of the project was the fact that the intern had recently completed the PGDE course herself, and she is transitioning to her PhD studies. This provided opportunities:

  • For the intern: it meant that she had a chance to work on a research-based project - contributing to literature review, data collection, data analysis and write-up. This is invaluable for her own professional development;
  • For participants: it created an open platform for them to support each other, develop their autonomy and contextualise their professional learning.

Further contributions of this project include a dissemination activity where we present our findings via a seminar, to which we will invite current students and graduates. A final contribution of this project will be to set up the Graduate Attributes in the 21st Century Hub. The virtual hub will be initially used for current students from the School of Education, but we envisage that it has the potential to be adapted for students across the University.



The timing of the project created some difficulties around recruiting graduates. By the time we launched the project, it was approaching the end of the school year and the summer holidays. While we succeeded in obtaining some in-depth data, one of the aims was to tap into the wealth of work-based experiences of our graduates working across a wide range of SIMDs. This was challenging. The graduates recruited were both primary teachers; therefore, the emerging themes may not be applicable to secondary teachers.

In addition, while the original aim was to implement the PBL activities with current students online, this was not possible due to time constraints. However, this will be implemented at a later stage, with the development of the Hub.

Lessons Learnt


Negotiations regarding project time-frame and funding availability should take into account the schedule of participants wherever possible.

Furthermore, timing for current students to participate in the PBL activity had to be negotiated: a time-slot within an existing tutorial was used. Future undertaking of such activity would benefit from allowing more for the research stage of the PBL cycle.



Eight ITE students were involved in the PBL activity. Due to time constraints, only one scenario was used with each group. There is the potential to scale up the PBL approach in the BA courses for a range of different topics, utilising a variety of PBL scenarios.

In addition, there is scalability in terms of the how the resources can be used by a wider audience. Utilising digital technologies, more graduates, students, staff members and external organisations (such as GTCS) could benefit from using our model to support student transitions. The aforementioned digital “Hub” could provide a platform for this.

The above also point to a direction for further study. Potentially, the current project results could be utilised as a pilot study leading to an application for a PhD studentship.

Suggestions for Transferability

As current ITE students responded favourably to the PBL approach, a more student-centred pedagogy, it could be used to develop more 21st century learning skills.

In addition, the graduates we interviewed expressed the desire for the University to continue to be a source of learning during their Probationary year. Therefore, there might be further partnership opportunities between the University and external organisations, with the aim of supporting student transition.

The dissemination of our findings is a further learning opportunity for both students and graduate. We will invite current students and graduates, other staff members and representatives from the GTCS. Our findings suggest that the creation of such a forum is important for the development of graduate attributes.

Finally, the virtual Hub is a creative space for students and graduates to network, collaborate and offer peer support. Knowledge and understanding emerged from this has the potential to facilitate future course planning and development.

Student Involvement

The student intern was involved in design of research instruments, data collection, analysis and dissemination. As the intern has recently embarked on her PhD studies, “having additional experience conducting research has been incredibly beneficial” to her (quote from intern student).

Former students were involved in focus groups discussions, based on which the PBL activities were developed, while current ITE students were involved in the implementation of the PBL activity. Both groups will also be invited to the dissemination seminar.


  1. Framework for 21st Century Learning:

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