AN EYE FOR AN I – A FRAMEWORK WITH FOCUS ON THE INTEGRATION OF WORK AND LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Higher education institutes are expected to interact with and contribute to the surrounding society. University West in Sweden is since 2002 commissioned by the government to develop the pedagogical strategy called work-integrated learning (WIL) and WIL is the “trade mark” for the University. This means that pedagogical methods are based on WIL and that the faculty is working on further refinement and development in order to maximize the pedagogical gain offered by using the synergy between theory and practice.
Work-integrated-learning activities are often implemented in a course as methods aligned to the learning outcomes regarding knowledge in the specific subject. However, another perspective is that the capacity to reflect and understand the integration of theory and practice could actually be a learning outcome in itself. From this perspective, it is vital to theoretically frame and formulate stringent learnings outcomes. To have a clear framework for this is important for curriculum design, course delivery and assessment, as well.
In a self-evaluation conducted at the University, including focus groups with, both undergraduate and post graduate students, teachers, researchers and managers, a call for a framework has been expressed.
In this conceptual paper, we propose a framework to support, design, delivery and assessment of work-integrated-learning progression, i.e. understanding of the integration between theory and practice. This framework is inspired by theories regarding constructive alignment, the SOLO taxonomy, agentic learning, SAMR-model and the RAT-model. RAT means Replacement, Amplifying and Replacement (Hughes et al, 2006) while SAMR is the acronym for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition (Puendentura, 2014). Our WIL-4U has also been inspired by SOLO taxonomy (Biggs, J. and K. Collis, 1982).
In short, the framework for progression includes a progression from being descriptive regarding the observed practice, skills for comparing and evaluating practices, to be agentic in how theory and practice could be used in synergy for evolving, new theory and development of practice. Thereby, putting an eye on the “i” in WiL.
Ultimately such a framework could support the progression of “WiL-understanding” through an educational program, and that students after graduation have developed readiness for “life-long-learning” and could be agentic at workplaces in the sense that practice and theory are used in synergy.
In this article we want to discuss, from a theoretical perspective, how a progression can be designed as support for course design, implementation and above all examination, with the focus of the student's understanding of the interplay between theory and practice. The article should be considered as a "conceptual" position paper, starting with a discussion on how to clarify the I in WIL (Work Integrated Learning) and develop thoughts on how such a progression can be designed. The use of descriptive words for the different qualitative levels can then be formed into an AIL taxonomy.