Examines the work placement as a site for “contested” learnings. Co‐operative education (co‐op) programmes, while almost universally supported by students, also provide opportunities for critically examining ambiguities between informal learning outcomes from periods of work placement, and the formal learnings acquired through the university course. A preliminary review of the co‐op literature suggests too little research has been done into what students learn during their placement or “sandwich” degrees. A 12‐month project to develop a generic resource for co‐op programmes (for students, university staff and workplace supervisors), uncovered evidence of “contested” learning at four levels ‐ policy, administration, programme implementation and learning outcomes. Focused group discussions with samples of students suggested that contestation of learnings was experienced at both sites ‐ the workplace and the university classroom. The challenge for co‐op directors will be to “market” and trial the use of better teaching resources that provide a resource for managing and enriching workplace learning. The implication for work‐based trainers and educators is to make use of “contested” learnings to ensure they add value to students’ understandings of their work placements in context.
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