Work Integrated Learning (1)

Work integrated Learning
Cooperative education has existed in the United States for most of the 20th century as a structured method of combining academic education with practical work experience. For a number of reasons, its promise has not been fully realized (Barton 1996). However, it is taking on new importance in an environment characterized by emphasis on school-to-work transition and experiential learning initiatives.

Finn (1997) believes that the answer lies in going beyond reconceiving co-op as an “educational strategy, pedagogy, model, methodology, or curriculum” (Finn 1997, p. 41). She asserts that it is time for cooperative education to develop and define its body of knowledge, investigate its unique phenomena-e.g., the concept of learning from experience, and clarify and strengthen the qualifications of co-op practitioners. For Ricks (1996), cooperative education is inherently committed to improving the economy, people’s working lives, and lifelong learning abilities. It can thus position itself to serve the experiential learning needs of students into the 21st century.
Literature Review
The basic concepts of alternating school with work over a substantial portion of the student’s college or university career and allowing them to straddle the complexity of both the academic studies and the work experiences are fundamental to co-operative education (Parsons, Caylor, & Simmons, 2005). Traditionally, employer and student performance evaluation data have been used to informally reflect on and improve student or employer performance. However, greater emphasis is now being placed on improving evaluation criteria through learning outcomes that meet the needs of co-operative education programs. Both Parsons et al. (2005) and McGourty, Sebastian, and Swart (1998) argued that outcome-driven assessment processes provide critical information to faculty and administrators on the effectiveness of the design, delivery, and direction of any education.
Development of Learning Outcomes Assessment Methods for Co-operative Education Programs
Shaeiwitz (1996) added that outcomes assessments are critical to the evaluation of co-operative education programs for higher education institutions in the current competitive environment. Frye also asserted that the two growing trends to the interest of educators are assessment and accountability (Astin, 1998, Frye, 2002). Frye argued that assessment for ex¬cellence is a feedback process guiding students, faculty, departments, and administration in improving their effectiveness. Assessment for accountability, however, is a regulatory process, designed for accreditation purposes, aggregate statistics and institutional conformity (Miller, 2007, Frye, 2002). Behaviors that will maximize student learning should be incorporated into learning outcomes assessment methods, which will in turn stimulate and solidify the purpose for allowing valuable outcomes assessment.
In a large study, Besterfield-Sacre et al. (2000) identified and focused on eleven intention¬ally undefined outcomes of EC-20002 as a necessary step to better defining learning outcomes in Engineering co-operative education. Through an extensive literature review and a framework based on Bloom’s taxonomy, each outcome has been expanded into a set of attributes that can then be used to adapt the outcomes to their own program. Besterfield-Sacre et al. agree that these outcomes are in a dynamic state and that it is necessary to continually update and modify them as knowledge increased about their specificity and use.
According to Cates and Jones (2000): 1) Clear expectations need to be set; 2) the tools, strategies, and instruments need to facilitate a transfer of knowledge and 3) formative assessment is needed for student learning. Emphasizing learning outcomes necessitates an academic approach that fosters an emphasis on learning, use of academic assign¬ments, and a workplace environment that extends learning and complements that of the academic environment. Linking academic components of co-operative education with the applications of learning theories can work together to advance learning outcomes.
It is evident that practitioners have recognized the value of implementing learning out¬comes in the co-operative education process. The challenge arises in creating measure¬able learning outcomes that include social skills development woven into the co-operative education experience. According to Mueller (2009), this assessment requires “The system¬atic collection, examination, and interpretation of qualitative and quantitative data about student learning and the use of that information to document and to improve student learning” (p. 7).
Theoretical Background

Work integrated learning (WIL) integrates learning and its workplace application in an educational setting and can be achieved through a real or simulated activity in or out of the workplace (Atchison, Pollock, Reeders, & Rizzetti, 2002, p. 3). WIL has become more prominent in tertiary education as attempts are made to improving students’ generic skills and bridging the student skills—employer expectation gap (Bradley, Noonan, Nugent, & Scales, 2008; Patrick et al., 2008; Universities Australia, 2008). This is based on evidence that WIL improves the tertiary education product and therefore the outcomes for all stake¬holders including student satisfaction. The latter has also become increasingly important as universities are increasingly measured and funded by performance in this regard.

