25 August 2020
The value of students having experiences of work while they are undertaking a degree has risen sharply in recent years. While once it was only professional courses like teaching, medicine and nursing that were expected to include placements as part of their formal program, it has now become widespread and at some universities, like Deakin, a normal requirement. When work experience was something students arranged for themselves outside the curriculum, it was primarily judged by students themselves as being worthwhile or not. However, as soon as it became formalised, it required learning outcomes, assessment processes and all that goes with being a course unit. This was generally not a problem in what we call tightly-coupled courses, where this was governed by the requirements of professional bodies. However, in loosely-coupled courses in which there is not a one-to-one relationship between the course and specific employment, this has been more problematic. What to do when a placement doesn’t fit obviously with the rest of the course?
How to do assessment of work-integrated learning (WIL) in more loosely-coupled courses has been the subject of much debate. For example, should assessment reflect a standard set of outcomes for all students, or should it uniquely represent what a student did in a particular context at a particular time? Dilemmas like this led to Rola Ajjawi, Joanna Tai and myself undertaking a project funded by ACEN, the Australian Collaborative Education Network, to examine the relationship between students’ actual experiences in WIL and the assessment required of them. This led to various publications (see references below), but also a desire to translate our findings into a resource that could be used by staff with responsibility for designing and undertaking assessment in WIL. CRADLE has now published Assessing work-integrated learning programs: a guide to effective assessment design as an open access document under a Creative Commons licence. It raises questions that need to be addressed in designing and implementing assessment in WIL and gives examples of various strategies that have been used.
Ajjawi, R., Tai, J., Tran, N., Boud, D., Johnson, E., and Patrick, C J. (2020). Aligning assessment with the needs of work-integrated learning: the challenges of authentic assessment in a complex context, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 45, 2, 304-316. DOI:10.1080/02602938.2019.1639613
Ajjawi, R., Jorre de St Jorre, T., Tai, J., Johnson, E. (in press). Authentic assessment design for work-integrated learning. In S. Ferns, A. Rowe, K. Zegwaard (Eds.) Advances in Research, Theory and Practice in Work-Integrated Learning: Enhancing Employability for a Sustainable Future. London: Routledge.