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The best practice in work-integrated pedagogy for degree apprenticeships in a post-viral future

Finbar Lillis (Centre for Apprenticeships and Skills, Middlesex University, London, UK)
Darryll Bravenboer (Centre for Apprenticeships and Skills, Middlesex University, London, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 5 November 2020

Issue publication date: 27 November 2020




This article draws on a study of best practices in work-integrated learning (WIL) identified in the Middlesex University Degree Apprenticeships Development Fund (DADF) Project, which examined their application for four public sector degree apprenticeships (DAs). The authors suggest that WIL pedagogical practices deployed to deliver DAs can bridge traditional pedagogical and occupational divisions while building institutional resilience in a post-viral world. The paper is intended to contribute to both practitioner and policy-level discourse regarding the best practice in WIL for DAs.


A literature review of key texts was used to identify “success characteristics” in WIL “signature” pedagogies, with potential applicability for DA design and delivery. These characteristics were used to frame interrogation of best pedagogical practices, using the best practice matrix developed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with selected expert practitioners to examine their matrix responses and to discuss the researcher's initial “read-across” analysis of best practices and possible implications for pedagogical practice in WIL for DAs across other sectors. This paper also draws on feedback from employer groups who were consulted on the project report recommendations and further feedback from a national project dissemination conference in 2018. The findings from the research project have also been re-evaluated with reference to further literature in the context of the challenges presented by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).


The findings from the study indicate that pedagogical best practices were to a significant degree transferable across professions and sectors; success characteristics in one pedagogical area (for example, mentoring/practice education) underpin success in another (recognition of prior learning [RPL] and practice-based assessment of achievement); success characteristics in WIL can also be applied and operated across professions and sectors to demonstrate how the best practice in WIL should be applied in the design of DAs more generally.

Research limitations/implications

The original project research study focussed on WIL pedagogical practices in four specified professions across four public sectors within one institution. This approach, though limited, enabled the research study to focus on in-depth qualitative interactions with practitioners from different sectors rather than institutional differences. As a consequence, the research study was able to focus on in-depth and dynamic interrelationships in pedagogical practice from the perspective of the professions, which facilitated productive examination of similarities and differences across these professions.


The research study provided evidence of the potential value of a more explicit recognition of WIL practice in the higher education sector and how consistent approaches to WIL should inform programme design. This has potential to improve the quality of curriculum design and pedagogy across DA programmes and provide a valuable reference point for quality assuring this provision.



Lillis, F. and Bravenboer, D. (2020), "The best practice in work-integrated pedagogy for degree apprenticeships in a post-viral future", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 10 No. 5, pp. 727-739.



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