Academic's perceptions of work-integrated learning in non-vocational disciplines

Publication Name

Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning


Purpose: Work-integrated learning (WIL) is a strategy that enhances student learning and employability by engaging students in real-world settings, applications and practices. Through WIL, tertiary education institutions forge partnerships with industry to provide students with access to activities that will contribute to their career-readiness and personal growth. The purpose of the paper is to explore academics perceptions of WIL from non-vocational disciplines, where WIL opportunities are less prevalent. Design/methodology/approach: The study employed a qualitative, case-study methodology to unpack academics' reflections on the question “What does WIL mean to you?” Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 33 subject coordinators across a number of non-vocational degrees at one university in Australia. Open coding and thematic analysis was used to explore qualitative data and identify common themes. Findings: Data suggest that academics largely have placement-based understandings of WIL that cause tensions for embedding WIL meaningfully in their courses. Tensions surface when WIL is perceived as a pedagogy that contributes to the neoliberal agenda that sits in conflict with theoretical approaches and that restrict notions of career. Originality/value: Although WIL is not relevant in all subjects, these understandings are a useful starting point to introduce WIL meaningfully, in various ways and where appropriate, in order to provide students opportunities for learning and employability development. The paper has implications for faculty, professional learning and institutional strategies concerning WIL for all students.

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