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The impact of placements on students’ self-efficacy

Matt Edwards (Careers Network, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 20 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between work placements and employability, through an analysis of the impact of a work placement on students’ self-efficacy.


The basis of this paper is a large-scale work-based learning module at the University of Birmingham, the “Professional Development Module”. Students completed questionnaires both before and after they undertaken their placements and the results from the questionnaires were compared. These results were then combined with the results of semi-structured interviews undertaken with students.


The paper's findings support the view that a work placement has a positive impact on students’ self-efficacy, especially in relation to their confidence in making applications and/or attending interviews, and in articulating their skills and strengths.

Research limitations/implications

While the relatively small sample size means that the paper's conclusions must remain provisional, it highlights the need for careers practitioners to encourage students to engage in critical self-reflection. The paper suggests that it is important for careers practitioners and researchers to engage in more collaborative projects in order for a fully rounded picture of the relationship between placements and employability to emerge. The paper shows that more research is needed into the relative impact of short- and long-term placements.


The paper demonstrates the value of assessing students’ views both before and after their work placements so that these views can be compared directly.



The author wish to thank the University of Birmingham's Careers Network Research Group for providing funding to help me to undertake this research. The author is also indebted to members of the group for helpful discussions when preparing this paper, and especially to Yasmin Ansari, Amy Haworth, Sarah Jeffries-Watts, and Ellen Shobrook for commenting on an earlier draft of this paper. The author is also grateful to Sarah Dar for undertaking the semi-structured interviews for this paper, and to Emma Deegan for help with compiling the tables. The author would also like to thank Roshni Barot, Clare Dawson, and Emma Deegan for useful discussions on the paper, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of the paper.


Edwards, M. (2014), "The impact of placements on students’ self-efficacy", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 228-241.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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