Using cooperative education and work-integrated education to provide career clarification

When students commence university studies they typically choose subjects that are of interest to them, and hold only vague notions of intended career paths. However, some universities offer work-integrated learning degrees (WIL), programs that require students to undertake relevant practical work experience by way of work placements, internships or sandwich degrees. The underlying notion of these degrees is that learning occurs, as Lave and Wenger (1991) argue, by way of legitimate peripheral participation, where the student as the ‘newcomer’ works alongside a practising expert (the ‘old timer’). As the student becomes more engaged with workplace practices, he or she begins to learn workplace norms by way of mediated action and situated learning. These workplace norms include things such as the use of workplace-specific language, and particular methodological techniques unique to that workplace (Eames & Cates, 2011). Past research has shown that work placements can greatly enhance career clarification for students (Dressler & Keeling, 2011), and that students gradually become enculturated into a community of practice. Recent research in our group suggests that WIL programs also allow the development greater awareness of career paths. This research indicates, for example, that for some students work placements provide clarity about skills and qualifications needed to become a research scientist – subsequently providing motivation to complete graduate studies. Several OECD reports highlight the need for more PhD level scientists and engineers, and we argue here that WIL programs provide a career clarification that is more convincing than any amount of career counselling.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Zegwaard, K.E. & Coll, R.K. (2011). Using cooperative education and work-integrated education to provide career clarification. Science Education International, 22(4), 282-291.
International Council of Associations for Science Education
Publisher version