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Curtin University

Assessing the impact of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) on student work-readiness

Brief overview of the project

Work-integrated learning (WIL) is an increasingly popular curriculum innovation. Based on the idea that students will be better-prepared for work or professional practice if they have opportunities to integrate theoretical knowledge with practice, WIL has origins in clinical disciplines and other practice-based professions including law, aviation and most creative disciplines. This project, the first of its kind in the Australian context, is designed to provide an empirical evidence base for the impact of WIL on students' preparedness for work or professional practice across multiple disciplines. This project will define WIL in terms of its essential characteristics - opportunities for students to experience highly authentic expressions of work-place practice, systematically built into curricula. The project will inform strategic curriculum reform investment in universities and related funding decisions across the higher education sector.

The Project's Overarching Aims

The overarching aim of this research is to provide an evidence base for judging the impact of WIL on graduates’ readiness to commence work.

To answer the key question, What is the impact of WIL on the employment-readiness of graduates, the following research questions will be addressed:

  • RQ1: What are the essential characteristics of WIL (e.g. authenticity, experiential learning) and how can these be measured validly across all types of WIL, whether placement-based or not?
  • RQ2: How should "work readiness" be conceptualised and how can it be measured in ways that can be validly applied in all disciplines and be used as a basis for National Standards for Quality Assurance?
  • RQ3: What impact does WIL have on work-readiness across a range of WIL types, including alternatives to placement WIL, and in a range of disciplines?

Four Proposed Phases

The work of this Project has just begun. It has four proposed phases, as follows:

  1. the conceptual work will be established for WIL and work-readiness measures simultaneously, by drawing on existing literature, conducting focus groups, and piloting and validating measures and instrumentation;
  2. multi-disciplinary and multi-university studies comparing the impact of WIL on work-readiness across a range of manifestations of WIL including (a) full-time “hothouse” intensive placements of varying durations (b) part-time, less intensive placement activities and (c) alternatives that meet certain WIL characteristic tests (such as simulations, university-based projects, role-plays);
  3. post-graduation follow-up with students to ascertain their post-study views on their programs’ contributions to work-readiness in both WIL and non-WIL-containing degrees; and
  4. dissemination of project findings via a National Forum, through collaboration with ACEN, the production of Practice Advisories for the HE and VET sectors, and through publication.

Project details

Co-Leaders Partner Universities and their Representatives
  • Dr Calvin Smith,
    Griffith University
  • Ms Sonia Ferns,
    Curtin University
  • Ms Leoni Russell,
  • Central Queensland University: Ian Devenish
  • Charles Sturt University: Franziska Trede
  • Deakin University: Karen Young
  • Edith Cowan University: Megan Le Clus
  • Macquarie University: Theresa Winchester-Seeto
  • Queensland University of Technology: Jude Smith
  • Swinburne University of Technology: Jay Hays
  • University of Newcastle: Kylie Twyford
  • University of Canberra: Gerlese Akerlind
  • University of Western Sydney: Freny Tayebjee
  • Victoria University

Funded by: The Office of Learning & Teaching
Endorsed by: The Australian Collaborative Learning Network Ltd (ACEN)
Supported by: Lindsay Bennett Marketing, Professions Australia, Australian Industry Group, David Morgan Williams Pty Ltd, and Calvary Retirement Community

Contact the Project Leaders or Project Manager, Pat Cretchley


Phone  (08) 9266 2435

Mail OLT Impact of WIL Project
c/- Sonia Ferns, Curtin University,
GPO Box U1987
Perth Western Australia 6845

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