Work Integrated Experimental Learning (WIEL) provides the opportunity to develop new understandings and perspectives while engaging in challenging, creative and intellectually stimulating work based scenarios. Where a lot of competence-based learning environments have difficulties with engaging with the mindset and skills of labour, WIEL indentified the sorts of skills and abilities students should develop during the learning. These are:
* Apply discipline knowledge, principles and concepts;
* Think critically, creatively and reflectively;
* Access, evaluate and synthesise information;
* Communicate effectively;
* Use technologies appropriately;
* Utilise lifelong learning skills;
* Recognise and apply international perspectives;
* Demonstrate intercultural awareness and understanding;
* Apply professional skills.
what is work-integrated experimental learning?
In a nutshell, WIEL describes educational activities that intentionally integrate learning within an academic institution with practical applications in a workplace setting. Structural integration of theory and practice is the key. I strongly believe that your degree is relevant to entering a specific field of employment, but it is the work related experience that will win you your first graduate role and help you stand out from other applicants. For many students it’s true that the original motivation for commencing a degree drives an interest in fieldwork and gaining employability skills. So: it is never too early to begin developing employability skills!
WIEL experiences, in general, provide a counter point to university education. Where students are used to the idea that experiences are planned and coordinated in a safe and nurturing environment, to support learning, WIEL experiences are less controlled, more complex environments and expose students to different expectations regarding performance and professional behaviour. Fieldwork introduces many new and unpredictable elements to the learning experience. This is a GOOD thing! Embrace it and make it work for you.
making the most of WIEL
One way to effectively apply some structure to work integrated experimental learning is to identify and develop learning objectives for the experience. In this way, whatever unpredictable experiences come your way during WIEL, you will direct the learning toward specific learning goals. This means even if you are confused, alarmed or amused to experiences you treat these as opportunities to meet learning objectives. This provides you to maintain some control over the situation and the outcome.
As the student is actively involved in the learning experince they are central to the overall outcomes of the experience. In other words, students can make or break the experience depending upon how they respond to and plan for the experience.
Developing learning objectives will ultimately direct learning toward tangible outcomes for students professional development. By developing learning objectives students are taking responsibility for their own learning. Learning objectives in WIEL are often aligned with course learning objectives.
It is all well and good to have clear expectations of the learning experience and to have developed key learning objectives. While we hope that each workplace experience is positive and supports student learning, the reality is work places are busy and productive environments and the student is NOT the focus of attention. So, what do you do if the workplace experience does not meet your expectations? If this is happening; welcome the world of work – where things can and do go wrong! Be prepared to challenge the perceptions and treat this as an opportunity to learn. The most productive way to manage the expectations, when workplace experiences is not what you were hoping for, is to be flexible and adapt to the situation. Learning objectives in these instances may have to be tweaked, or changed, but the experience will still afford opportunities to develop key employability skills. In the end: being adaptable, thinking creatively to solve problems and directing your own learning is crucial to being successful in any work environment. This is what we call the beautiful risk of education.
As a student you get involved in workplace practice to gain work experience, build networks and apply learning. For example, you attend your first day of workplace experience and your workplace coach is busy and has not prepared tasks for you to perform. In this situation, you might want to engage your ability to think creatively and communicate effectively and seek tasks or direction from others in the workplace. Find out what they are working on and offer to assist, or ask them if they have any tasks you could perform. Bingo!: you are on your way to communicating professionally; showing initiative when faced with a problem and finding workable solutions in a collaborative manner! These skills are highly valuable and as a graduate you will be asked to provide examples of them. So this is valuable learning. WIEL provides the oppertunities to make the learning experience real and the learning objectives flexible enough to adapt to the unforseen, important learning oppertunities that occur. It depends on the teachers mindset and coaching abilities to make it work. Why not try – I believe in our teachers and let’s give learning back to life.