Work-Integrated Learning Praxis: Selecting a Research Paradigm

Work-Integrated Learning Praxis: Selecting a Research Paradigm

Bruce Calway (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1738-2.ch017
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Education practices, like Work-Integrated Learning, result from a confluence of educational issues, and contextual and philosophical influences. This chapter commences with an overview of the Work-Integrated Learning philosophy, the contextual modifiers and the education issues that provide the framework for Work-Integrated Learning education practices. Issues in investigating or researching Work-Integrated Learning and research paradigm possibilities are explored. It is contended that adoption of a holistic research paradigm for future Work-Integrated Learning research projects is needed to avoid simplistic assessments of Work-Integrated Learning that fail to advance experiential learning (e.g. Dewey, 1938) in school-to-work and workforce scenarios, in any meaningful way. Selection of the neo-positivist research paradigm is argued.
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Wil Philosophy And The Educational Imperatives1

WIL is a term that incorporates knowledge and skills acquisition with “real-world” experience. It embraces many approaches, across several levels of education. The World Association for Cooperative Education (WACE) is the peak organization worldwide and the promoter of the work-integrated learning paradigm as a deep learning model at school level and in the workplace (WACE 2016). Broadly speaking WIL can be expressed as “educational activities that integrate theoretical learning with its application in the workplace” and “provide a meaningful experience of the workplace application that is intentional, organized and recognized by the institution, in order to secure learning outcomes for the student that are both transferable and applied” (Griffith University, 2006).

Philosophically, Dewey (1938), Kolb (1983), Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989), Lave and Wenger (1991), and others have argued the learning benefits of linking work and learning. Learners involved in WIL are able to move from observation to participation. Throughout a work placement, this transition may take place on a number of occasions as learners are exposed to new challenges. Each transition enables the learner to become involved in informal learning. Informal education is a way of helping people to learn that involves elements such as conversation and experience in any setting (e.g. Smith, 1997). Informal education provides an opportunity for broader learning than can be obtained just in a class room whereas learners in WIL are forced to move from a strategic/pragmatic approach to positive problem solving learning (Calway, 2005).

The Work-Integrated Learning philosophy can be expressed by way of a number of generic WIL models. WIL found its genesis in engineering. The initial model has evolved into a multiplicity of variations; been transferred and implemented across an array of disciplines, institutions and workplaces. WIL is the general term given to learning that occurs through undertaking a component of industry/professional practical experience while studying, whether studying for an accredited program of tertiary level studies or not. We suggest that WIL should adopt active and/or action learning methodologies, and focus upon a broader individual and corporate professional development approach, and that WIL should be expressed through six educational imperatives as a social construction:

  • Work ready (labor force) graduates—a vocational and skills/competency focus in the proliferation of degrees with specialized major studies;

  • A continuing professional development culture;

  • Life-long learning;

  • Knowledge transfer and exchange that occurs through “linkage and exchange”—the interaction, collaboration, and exchange of ideas;

  • Human and social potential; and

  • Internationalization—international relevance and collaboration.

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