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When things go wrong: the implications for facilitators of work integrated learning placements in international destinations

Deborah Agnew (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
Elizabeth Abery (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
Sam Schulz (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
Shane Pill (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 3 September 2020

Issue publication date: 17 June 2021




International work integrated learning (iWIL) placements for university students are widely promoted within universities. However, they cannot be offered and sustained without a great deal of time and effort; most commonly the responsibility of an assigned university facilitator. Preparation and support are essential for a positive student experience and iWIL outcome. However, not all experiences and outcomes are positive, or predictable.


Personal vignettes of university iWIL facilitators are used to create a collaborative autoethnography (CAE) of experiences and outcomes where placements have been affected by unexpected or unprecedented “critical incidents” and the impact incurred on these academics. The vignettes are analyzed according to the Pitard (2016) six-step structural analysis model.


Analysis of the vignettes identifies a resulting workload cost, emotional labor and effect on staff wellbeing. Due to the responsibility and expectations of the position, these incidents placed the university iWIL facilitator in a position of vulnerability, stress, added workload and emotional labor that cannot be compared to other academic teaching roles.

Practical implications

It is intended through the use of “real life” stories presented in the vignettes, to elicit consideration and recognition of the role of the iWIL facilitator when dealing with “the negatives” and “bring to light” management and support strategies needed.


Research is scant on iWIL supervisor experience and management of “critical incidents”, therefore this paper adds to the literature in an area previously overlooked.



Agnew, D., Abery, E., Schulz, S. and Pill, S. (2021), "When things go wrong: the implications for facilitators of work integrated learning placements in international destinations", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 697-709.



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