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Examining and challenging the intentions of work-integrated learning

Jenny Fleming (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Neil J. Haigh (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




While the intended outcomes of work-integrated learning (WIL) are well documented, significant challenges arise when the stakeholders have different understandings and expectations. The purpose of this paper is to examine the alignment of stakeholder views on the defining features of cooperative education as a model of WIL.


An interpretive case-study methodology, incorporating questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, was used to determine the views of students, workplace supervisors and university academic supervisors involved in a sport cooperative education program.


Students, workplace supervisors and academic supervisors shared a perception that the students’ development of employability skills and their acquisition of experience in industry were the primary intended outcomes. As an associated benefit, students would be work-ready. Ideally, cooperative education experiences should also provide opportunities for students to learn to integrate theory and practice, further develop their personal and professional identities, and learn to navigate the important ethical aspects of being a professional.

Practical implications

While the employability emphasis in the findings aligns well with government agendas, graduates need to be prepared for complex and dynamic workplaces, and to be future ready for careers that are yet to exist. WIL curricula need to explicitly address this expanded agenda, which in turn needs to be communicated clearly to all stakeholders.


This paper challenges stakeholders in WIL to move beyond a focus on preparing students for the “now” and to reconsider the learning outcomes that should be imperative for university education in the twenty-first century.



The authors thank the Professor Chris Hickey (Deakin University, Australia) and an Associate Professor Andy Martin (Massey University, New Zealand) for their advice and assistance.


Fleming, J. and Haigh, N.J. (2017), "Examining and challenging the intentions of work-integrated learning", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 198-210.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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