Special issue


The concepts of ‘graduateness’ and graduate attributes became contested terrain before COVID-19 destabilised even the most assured of shared learning constructions. Indeed, for those of us immersed in the delivery of work-based learning (WBL), this has long been the case. Promotion of reductive notions of ‘skills’ acquisition to comply neatly with an employability agenda holds little relevance for those students already engaged in full time careers, and with a wealth of professional experience. What can hold influence and interest, however, is the opportunity to engage in meaningful, agentic, professionally-aligned reflective practices as a scaffolded route to promoting self-awareness and developing confidence in mapping competences from the professional domain to the academic (and vice versa).

This paper shares an account of taking an embedded approach to supporting the development of academic literacies amongst work-based learners in one UK HEI. In particular, it will consider the use of reflective pedagogical tools and values in supporting work-based learners to become confident and adaptable writers. Discussion considers how work-based pedagogies and approaches may have far-reaching relevance in a post-pandemic landscape, where reskilling and professional agility are likely to become more prolific aspects of education and work. Writing itself is framed as an integrated communication practice that encompasses literature retrieval, reading, evaluation, synthesis and articulation of argument. The paper will describe pre-pandemic academic support activities and share qualitative survey data in which students consider their confidence as both professional and academic writers. It concludes with consideration of how some of the approaches outlined may have relevance for the wider academic community.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Clarity – as with all colleagues engaged in supporting the development of academic literacies, technologies which promote transparency are vital to our practice. Whether this is resources intended to explain key academic conventions, information around our own availability or exemplar material to demonstrate differing tone or intent, making the implicit explicit (Homer & Ramsay, 1999) continues to shape all that we do.
  2. Security – providing a safe, experimental space for students to develop writing practice and confidence. Writing retreats are an example of this, as are our management of aspects of formative assessment.
  3. Flexibility – ensuring multiple and alternative formats and opportunities to participate in conversation is essential for our learners, engaged in full time work as well as study.
  4. Responsibility – Respecting our learners as agentic, insightful professionals who have the autonomy to develop into whatever type of writer they wish/ require to be with appropriate signposting. Our open-access web resources invite students to exercise this independence and choice.
  5. Embracing uncertainty - Uncertainty will continue to be a certainty, and we embrace that in supporting our learners and developing our model.

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