Student learning in the workplace

Natalie Simper (Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada)
Launa Gauthier (Faculty of Education, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Jill Scott (Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Publication date: 12 November 2018



This paper aims to outline a proof of concept for a framework to support students in reflecting on and in articulating their disciplinary, contextual and professional learning in the workplace. The purpose of the framework was to help students to recognize and articulate their transferable employability skills in preparation for the workplace or further studies upon graduation.


Researchers developed a Learning Evaluation and Reflection Narrative (LEARN) activity to facilitate real-world articulation of workplace learning. A group of work placement students completed pre- and post-work surveys, prompting reflection on their learning goals and behaviors. The Transferable Learning Orientation Survey comprised five constructs: goal orientation, learning belief, self-efficacy, transfer (deep learning) and organization. Subsequently, they completed a written reflection and a mock interview scenario, where they verbally articulated their abilities and the applicability of their skills. Results of thematic analysis are presented.


Survey results demonstrated changes in students’ orientation toward learning. Additionally, students were able to deliver sophisticated responses through engagement in the LEARN framework, articulating recognition and self-awareness of their personal and professional learning, as well as relevance of their learning within and beyond their workplace setting.

Research limitations/implications

The sample is small, and the authors therefore recommend further work to evaluate the effectiveness and practicality of the LEARN framework in larger cohorts and in alternate work environments.

Social implications

The responses suggest the LEARN framework are worthy of further investigation as a tool for students to articulate lifelong learning skills and behaviors, as it offers an opportunity for students to engage in reflective, deep learning.


This research builds on existing studies on the evaluation of lifelong learning, adapting a framework and testing its implementation in the workplace setting.



The authors of this paper would like to thank the students who consented to share their learning reflections for inclusion in this research. The authors would also like to thank the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario for their support of the Learning Outcomes Assessment project, from which this research stemmed.


Simper, N., Gauthier, L. and Scott, J. (2018), "Student learning in the workplace", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 30 No. 8, pp. 658-671.

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