An Innovative Approach to Learning

The Career Integrated Learning (CIL) project is an innovative approach to university teaching and learning.

In creating this initiative, two solitudes of university structure - academic (faculty) and administrative (student and career services) - were brought together. While respecting and honoring the unique role of each in helping students succeed at university and beyond, this project has sought to focus everyone on helping students to reflect on the career competencies they are gaining and how an ability to articulate those competencies will help in the transition to, and through, the world of work.

This was achieved by ensuring the project had an academic research aspect and a practical, student centered approach.
By developing this parallel structure, the project maintained the academic rigor required of a university environment and the practical, hands-on approach required to meet the needs of professors, staff and students.

More recently, the project has expanded its reach to employers and the community in an effort to extend the career conversation between students and the community. Over the past four years, project leaders and staff have worked directly with more than 1000 students at Memorial University to introduce the concept of CIL, practice reflection and obtain feedback from students. Project ideas and experiences have been shared at national and international conferences, and consultations have occurred with employers, employer organizations, and with other universities across Canada.

A Background to Career Integrated Learning

The concept of Career Integrated Learning was created as a result of the vision of the individuals involved in this project and their respective experiences in student services, university teaching and learning, and community development.

Literature reviews found close constructs, notably in employability skills learning (UK) and career development learning (Australia). Many research articles discuss these concepts in the context of work-based or work-integrated learning programs (Knight and Yorke, 2004; Watts, 2006; McIleeven et al., 2008; Smith et al., 2009).

Watts, 2006, in particular, discussed the important role for career development services located at post-secondary institutions, and the need to work in concert with academic departments. This idea formed much of the basis for supporting our notion that the classroom was an appropriate and important venue to begin articulating career concepts, and encouraging students to consider the connections between learning and work.

Our approach varied from both UK and Australian models that were created amidst broader government and institutional initiatives (i.e. Deering report, 1997, OECD, 2004, Precision Consultancy, 2007, Australia). Our own grassroots approach was conceived after initial consultations with staff and faculty in cooperative education and academic programs – consultations which confirmed a significant divide between classroom and workplace.

Even within cooperative education and internship programs, subject related and technical skills are often the focus of work placement. While the reason for this is not clear, it has been noted in the literature and in our own interviews that it is difficult to ‘measure’ outcomes of career competencies.

There is also a belief that universities teach and employers train. With these two aspects in mind, we recognized that to be successful, we must honor and respect the unique perspectives of faculty and staff. We believed that the project would gain traction if a small group of individuals could see the benefit and promote the concept –as opposed to a university-wide initiative that required adherence to a set model.

Within the first year of the CIL project, Memorial University published its Teaching and Learning Framework, which articulated the graduating student attributes, essentially the same as the graduating student competencies (GSC’s) that we had defined just six months before.

We were able to draw a direct link to this framework and then assist faculty translate the report to actual activities in the classroom. Throughout, we maintained a small and agile structure so that we could be creative, respond to feedback and meet the needs of all involved.

Defining Career Integrated Learning

Situated in Patton and McMahon’s (1999) systems theory framework and grounded in experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1984), Career Integrated Learning is focused on intentional career development in the classroom by articulating and reflecting on the meta-competencies or career competencies that are practiced in every course.

While students are learning subject content (knowledge) they practice career competencies and develop their skills, abilities and talents and with a little reflection will be able to articulate those as they enter graduate schools or navigate the world of work.

Career competencies are the broader, general skills that help students transition into and between occupations. Watts (2006) suggests that those skills contribute to ‘sustainable employability’, recognizing that students must be able adapt in a changing labor market in order to succeed. In Hall’s (1996) apt description of the changing nature of work, we now must “learn a living”.

In addition to the classroom, this approach can be readily adapted to work-integrated learning programs, and community based programs. By reflecting on the development of career competencies in addition to the technical skills and knowledge base that students develop while in work-based programs, students will have a tremendous advantage as they transition to the labor market.

Resources - Bibliography

Billett, S. (2009). Realising the educational worth of integrating work experience in higher education. Studies of Higher Education, 34 (7), 827-843.

Brown, N. (2010). WIL(ing) to share: An institutional conversation to guide policy and practice in work-integrated learning, Higher Education Research and development, 29:5, 507-518
Describes an action research project involving university consultations on issues related to WIL . Excellent model for focus groups at MUN

Cooper, L., Orrell, J., and M. Bowden (2010). Work Integrated learning: A guide to effective practice. Routledge: Oxon (and NY)

Fundamental book on all aspects of WIL – theory to practice – very specific assessment guides and processes – useful for creating new curriculum.

Freudenberg, B., Brimble, M., and C. Cameron (2011). WIL and generic skill development: The development of business students’ generic skills through work integrated learning Griffith University, Australia in Asia-Pacific Journal of Co-operative Education , 2011, 12(2) 79-93

Hall, D. T. (1996). (Ed.). The career is dead: Long live the career. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Describes many emerging career theories in the 21st century…. Several articles by leading authors

Knight, Peter., & Yorke, Mantz (2004) . Learning and Employability. UK: Higher Education Council

Excellent background for employability and university – defining the issues.

