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Paula Nottingham

Page history last edited by sceptrept 13 years, 10 months ago

Valuing work-based Learning Pedagogical Expertise

Paula Nottingham, Birkbeck, University of London


Knowledge of professional work environments has increasingly become an important topic for those who teach at university level. Work-based learning (WBL) within Higher Education (HE) is a complex discourse that considers a range of university learning contexts (Gray, 2001, Walsh 2008, Helyer, 2007) that include work-based learning, work-related learning and workforce development. WBL(HE) practice structures and assesses experience-based learning that integrates the use of theory and the process of reflection. Within this context, the dynamics of becoming a professional in the workplace (Eraut, 2007) are balanced with the understanding of how the learning process can be developed throughout life (Jarvis, 2006). Some perspectives of WBL(HE) question the familiar frameworks within which HE operates, such as the use of Mode 2 knowledge exchange (Gibbons et al.,1994).


WBL(HE) can engage ‘non-traditional’ students, often in part-time study, who remain in the workplace, as employees or volunteers, or are working at home. Recent HE policy seems to support WBL(HE) as being able to increase the number of students who will enter HE as a part of widening participation or as a progression route for vocational learners. WBL(HE) is now explicitly required as a part of the Foundation Degree provision and is recognised by many institutions as a way of answering the Leitch agenda by delivering higher skills and employer engagement targets. The Quality Assurance Agency (2007), Section 9, gives guidelines for WBL and work placements, although the degree to which these two practices are similar may be contested within the WBL(HE) discourse.


Emerging findings from ongoing doctoral research indicate that the current philosophies used to research and practice WBL(HE), while varied in perspective, provide innovative expertise that may inform a wider audience in HE institutions, especially practitioners. WBL(HE) specialist knowledge has often been developed using personal experience where practitioners have developed pedagogy to adapt to a changing Academy environment that is increasingly being asked to engage in demand led provision. The realities of the WBL(HE) landscape (Nixon et al., 2006) may require WBL(HE) practitioners to adapt this pedagogy to a ‘best fit’ within their autonomous institutions and prepare a wider group of professionals to obtain specialist knowledge for delivering this type of learning. In some instances, some of the concepts developed within WBL(HE) practice might be used to enrich related learning for the workplace, such as with personal development planning, as a part of enriching student experience.


Key words: work-based learning, workplace, expertise, pedagogy, employer engagement, Foundation Degree



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