Work Integrated Learning (WIL) mainstreamed: the identity of the practitioner

Publication Name

Educational Research


Background: With the aim of augmenting graduate employability outcomes, higher education is increasingly challenged, via policy and practice, to increase Work Integrated Learning (WIL) as a mainstream component of university education. However, little attention has been given to the academic WIL practitioner, whose identity (personal–professional) is closely tied to current WIL roles and practices. Purpose: This article reports on the findings from a small-scale qualitative study that sought to investigate the identities of academic WIL practitioners at an Australian university. The study’s purpose was to gain a deeper understanding of the practitioners’ identities, at a time when universities are undergoing rapid changes in work integrated learning. Methods: Interviews were held with six academic WIL practitioners. Each was interviewed using the ‘interview to the double method’ as a way of gaining insight into WIL practices. In-depth data analysis involved a content analysis approach within a framework informed by possible selves theory, in order to capture individual practitioners’ identity beliefs. Findings: Analysis within the framework allowed the academic WIL identities of the practitioners to emerge, with the data reflecting representations of their hopes, fears and challenges. It also highlighted the judgements they were making, with insight gained into the practitioners’ working self-concept and identity. The analysis revealed a range of possible selves that continually evolve throughout a timespan influenced by shifting self-knowledge. Conclusions: Findings from this small-scale investigation draw attention to the important role academic WIL practitioners play in shaping current and future WIL practices, and the need for further research in this area. There are implications for the transferability and maintenance of WIL practices in higher education and the authenticity of WIL as it becomes mainstream.

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