Krumboltz, J. D., & Worthington, R. J. (1999). The school to work transition from a learning theory perspective. The Career Development Quarterly, 47, 312-325.

Memorial University of Newfoundland (2011) Teaching and Learning Framework Discussion Paper.

Outlines MUN’s direction for the future and identifies key graduating student competencies. Used as a basis for comparison with other graduating attributes/ competencies/skills.

Martin, A. and Hughes, H. (2009). How to make the most of Work Integrated Learning: A guide for Students, Lecturers and Supervisors, Massey University Press, NZ

Details specific roles for students, lecturers, and supervisors in relation to the work-integrated learning experience – excellent document to inform curriculum redesign and the processes of implementation.

Mervis, P.H. and Hall, D.T. (1996). New organisational forms in the new career. In D.T. Hall (Ed.). The career is dead: Long live the career. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Background on emerging career theory in the 21 century – especially the concept of the protean career – ability to change to meet needs.

McIleeven, P., Brooks, S., Lichtenburg, A., Smith, M., Torjul, P., Tyler, J., (2008). Career development learning & work-integrated learning in Australian Higher education: A Discussion paper. Australia: Australia Learning and Teaching Council and National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services

Based on a major project supported by ALTC and NAGCAS, this paper reviews the relationship between CDL and WIL; provides significant background on all aspects of CDL, including systems theory framework (Patton and McMahon 2004). The paper was used as a background document for a national symposium in Australia and also for the development of a brochure for students, academics and employers involved in CDL and WIL in Australia. (See also Smith’s later article)

McIleeven, P., Brooks, S., Lichtenburg, A., Smith, M., Torjul, P., Tyler, J., (2008). Perceptions of career development learning and work-integrated learning in Australian higher education

This paper reports on the relationship between career development learning and work-integrated learning programs. The study involved a survey of university career services, and asked about the extent to which elements of career development learning were present in work-integrated learning programs.

McMahon, M., Patton, W., & Tatham, P. (2003). Managing Life, Learning and Work in the 21st Century: Issues informing the design of an Australian blueprint for career development. Miles, Morgan Australia Pty Ltd.

A paper developed to inform the design of a career development blueprint – i.e. a competency based document that outlines career competencies at various stages of development. It provides history and presents Patton and McMahon’s system’s theory framework as well as issues impacting career and career development work.

Patton, W., & McMahon, M. (1999). Career development and systems theory: A new relationship. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Outlines Systems theory framework of career development – a broad-based constructivist model that incorporates personal, familial, socio/economic conditions with chance/happenstance and recursiveness.

Precision Consultancy. (2007). Graduate employability skills: Prepared for the Business, Industry and Higher Education Collaboration Council. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Rees, Claire; Forbes, Peter, & Kubler, Bianca (2006). Student Employability profiles: A guide for Higher Education practitioners. UK: Higher Education Academy

Excellent document prepared for academics and later used by work-based learning programs in universities (UK). Significant information on the employability skills/ career competencies - skills, knowledge and attributes acquired through study in each faculty.

RMIT University. (2008). Work Integrated Learning at RMIT: Current Practices and Recommendations for the Future. Melbourne, Australia: RMIT.

Sattler, P. (2011). Work-Integrated learning in Ontario’s Postsecondary Sector. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

A study conducted in collaboration with nine university/ colleges in Ontario that have a WIL component. Telephone interviews were conducted with 39 key informants from the university/college system and 25 employers/community representatives providing insight into the status, and issues related to WIL in Ontario. Most notable is the development of a typology to help understand similarities/differences between various WIL programs.

Schuetze, H. (2003). Alternation Education and Training in Canada. In Schuetze, H. and Sweet, R. (Eds.) Integrating school and Workplace Learning in Canada: Principles and Practices of Alternation Education and Training. Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press.

Schuetze, H. and Sweet, R. (2003). Integrating School and Workplace Learning in Canada: An Introduction to Alternation Education Concepts. In Schuetze, H. and Sweet, R. (Eds.) Integrating school and Workplace Learning in Canada: Principles and Practices of Alternation Education and Training. Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press.

A Canadian publication explaining some of the history and current practices of WIL

Smith, M, et al (2009). Career Development learning: maximizing the contribution of WIL to the student experience.

Produced by NAGCAS & ALTC – reporting on a project that demonstrated the value of Career Development Learning as a vehicle for maximizing the contribution of WIL to students. Some UK information is included especially Dr. A.G. Watt’s DOTS model. There is significant discussion of university’s role/issues related to WIL as well as theoretical models (Patton and McMahon’s (2001) systems theory framework) and Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning model. A key piece for our project is the mirror analogy to describe Career Development Learning and Work Integrated learning connectedness.

Watts, A. G. (1977). Careers education in higher education: Principles and practice. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 5, 167-184.

Watts, A. G. (2000). Career development and public policy. Journal of Employment Counseling, 37, 62-75.

Watts, A. G. (2006). Career development and employability. Learning and Employability Series, Higher Education Academy.