Situated in a theoretical framework of experiential learning, adult-learning theory, constructivist theory, and the elements of capstones and service-learning, this study examined the alignment between employability skills employers need and employability skills graduate business students gain through service-learning in business capstones. The study also investigated whether reflection enhances the employability skills of graduate business students who participate in service-learning during a capstone. This non-experimental, mixed-methods, comparative, descriptive study examined outcomes of students’ development of employability skills through service-learning participation in capstones embedded in MBA programs, and assessed whether the inclusion of service-learning influences students’ development of employability skills. Quantitative data explored which employability skills were enhanced by service-learning in business capstones, and whether there were differences in gender and GPA. The top three employability skills enhanced were decision-making, presentation skills, and teamwork. Of these three, presentation skills was statistically significant, meaning capstones that had service-learning enhanced presentation skills more than capstones that did not include service-learning. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) found a four-factor solution and one factor, Collaborative Learning, was statistically significant. Collaborative Learning was enhanced for capstone students who had a service-learning experience more than students whose capstone did not include service-learning. Qualitative data were analyzed through semi-structured interviews from ten MBA graduates. Four themes were revealed: 1) Structure and Deliverables of Capstones; 2) Opportunities to Make Decisions; 3) Opportunities to Build Teamwork Skills; and, 4) Opportunities to Build Presentation Skills. Participants were also asked in what ways reflection enhanced their employability skills. One theme emerged: Reflection Enhanced the Ability to Complete a Project. Limitations of this study include a lack of generalizability because of the non-experimental design; there are not universal definitions of skills; and the employability skills measured were not an exhaustive list. The main findings included: there is alignment in the collaborative learning skills needed by employers and those skills enhanced through service-learning in graduate business capstones; written and oral reflection improves the ability to accomplish a team-based client project; the instructor’s role in structuring and facilitating service-learning is a key to learning; and presentation skills are enhanced during client-based business capstone courses that include service-learning.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2015. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisors: Andrew Furco, Sash Ardichvili. 1 computer file (PDF); x, vi, 297 pages.
Enhancing Employability Skills In Graduate Business Programs: Service-Learning In Capstone Courses.
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