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The overall aim of the project is to explore and enhance the assessment experience of students, their industry mentors and the university during work placement. This project will build on prior small-scale research exploring work placement practice and should provide opportunities to secure industry-based funding.

What do we mean by work placement?

The International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning defines work integrated learning (WIL) as:

“an educational approach that uses relevant work-based experiences to allow students to integrate theory with the meaningful practice of work as an intentional component of the curriculum.”

What is the problem?

As assessment and feedback are identified as national issues for students, it is appropriate to focus on the placement setting.  Placement assessment is common across most programmes and so making enhancements in the placement module will deliver benefits to many students across the university.

How will this project address the problem?

This project initially seeks to explore the experiences of students, practitioners and academics.  This will be done through focus groups with academics and be followed with surveys to students and practitioners.

What does work placement look like in MTU?

In MTU, work placement is embedded into almost all programmes of study and benefits students in many ways, i.e., it:

  • Provides students with an opportunity to put theory into practice
  • Allows students to make better informed decisions about future career choices
  • Enables students to acquire new skills and knowledge, both personal and work related
  • Enhances students’ employment prospects

Currently, there are approximately 3000 students on placement each year from a wide range of programmes.  The placement module or placement modules can be worth anywhere between 5 and 30 credits to a student. There are over 90 different placement modules in the University with a range of assessment mechanisms in place. The first phase of the project will involve a desk review of these different placement modules to explore and document the range of work placement experience within MTU, e.g., range of duration of work placement, learning outcomes, assessment requirements, assessment weightings, etc.

How will the project explore the student, staff and employer experiences?

The second phase of the project will involve the use of focus groups with relevant staff to explore the work placement setting in some depth and in particular look at how students are prepared for and supported during work-placement. The student experience and experiences of work placement supervisors/mentors will be gathered via a survey instrument. We hope to be able to gather this data across a range of work-placement experiences within MTU to explore the work-placement experience within MTU and then integrate this data to identify a range of practical, strategies that could be used to enhance the work-placement experience.

How will the project enhance work placement?

The third phase will involve inviting work-placement coordinators to collaborate with us on an action-research adventure to identify issues, explore solutions, implement solutions and research the impact of those solutions. It is anticipated that this phase might be ongoing where we are engaging and collaborating with different programmes in different years and using the staff focus-groups, employer and student surveys to explore and evidence the impact of these changes.

Who will benefit from this project?

In the long-term this project should improve the placement experience for all, enhancing the employability of MTU graduates, providing early industry exposure to the talent pipeline that exists within MTU and forging vital linkages between industry and the university to support future work placement opportunities, secure employment opportunities for MTU graduates and enable potential industry-university collaboration.

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