The study aimed to explore the effect of second year business students engaging in counterfactual reasoning on their unrealistic optimism regarding attainment on an employability module.Design/methodology/approachUsing an experimental design, the study compared the module performance of those who generated reasons why they would and would not achieve a series of specific grades. A control group who did not generate any reasons also took part.FindingsStudents who generated reasons why they would not achieve a good grade were less likely to be unrealistically optimistic and more likely to attain a good grade on their assessment.Research limitations/implicationsThis is a small sample of students from one form of programme, so replication with a greater sample drawn from other programmes would increase reliability.Practical implicationsThe results suggest an easily applied and practical way of engaging students in employability modules to support their development of a range of capitals.Social implicationsThe findings are considered in relation to the theory of possible selves, the value for students, particularly widening participation of students, of improved engagement with employability modules and the possibility of applying this technique in wider educational settings.Originality/valueThis paper extends Hoch’s (1985) original study by considering the use of counterfactual reasoning for assessment performance and offering a an easy-to-apply tool for module leaders to support student attainment in employability development modules.
Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 7, 2021
Keywords: Employability; Attainment; Counterfactual reasoning; Unrealistic optimism