Learning outcomes

As with any learning activity, it is vital to clearly articulate what students are expected to achieve6.7Yorke, M., & Knight, P. (2006). Embedding employability into the curriculum. Higher Education Academy, York.. However, the variable nature of WIL experiences and the involvement of multiple stakeholders, make the learning outcomes associated with WIL less predictable than those associated with more structured or controlled activities8.1Ferns, S., & Zegwaard, K. E. (2014). Critical assessment issues in work-integrated learning. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 15(3), 179-188.. For example, no two placements will be the same and the objectives of industry projects are individualised. Thus the learning outcomes specified should be flexible enough to allow for variable experiences, yet specific enough to clearly communicate the learning that is required8.2Yorke, M. (2011). Work‐engaged learning: towards a paradigm shift in assessment. Quality in Higher Education, 17(1), 117-130. doi:10.1080/13538322.2011.554316

In practice

The following learning outcomes expected for a placement unit at Deakin University are broad and qualitative so as to be applicable to different workplace experiences, but still clearly articulate what students are expected to achieve.

  • Articulate career aspirations and goals to potential employers highlighting key personal and professional capabilities and competencies.
  • Investigate opportunities for learning at a workplace and develop professional goals that demonstrate awareness of specific roles and responsibilities to effectively participate in work activities.
  • Use evidence of ethical, professional and efficient work practices and knowledge to justify claims against performance expectations, duties and responsibilities of an employment opportunity.
  • Reflect on learning outcomes and show capacity for preparing and achieving personal and professional development goals.

Example from Sharon la Fontaine, Professional Practice in Bioscience, Deakin University

Another useful approach is to provide broad learning outcomes for the whole cohort, and then work with individual students and industry partners to develop more specific, personalised learning objectives. Involving students and industry partners in the decision making process will help to ensure that all parties form realistic expectations, and goal setting can improve student motivation 6.5Jackson, D. (2015). Employability skill development in work-integrated learning: Barriers and best practice. Studies in Higher Education, 40(2), 350-367..

Depending on the context and resources available, personalised objectives might be articulated as goals (that need not be formally assessed) or requirements (that are assessed). Where personalised learning outcomes are assessed, a broad learning outcome such as ‘demonstrate skills and knowledge relevant to the workplace as negotiated in your personalised learning outcome’ might be included in the unit learning outcomes to make this expectation clear to students.

For WIL to be fully embedded and contextualised, the learning outcomes should be aligned with those of the unit and, where possible, the whole course of study.