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Understanding Educator Beliefs in Teaching and Assessing Soft Skills: An Examination within the Malaysian Public Higher Education Sector

Meor Osman, Wan Sofiah (2017) Understanding Educator Beliefs in Teaching and Assessing Soft Skills: An Examination within the Malaysian Public Higher Education Sector. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Higher education plays a significant role in determining the growth and income of a country through the development of graduates with discipline-specific technical skills. However, employers consider graduates who have developed generic skills, or soft skills, as most employable. To address this, the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) established the soft skills development module for the advancement of soft skills in higher education with the aim of producing the work-ready graduates demanded by employers. The module is flexible and provides for the development of seven soft skills: communication; critical thinking and problem solving; teamwork; lifelong learning and information management; entrepreneurship; moral and professional ethics; and leadership. Despite this innovative policy-level approach, little is yet known about the experiences of individual educators within the Malaysian higher education system in delivering and assessing soft skills.

A mixed methods approach was used in this study in order to gain a better understanding of educator experiences. An in-depth qualitative phenomenological approach was followed by a quantitative study to explore educator perceptions. The outcomes of this research highlight educator personal beliefs as a significant antecedent to perceptions of teaching and assessing soft skills. The varied and interdependent role of the educator as teacher, facilitator and consultant is also a central theme of this research, which recognises the central role of educators in the development by students of soft skills via formal, non-formal and informal modes with a student-learning focus.

Results across the two phases of this study have been integrated, leading to the development of two frameworks. The first enables a better understanding of educator perceptions about their role, and specifically “individual responsibility” in developing soft skills. The second guides the teaching and assessing of soft skills. These frameworks have implications for teaching and learning strategies associated with soft skills development, and have applicability across the higher education sector.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School Of Business and Governance
Supervisor(s): Girardi, Antonia and Paull, Megan
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