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Psychology Professor Natalie Ciarocco Authors Book Chapter on Teaching Employable Skills

Natalie J. Ciarocco, Ph.D.

Psychology Professor Natalie J. Ciarocco, Ph.D., recently co-authored “Psychology for the Workforce: Using the Classroom to Help Students Develop and Market Their Employable Skills,” a book chapter focused on how to embed skill development throughout curriculum when teaching psychology. The book, “How We Teach Now: The GSTA Guide to Transformative Teaching,” offers evidence-based commentary on transformative teaching practices, featuring 34 chapters written by graduate students and expert instructors.

The purpose of Ciarocco’s chapter, according to its abstract, is to “help faculty identify opportunities for embedding the development of employable skills into their courses.”

“Like many majors at Monmouth University, psychology is not training for a specific vocation, so students have the ability to pursue a number of professional opportunities after graduation,” Ciarocco said.  “Unfortunately because of the multitude of opportunities, people often think psychology majors are not qualified to do anything.”

But many employers, according to Ciarocco, are more concerned with hiring workers with a particular set of skills they can apply to a position, rather than a specific course of study.

“Content itself changes quickly or is job specific and can always be researched and learned, if one has the skills to do so,” Ciarocco said. “Additionally, in today’s job market people often switch careers and positions, meaning they need to learn new content with every change. Skills, however, are transferrable and applicable to many different positions.”

In addition to discussing skills valued by employers, the book chapter offers instructors strategies to infuse skill development along with knowledge acquisition throughout their courses.

Ciarocco said that while it is important for faculty to focus on skill development in their classrooms, it is equally as important to help students learn how to market those skills after graduation.

Ciarocco and her co-author give practical advice to faculty to accomplish this, such as encouraging an end-of-semester review of the skills students practiced in the course and aspects of the course linked to those skills. The authors also suggest encouraging students to add those skills to their resumes and to partner up in practice mock mini-interviews in which students respond to the following prompt, “You have included skill X on your resume. Tell me about a time you demonstrated your ability to engage in skill X.”

“This activity will help students make connections between specifics in the course and their skills, which ultimately will help them market themselves after graduation,” Ciarocco said. “Students will need to confidently present themselves in the job market given the current economic uncertainty.”

Ciarocco and her colleague, social psychologist David Strohmetz, Ph.D., will be continuing this work over the summer with a grant to expand a website that allows students to self-assess their skills and receive feedback on how to maintain or grow their skill set.