Work Integrated Learning (WIL) has been an important component of study at VU for decades, and student workplace participation continues to be a critical element of authentic learning in Block mode. This guide outlines how to apply WIL in the Block to maximum effect.
Types of WIL in Block mode
In Block mode, WIL can be one of two forms.
...normally with required/mandatory placements in accredited courses.
The learning/assessment outcomes are likely to be related to professional standards.
In Year 1, scaffold students to potential work contexts.
In the final year, relate WIL to the level required of a novice practitioner according to the relevant professional standards.
...normally optional or in courses without accreditation requirements.
The learning/assessment outcomes are related to the practitioner dimension of the course.
Designing for WIL
- Constructively align WIL, considering both unit and course learning outcomes. Focus WIL learning outcomes on integration and application of previous learning and knowledge, development of workplace competencies, and reflection on decisions, personal choices and actions.
- Align the WIL experience with requirements of industry or professional bodies when applicable.
- Consider students’ study load. Identify the time students will spend in work placement and estimate the time needed for any supporting face-to-face/ online sessions.
- Determine the structure of WIL within the Block, e.g. 1 day a week, allowing students to study concurrently during placement, or fully immersed in the workplace for an extended period.
- Ensure students have access to all WIL requirements well before they start as well as throughout the WIL placement. Link to VU’s WIL preparation module for students.
- Determine the level of preparation needed to ensure student readiness. Consider running a pre-block Information session, ideally in a related unit that students will study beforehand. This session will provide an opportunity to
- maximise capacity for integrating learning in the workplace with university study
- understand all aspects of assessment and how feedback will be provided
- get to know other students doing placement
- manage student expectations
- Focus the experience on integrating theoretical knowledge and building communication skills, self-confidence, professional relationship management, enthusiastic participation, industry and business knowledge, self-sufficiency, personal organisation, professional networks and professional ethics.
- Proactively address potential concerns/ problems by providing resources (e.g. FAQs) in the VU Collaborate space.
Designing activities & assessments
You will need to assess the WIL experience in a way that integrates learning with the professional world through highly structured, open-ended assessment tasks. Assessments should help students broker between their industry partner/workplace and the university and, through that process, advance understanding of their professional identity.
- Continue the scaffolding of authentic assessments that have occurred earlier throughout the course.
- Design scaffolded activities that lead to assessments that clearly fit with the WIL experience. Ensure that tasks allow for connecting theory and practice in workplace contexts and acquisition of employability skills.
- Make sure assessments capture the breadth and depth of the WIL experience and how students adapt to the changing work context. Effective assessments should:
- facilitate a three-way conversation between industry, the university and the student
- capture the workplace learning, including observations of on-the-job performance, records or outputs of work that has been undertaken, reflective analysis on the experience of learning in the work context, and/or portfolios demonstrating alignment to professional standards
- demonstrate evidence of achieving professional standards
- extend what is taught in the course emphasising the changing nature of the workplace and professional practice
- Build in opportunities for providing formative feedback prior to students completing the assessment tasks. This may be provided by workplace mentors and supervisors or other external assessors from industry for accreditation.
- Allocate time to debrief and critically reflect on students’ learning experiences in the workplace.
- Develop peer discussion/feedback activities facilitated during face-to-face/ online sessions where students can interact with each other, share their own reflections on their progress in work placement, identify opportunities for improvement etc.
- Use an online discussion forum to enable students to keep in touch and raise any issues that they have.
- Confirm that assessment tasks comply with the VU Assessment Policy.
- Where possible, involve industry partners in the process, including designing assessment and collaboratively creating rubrics
- Consider Pass/Fail for whole units of WIL where supervisors decide whether students successfully achieved what was required, supported by a portfolio of evidence from the workplace.
Find out more
Murdoch University n.d., Designing Work Integrated Learning units.
University of New South Wales n.d., Assessing Work-Integrated Learning.
Ferns, S., Russell, L. & Smith, C. (2015) Designing Work Integrated Learning to optimise student employment readiness. In T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft (Eds.), Research and Development in Higher Education: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World, 38 (pp 161-175). Melbourne, Australia. 6 - 9 July 2015.
Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario 2016, A Practical Guide for Work-integrated Learning.