Work Integrated Learning

Designing Work Integrated Learning units

The following guidelines are intended to assist you in designing units, including assessment and student support, specifically for Work Integrated Learning (WIL). The general principles of designing a unit are available from the Educational Development Unit. If you require more specific assistance in designing WIL activities, contact the Work Integrated Learning program. Additional resources for WIL units are also available.

Categories of work integrated learning

The first consideration in designing a WIL unit is determining whether the planned learning activities are actually Work Integrated Learning. Resources have been created to assist in determining the sorts of activities that might be categorised as WIL. Essentially, students should be learning to integrate their learning and reflect on their practice in the workplace or through work. There may be other valuable learning activities that would be better described as preparing students for WIL as part of a scaffolded curriculum.

Scaffolding skill development

Designing a WIL unit should be done in consideration of the other units in the major / course. Specifically, WIL units are often included in the final year of a student’s course and it is important to consider how students have been prepared for the WIL unit you are designing. Are there certain skills and competencies that you assume the students taking the unit have acquired? If so, can you identify where those skills were taught, where students were given opportunity to practice them and be provided with good feedback on their proficiency. A resource has been created to assist you in considering the development of professional skills.

General learning outcomes

Work Integrated Learning, especially where an internship / work placement is involved, is concerned with student learning in three generic areas – integration and application of knowledge, development of workplace competencies, and reflection on actions and decisions. Although some discipline specific outcomes might be incorporated, it is recommended that learning outcomes reflect these areas:

  1. Effectively integrate and appropriately apply previous learning and knowledge to make and justify decisions in a real world context of work.
  2. Demonstrate workplace competencies; professionalism, confidentiality, communication, responsibility for decision-making, and organisational, cultural & social awareness.
  3. Reflect upon decisions, personal choices and actions in the workplace and critically appraise their appropriateness.

Designing a WIL activity

There are three essential components that should be incorporated into any WIL activity – effective student preparation, supported work experience, and a guided reflection. In internship or industry project units, these components may form the framework for the design of the entire unit. Some suggestions for learning activities and assessment tasks associated with each component are included in the sample unit framework resource.

Assessing WIL

There are a number of challenges in effectively assessing student performance in Work Integrated Learning. The nature of the learning outcomes means the focus should be on student performance in the context of work. This can be difficult given that that performance can often be happening physically distant from the assessor, and it may be deemed easier to assess the product of their work rather than the process of their engagement with work tasks.

Consideration should also be given to the fact that each student enrolled in the unit will potentially be completing a unique set of workplace tasks, and be assessed by a variety of different assessors. It is important that the assessment framework caters for those unique work tasks but allows for moderation of achievement across students. This requires a carefully constructed, standardised assessment framework for WIL units, with clearly articulated marking guides containing both criteria and specific levels of achievement.

Student support

One of the most important aspects of designing a WIL unit is implementing processes by which students will be supported through their experience. The Work Integrated Learning program is able to provide assistance for some of these processes. The following are suggested areas to consider:

  • Arrangement of student internships – whether they are allocated, sourced by students, or a competitive application process;
  • Preparation of students for learning in the workplace, or in work-related situations;
  • Ongoing support of student work and progress during the experience, including visits to the workplace involving students, academic and workplace supervisors;
  • Provision of peer-support from other students enrolled in the unit, facilitated by learning technologies including discussion boards;
  • Guiding the reflection of students, through post-internship workshops and/or presentations

Industry support

Work Integrated Learning relies on establishing and maintaining relationships with industry partners, and providing support to their staff who supervise our students. The Work Integrated Learning program is available to provide assistance for some of these processes. The following are suggested areas to consider:

  • Providing resources to industry partners to ensure they are clear about processes and requirements for workplace supervision;
  • Completion of workplace business agreements with each organisation where students are placed;
  • Ongoing support of workplace supervisors, including visits to the workplace involving students and workplace supervisors;
  • Seeking feedback from workplace supervisors about their experience of hosting student internship or offering an industry project;
  • Maintaining an up-to-date database of business, industry, government or community organisations who have hosted our students, and may be willing to continue to do so