The literature suggests that WIL offers engaging learning experiences that contribute to student satisfaction with their education experience (Patrick et al., 2008, pp. 20-21; Precision Consultancy, 2007, p. 29;) and this is confirmed by Australian evidence which recognises the relationship of WIL to student engagement and satisfaction (Australian Council for Education Research (ACER), 2008; Scott, 2005). In particular the Scott study noted that students single out engaging learning methods such as Practice-orientated (which includes WIL methods6) and interactive, face-to face learning methods as the best aspects of their degree. In a broader study (students from 25 Australasian institutions) stu¬dent satisfaction was linked to engagement scales and quality of educational experience, with the WIL scale producing one of the strongest positive relationships with re-enrolment intentions (ACER, 2008, pp. 22-23). In summary, the literature suggests that WIL activities can positively impact on student satisfaction.

In a higher education context, self-efficacy7 has a significant influence on student behaviour. Self-efficacy can affect a students’ academic persistence, choice of career opportunities, career competency, individual performance and satisfaction (Bandura, 1997; Chowdhury, Endres, & Lanis, 2002; Gist & Mitchell, 1992). For example, students with higher self-efficacy can better utilise cognitive strategies (Zimmerman, Bandura, & Marti¬nez-Pons, 1992) and can be better at solving conceptual problems (Bouffard-Bouchard, Parent, & Larivee, 1991). Prior studies have demonstrated significant improvements in student self-efficacy through participation in WIL activities including improved attitudes and behaviours toward work readiness (Day, Kelly, Parker, & Parr, 1982; Hughes & Moore, 1999; Freudenberg, Brimble, Vyvyan, & Corby, 2008; Subramaniam & Freudenberg, 2007).
Generic skills development has been a key focus in curriculum changes and renewal in recent years and has been promoted by stakeholder views (and evidence) that suggests an expectation gap exists between the employers/students and what is being delivered by ter¬tiary programs (Kavanagh & Drennan, 2008). For example, the ICAA and CPA Australia have devised accreditation criteria, which explicitly requires universities to include generic skills development in their programs (Institute of Chartered Accountants [ICAA] & CPA, 2009).

The benefits of generic skills are also not restricted to employer demand and better graduate employment prospects; they are also transferable—from university to the workplace and be¬tween workplaces. Whilst technical knowledge becomes dated, generic skills rarely become obsolete and can be transferred into new careers (Kavanagh & Drennan, 2008, p. 281). WIL can equip students with generic skills and facilitate their transfer into the workplace (Crebert, Bates, Bell, Patrick, & Cragnolini, 2004) and it is therefore not surprising that higher educa¬tion institutions are utilising generic skills research to justify the implementation of WIL activities and to devise WIL curriculum (Litchfield, Nettleton, & Taylor, 2008).

Redesigning co-op for current realities
Although this is a gloomy picture, there are reasons for optimism about the future of co-op. “Social, economic, and historic forces are making cooperative education more relevant than ever” (ibid., p. 17), including emphasis on university-industry-government cooperation, a fluid and demanding workplace, new technology, the need for continuous on-the-job learning, globalization, and demands for accountability (John, Doherty, and Nichols 1998). Federal investments in school-to-work and community service have resulted in a number of initiatives designed to provide “learning opportunities beyond the classroom walls” (Furco 1996, p. 9). Because this has always been a principle of co-op, the field is in a position to capitalize on its strengths and the ways it complements other experiential methods in the effort to provide meaningful learning opportunities for students. To do this, however, cooperative education must be redesigned.

For Wilson, Stull, and Vinsonhaler (1996), a new vision involves conceiving, defining, and presenting co-op “as a curriculum model that links work and academics-a model that is based on sound learning theory” (p. 158). Ricks (1996) suggests affirming the work-based learning principles upon which co-op is based. These principles assert that cooperative education fosters self-directed learning, reflective practice, and transformative learning; and integrates school and work learning experiences that are grounded in adult learning theories.

Schaafsma (1996) also focuses on learning, seeing a need for a paradigm shift from content learning to greater understanding of learning processes, including reflection and critical thinking. Co-op is an experiential method, but learning from experience is not automatic. Therefore, Van Gyn (1996) recommends strengthening the reflective component that is already a part of some co-op models. “If co-op is only a vehicle for experience to gain information about the workplace and to link technical knowledge with workplace application, then its effectiveness is not fully developed” (p. 125).

