Informa Forum on Workbased Learning


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Informa Work Based Learning Forum 22nd – 23rd November 2011 | Vibe Savoy Melbourne
Interpreting practice
Merilyn Childs and Regine Wagner

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Informa Forum on Workbased Learning

  1. 1. Interpreting practiceMerilyn Childs & Regine WagnerFlexible Learning InstituteCharles Sturt UniversityInforma Work Based LearningForum22nd – 23rd November 2011 |Vibe Savoy Melbourne
  2. 2. Interpreting practice Practice as a site of interpretation Hierarchies of knowledge and knowing Radicalising the value of practice Resistance in/by HE: hope for change
  3. 3. Key Proposition of this presentationLife and work is more complex and potentially more thoughtful than a single undergraduate or postgraduate semester long subject – and perhaps even an entire undergraduate or postgraduate degree. If this is the case, what does this mean for Higher Education?
  4. 4. Practice as asite of interpretation
  5. 5. What we didAfter a number of years experimenting with project based learning at the University of Western Sydney, we introduced workbased degrees in the context of a number of practice domains: community services, fire fighting, adult education (1994-2007).Two of the degrees were full-time, completed in one year; and typically students were full-time employees.Study load was calculated on the basis that work was curriculum. The learning process integrated learning outcomes, project based learning, four off-the-job block sessions, and the support of workbased learning coordinators.
  6. 6. These were the propositions that underpinned ourworkbased learning practices Work is curriculum “Work” is a generative theme Academic practice is work, and needs to be demystified Hierarchies of knowledge and knowing are unhelpful for valuing practice in Higher Education Practice can be interpreted and valued Praxis is theorised practice; and practiced theory
  7. 7. When work is curriculum (academicpractice as a site of interpretation)... Academics  demystifying their work  do their work at the nexus of work and the institution  engage in acts of interpretation at that nexus(eg learning outcomes; partnerships; assessments)
  8. 8. Practice as a site of interpretation Fire sciences Policy studies Disaster studies Social sciencesHuman factors Resilience studiesEnvironmentalstudies Exercise sciences Material sciences Psychology Leadership SociologySocial policy studies Gender studies Decision sciences Terrorism studies Climate sciences
  9. 9. Work is a generative theme (radicalisingthe value of practice) The idea that “work is a generative theme” guided our capacity to work with practice interpretively to make choices about relevant theory (Searching for and looking at theory from the point of view of practice) It allows the „curriculum‟ to be responsive to student experience, changing practice and current trends. Work as a generative theme gives the student an external standpoint, a yardstick upon which one can make choices to establish or extend a personal epistemology. From that standpoint, the student is able to “view” theory as less arbitrary and received, atomised and separated.
  10. 10. A story from practice In 2002 our cohort included several African Muslim students. In the aftermath of 9/11 they experienced various forms of harassment, paranoia and workplace scrutiny. This generated a theme about racism, fascism and religious intolerance underpinning much of our academic work at the time. It also generated critical discussions between non-Muslim and Muslim students and academics on the relevance and strength of anti-discrimination legislation and its impact on community sector work.
  11. 11. Demystifying academic work(institutional habits/resistance) Question the invisible hierarchy of expertise ◦ Create a dynamic continuum Question gatekeeping ◦ The habits of the institution are practices and as such are open to interrogation Question disciplinary boundaries ◦ Enquiry through the lens of work Question “higher” ◦ Students need to learn theory before they can practice ◦ Theory should be applied to practice ◦ Theory is more rigorous than practice ◦ Practice is un-theorised unless it has been interrogated through university studies
  12. 12. One version of the meeting point betweentheory and practice?
  13. 13. A story from practiceWe were invited to this forum on the basis of a paper we published in 2001. Our WBL practice has continued in different guises since 1994 and in different locations since 2006. Shamelessly, we have attempted to exploit any new developments that could be interpreted to be moving in a similar direction, whether work integrated learning, practice- based learning, professional practice, problem- based learning etc., last but not least, the „learning space‟ discourse. When we took this particular idea to Jordan recently, we encountered a very tangible example of resistance to change in Higher Education: in the lecture rooms at the University of Jordan, the chairs are bolted to the floor. As one of our Jordanian colleagues put it aptly: let‟s go and get a wrench. Workbased learning at its finest!
  14. 14. Hope for change? Hmmm...? Hopes:  hypertext and hyperlinks  Ubiquitous learning etc  Open universities  Open Education Resources (OERs)  “authentic learning” discourses  New forms of resistance Threats:  WIL that fails to engage with and value practice “not manufactured here”  Academic practice that remains rhetorical in relationship to lifewide and lifelong learning
  15. 15. Thankyou and questions We welcome further contact at and