Case #16: Developing High Impact Work-Integrated Learning in Science
GERRY RAYNER, SWINBURNE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, AUSTRALIA
DISCIPLINE: Higher Education, STEM Education
RESEARCH AREAS: Work-integrated learning, academic professional development, student self-efficacy
The provision of meaningful and contextual work-integrated learning is increasingly recognised as enriching the educational experience of students, providing them with opportunities to apply and further refine valued skills and competencies, and enhance their employability and career identity. This program aimed to address the previous absence of employability and work-integrated learning opportunities for students studying science and related degrees at Monash University.
“At its core, the SSIP was established on a commitment to maximising the learning experience and improving the employability prospects of science students.”
CASE EXAMPLE OF EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP
In 2012, with provision of $20,000 seed funding from the Monash Office of the Vice-Provost Learning and Teaching, Gerry initiated the Science Student Industry Placement (SSIP) program. The SSIP facilitated short-term placements of students with STEM employers, working on curriculum-contextual projects to the benefit of employers and students themselves. For example, science students majoring in mathematics and physics would be assigned to projects related to climate and weather, and others majoring in biology or ecology assigned to projects in the natural sciences (e.g. vegetation survey, wildlife conservation). While the program initially targeted a small cohort of science students, it grew rapidly to become a faculty-wide program, available for all senior undergraduates. At the time the SIPP program converted from a co-curricula, non-credit program to a for-credit unit (aka course/subject), 580 students had been placed on projects with 174 industry partners.
REFLECTING ON AND APPLYING THE FIVE-PILLAR MODEL
The SSIP program aligns strongly with the Five-Pillar Model (Fields, Kenny, & Mueller, 2019). At its core, the SSIP was established on a commitment to maximising the learning experience and improving the employability prospects of science students. The program thus reflects Affective Qualities such as respect for and empathy with students. The program is grounded in Excellence in Teaching and effective pedagogy, through matching of students’ study majors with industry research projects, thus providing context to the curricular content. Evaluation of the program and its outcomes, including the perspectives of students and industry partners, have been disseminated in several scholarly publications, thereby connecting pedagogical innovation with related Pedagogical Research. The program was nimble and adaptable, adjusting its focus to the particular needs of industry partners, while maintaining and focus on student learning and provision of authentic opportunities for them to apply their learning to workplace contexts.
At the time the SSIP program converted to a for-credit unit in 2018, it had placed more than 580 science students on industry-sponsored projects. Evaluations of the SSIP showed that the program provided students with invaluable workplace experience, further developed their team-work and other interpersonal skills, and enhanced their self-discipline and confidence. The program’s success had the further benefit of initiating or further strengthening the links between Monash and the SIPP Industry partners.
Sarkar, M., Overton, T., Thompson, C. & Rayner, G. (2016). Graduate employability: Views of recent science graduates and employers. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 24(3), 31-48.
Rayner, G. & Papakonstantinou, T. (2015). Employer perceptions of the current and future value of STEM graduate skills and attributes: An Australian study. The Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 6(1), 100-115.
Rayner, G., & Papakonstantinou, T. (2015). Student perceptions of their workplace preparedness: Making work-integrated learning more effective. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 16(1) 13-24.
BIOGRAPHY AND CURRENT ROLE
Associate Professor Gerry Rayner is Associate Director, Academic Development and Learning Innovations, in the Learning Transformation Unit at Swinburne University of Technology. Gerry is also an adjunct in the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, where he teaches senior undergraduate ecology and botany units. His scholarly interests include the development, integration and evaluation of work-integrated learning (WIL), academic professional development, curriculum design and renewal, development and enhancement of student communication skills, and peer-assisted learning (PAL).
ISSOTL – International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
HERDSA – Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia
HETL – International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association