Publication Details

Dean, B., Sykes, C. & Turbill, J. (2012). 'So, what did you do?' A performative, practice-based approach to examining informal learning in WIL. 9th International Conference on Cooperative and Work-Integrated Education (pp. 1-13). Istanbul, Turkey: World Association for Cooperative Education, Bahcesehir University.


A growing body of research in work-integrated learning (WIL) demonstrates the importance of industry experience for student learning. Much of this research however focuses on individual, formal learning that occurs in WIL programs typically captured through assessment. What is less visible is the informal learning experienced during placement. In this paper, we argue that such omissions are suggestive of the incommensurability of the standard paradigm of learning with informal learning. The standard paradigm limits informal learning by privileging individual, cognitive processes of recall, thereby casting experience as “static and sedimented, separated from knowledge making processes” (Fenwick, 2009, p.235). This paper offers an alternative approach to understanding learning, by drawing on a relational ontology that emphasises how “everything that is has no existence apart from its relation to other things” (Langley & Tsoukas, 2010, p.3) and using a performative practice-based approach. Through a relational, performative approach, this paper demonstrates the utility of examining enacted and embodied knowledge (or knowing) in order to better understand informal learning. Ethnographic vignettes are presented of three commerce interns on WIL placement. Using data from observation, interviews and collection of artefacts we draw attention to the under-acknowledged, embodied and socio-material dimensions of student learning in WIL. By shedding light on this approach, we offer the usefulness of a practice-based lens and a focus on socio-materiality for researching overlooked areas of WIL