There is a need for broader definition of acceptable models for integrating work and learning. Barton (1996) and Wilson et al. (1996) identify a variety of work-based learning activities taking different names: co-op, internships, externships, apprenticeship, career academies, etc. Work-based learning programs should look for connections and develop collaborative relationships. The alternating and parallel co-op models may not meet the needs of returning adult students and dislocated workers needing retraining (Varty 1994). Alternatives such as extended-day programs emphasizing mentoring should be considered.
Connecting activities to integrate school- and work-based learning are an essential part of STW. At LaGuardia, the required co-op seminar helps students make connections by giving them a structure within which to reinforce employability skills, examine larger issues about work and society, and undertake the crucial activities of critical reflection (Grubb and Badway 1998).
Grubb and Badway (1998) and Grubb and Villeneuve (1995) found that the value of cooperative education is embedded in the culture of the institution (LaGuardia) and the region (Cincinnati). In this supportive culture, employer support does not have to be repeatedly obtained and there are clearly understood long-term expectations on all sides (schools, employers, students). This “informal culture of expectations around work-based learning may be more powerful in the long run than a complex set of regulations and bureaucratic requirements” (Grubb and Villeneuve 1995, p. 27).

However, even LaGuardia has found it difficult to sustain co-op culture over time (Grubb and Badway 1998). “The only way in which STW programs can find a permanent place in schools and colleges is for the work-based component to become so central to the educational purposes of the institutions that it becomes as unthinkable to give it up as it would be to abandon math, English, or science” (ibid., p. 28). Finn (1997) believes that the answer lies in going beyond reconceiving co-op as an “educational strategy, pedagogy, model, methodology, or curriculum” (Finn 1997, p. 41). She asserts that it is time for cooperative education to develop and define its body of knowledge, investigate its unique phenomena-e.g., the concept of learning from experience, and clarify and strengthen the qualifications of co-op practitioners. For Ricks (1996), cooperative education is inherently committed to improving the economy, people’s working lives, and lifelong learning abilities. It can thus position itself to serve the experiential learning needs of students into the 21st century.

University teachers should be concerned to ensure that the students that graduate from their programmes are prepared for the world in which they will live and work. The integration of professional and academic concerns in the curriculum will go some way towards addressing this requirement. Keeping up with developments in the profession and workplace is a challenge for university teachers, as well as for graduates. Teachers and students need to be well informed about trends and issues that are practised outside the university, as well as inside it. University teachers should locate workplace issues in a wider context. To do so, they should compare the information about the workplace and about new curricular developments. University teachers should think carefully about the relationship between the workplace and the university.

On the other hand, a university education is not about job training, and a WIL curriculum should not be dictated by economic or narrow workplace interests. Instead the university must be (as it always has been) responsive to society and responsive to the needs of students to become productive members of society. Beyond that, part of the mission of higher education has also been to look beyond immediate problems and to prepare students to change and improve existing practices, not merely to adapt to the world as they find it.

Barton, P. E. Cooperative Education in High School: Promise and Neglect. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 1996. (ED 400 413)

Crow, C. “Cooperative Education in the New Millennium.” Cooperative Education Experience, pp. 1-5. Columbia, MD: Cooperative Education Association, 1997. (ED 414 433)

Derousi, P., and Sherwood, C. S. “Community Service Scholarships: Combining Cooperative Education with Service Learning.” Journal of Cooperative Education 33, no. 1 (Fall 1997): 46-54. (EJ 565 927)

Finn, K. L. “The Spaces Between: Toward a New Paradigm for Cooperative Education.” Journal of Cooperative Education 32, no. 2 (Winter 1997): 36-45. (EJ 542 265)

Freeland, R. M.; Marini, R. C.; and Weighart, S. “Moving Partnerships between Co-op Institutions and Co-op Employers into the Next Century.” Journal of Cooperative Education 33, no. 2 (Winter 1998): 17-27.

Furco, A. “Service Learning and School-to-Work.” Journal of Cooperative Education 32, no. 1 (Fall 1996): 7-14.

Grubb, W. N., and Badway, N. Linking School-Based and Work-Based Learning: The Implications of LaGuardia’s Co-op Seminars for School-to-Work Programs. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education, 1998. (ED 418 230)

Grubb, W. N., and Villeneuve, J. C. Co-operative Education in Cincinnati. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education, 1995.

John, J. E. A.; Doherty, D. J.; and Nichols, R. M. “Challenges and Opportunities for Cooperative Education.” Journal of Cooperative Education 33, no. 2 (Winter 1998): 10-16.

Ricks, F. “Principles for Structuring Cooperative Education Programs.” Journal of Cooperative Education 31, nos. 2-3 (Winter-Spring 1996): 8-22. (EJ 524 105)

Ricks, F.; Cutt, J.; Branton, G.; Loken, M.; and Van Gyn, G. “Reflections on the Cooperative Education Literature.” Journal of Cooperative Education 29, no. 1 (Fall 1993): 6-23. (EJ 475 316)

Schaafsma, H. “Reflections of a Visiting Co-op Practitioner.” Journal of Cooperative Education 31, nos. 2-3 (Winter-Spring 1996): 83-100. (EJ 524 109)

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