University West (SWEDEN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2017 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 443-451
ISBN: 978-84-697-6957-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2017.0165
Conference name: 10th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2017
Location: Seville, Spain
In this paper, we would like to suggest a framework for describing “the degree of integration” in terms of different levels of achievements when theory and practice are integrated in higher education.

The knowledge society of today is characterized by a continuously ongoing technological development and digitalization which steadily calls for new competencies and transforms existing professions. For being able to provide up-to-date competence in a fast-changing labour market there is, perhaps more than ever, a need for extensive cooperation between Universities and surrounding society. A number of different models supporting the civic university has been established, e.g. “entrepreneurial university”, the triple-helix model and the increasingly popular adoption of “work-integrated learning” (WIL).

Work-integrated learning offer students authentic learning experiences and create synergy between theory and practice, e.g. by cooperative educational programs, internship, sandwich programs and case based teaching. Beyond the pedagogical benefits with experiential learning, WIL also supports the transfer between higher education and work, i.e. increases readiness, employability and also encourage a more agentic engagement. Furthermore, research results show that WIL-students have career benefits regarding salary in early career and job advancement. Even though, WIL and similar strategies for combining theory and practice seems to have promising pedagogical and career advantages, the theoretical underpinning is still underdeveloped. For instance, the methodology for how learning is promoted and which role external partners could play is vague.

At University West with more than 25 years’ experience of WIL a holistic approach to WIL have been adopted and WIL permeates all the Universities activities: education, research and extensive collaboration with the surrounding society. Over the years our efforts have been formalized and a taxonomy for will-activities have been developed. In sum, we know that WIL have promising potential, and we know what to do. But, in a recently performed study at this University, based on focus groups interviews and consolidation of our experiences we identified that even if the question “what?” is responded to, there is an important sub-question to be addressed, namely: “so what?”. When adopting different WIL activities, both small and large scale activities, e.g. a guest lecture or an internship, it is reasonable to reflect on whether these activities are used in an optimal way? What kind of impact does the WIL-activity imply? What could be achieved by successful integration between theory and practice? Could it be measured?

Inspired by models used for integrating digitalization in education (RAT, SAMR and TPCK-models), we have developed a framework for measuring the degree of integration between working and learning, not only from a pedagogical point of view. This framework could be used on different levels and in different context: in a single course, educational program, in research projects, cooperation with surrounding society, mentorship and on partner workplaces.
WIL, workintegrated learning, digitalization, framework.