The Australian Government is financially incentivising work integrated learning (WIL) to enhance graduate employability. As such, universities are currently expanding WIL pedagogies and practices from their traditional domain of professional degrees, to be incorporate into almost all university degrees. Using Kemmis’ Theory of Practice Architecture, this study investigated the practices of established WIL practitioners in universities and uncovers what can be referred to as a WIL ecology of practice. This ecology comprises of key WIL practices, including: networking and selling, negotiating, collaborating and innovating and legitimising. The findings from this study offer important insights into how higher education institutions may develop a WIL ecology of practice, and critically, achieve WIL funding objectives, which has arguably become ever more important given the challenges COVID-19 has presented to university operational budgets.

Practitioner Notes

  1. The Australian Government is financially incentivising work integrated learning (WIL) in higher education to enhance job-ready graduates. Particularly given the COVID-19 downturn, this ensures WIL’s expansion into more degrees but does require capacity building.
  2. To inform WIL’s expansion at universities, our qualitative empirical study investigated the ‘practices’ of established WIL practitioners, as practices are potentially more scalable than individual characteristics.
  3. By taking this Theory of Practice Architectures approach, we identified six shared WIL practitioner practices; networking, selling, negotiating, collaborating, innovating and legitimising. These practices interconnected to form a WIL ecology of practice at this university site – this was important because this ecology can be adapted to expand WIL in other universities.
  4. By professionally developing willing academics in networking, selling and negotiating practices and enhancing support for WIL in the institutional environment, to reduce the time and effort they invest in legitimising their work, we propose that you can achieve both WIL outcomes for your learners and achieve the Australian Government funding targets for your institution.

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