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Abstracts Annual UALL Work and Learning Conference 2019​
Professor Anita Walsh, Department of Management, Birkbeck University of London
Title: ‘Work-Based Learning: Higher Education for the 21st Century?

The integration of Work-Based Learning (WBL) into higher education awards has developed a number of ways since its inception in the early 1990s.  It is a relatively recent ‘innovation’ and, despite early financial support from Government, has remained somewhat limited in scale outside established practice areas, such as health and education.  More recently, the context of HE has changed considerably, and currently the academy is experiencing a range of external demands which are creating internal tensions and pressures.  Consideration is given here to the extent that a wider engagement with WBL practice could provide the university with a more effective response to its critics.


Submission by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Institute for University to Business Education (U2B) for UALL conference.


Workshop Proposal: Collaborative Approaches to Student (De)Selection 

28THJune 2019.


Marty Wright; Academic Head U2B, Caroline Tuff, Lecturer U2B and Colin Wilson, Academic Development Tutor, U2Bare proposing to host a workshop (45 -60 minutes) * that spans a number of the conference themes including: 

  • Opportunities and challenges for apprenticeship learning

  • Accreditation and individual recognition of pre-existing learning

  • Industry credentials and accreditation 

  • Working practices organisations 

  • Digital learning (artificial intelligence, online portfolios, learning analytics)


U2B, formerly GCU’s School for Work Based Education has recently been repurposed to develop U2B education (versus a University to consumer model) either through the Apprenticeship model or through a closed, bespoke Higher Education programme designed for a business or organisation.  We operate our closed, bespoke U2B model both within and outwith the UK. 


Using case studies and exemplars, we would like to share and discuss three (3) different approaches to ensuring our students (including apprentices) are assisted to enter at the most appropriate academic level of a programme based on their experience, qualifications (including in-house or industry credentials) and their confidence.

  1. Our use of pre-sessional academic English and study skills assists in the confidence issues and levelling for entry as well as for induction. Demystifying the University Experience.  


  1. Our co-creation with employers of entry criteria which includes specific industry credentials and work based experience, i.e. years in role and / or career progression within the organisation to assist in the reliable and consistent levelling for entry


  1. The use of a Structured Professional Discussion to authenticate and match with graduate or mastersnesss attributes and knowledge, confirming entry into a programme or an accelerated pathway.  


Action learning in the workplace: facilitating ALS in a Healthcare Setting.


Sara Jolly and Dr Rebecca Pratchett

Swansea University


Action Learning Sets (ALS) date back to 1945 when Reg Revans first introduced them to the National Coal Board as a workplace learning tool to increase the productivity of managers and teams (Action learning Associates, 2018). 


Now, almost three quarters of a century later, ALS continue to be used to give individuals an opportunity to engage in learning and identify actions to help with decision making and problem solving. ALS are traditionally delivered by educational institutions on campus, meaning students leave their workplace to undertake the action learning (Dunphy et al, 2010). However, questions have been raised as to how effectively this aligns with the ethos of work-based learning, which focuses on learning within the confines of the workplace (Panwar et al 2014, Willis et al 2017). In addition current literature, whilst focussing on the frequency, benefits, purpose, principles and rationale for action learning sets, does not elude to the relevance and importance of the location in which the ALS is delivered by the Higher Education Institution (HEI) (Dunphy et al 2010, Doyle 2014).


The solution at Swansea University has been to facilitate monthly, 2 hour ALS in two acute hospital settings as part of a blended learning programme. Taking students from our Enhanced Professional Practice programme, all of whom are registered healthcare professionals, we run more than 60 ALS across three health board areas to take the learning to the workplace itself. Working with students studying at levels 5, 6 and 7, we provide the opportunity for peer support and professional discussion, without the need to travel to a University Campus.


Our presentation outlines the many benefits of holding ALS in a healthcare setting, facilitated by a HEI, as part of a blended learning programme. We propose that in addition to the many benefits that traditional ALS presents, facilitation by the HEI within the healthcare workplace fosters an enhanced sense of professional identity, generates higher levels of accessibility, and works to maintain a good relationship between the University and NHS partners.




Action Learning Centre (2019) Benefits of Action Learning

Action Learning Associates (2019) Reg Revans: A biography

Action Learning Associates (2019) What is action learning?

Birkbeck University of London (2019) What is an action learning set? _is_an_action_learning_set_webversion.doc ​

Caulkin, S (2003)  Obituary:Reg Revans. The Guardian Newspaper​

Doyle, L (2014) Action learning: developing leaders and supporting change in a healthcare context.  Action Learning: Research and Practice, 11:1, 64-71. ​

Dunphy , L., Proctor, G., Bartlett, R., Haslam, M., & Wood, C. (2010) ​

Reflections and learning from using action learning sets in a healthcare education setting, Action ​

Learning: Research and Practice, 7:3, 303-314,

O'Neill, A.  (2017) Leading libraries: Briefing paper on action learning sets ​

Panwar, M., Mathur, D., Chand, G., Dkhaka, M., Singh, R. R. & Moxley, D. P. (2014) Action Learning in the Indian Village as an Alternative to the Traditional Field Practicum in the Foundation Year of the MSW, Social Work Education, 33:8, 984-997,

Willis S., Prass, N., & Karstadt, L., (2017) Appropriateness of action learning in the physical and virtual spaces: a discussion. Journal of Paramedic Practice. Vol 9 No 5​


Using ePortfolios to Facilitate Academic Supervision of Work-Based Learning Students


Dr Rebecca Pratchett and Sara Jolly, 

College of Human and Health Science, Swansea University



Work-based learning students at Swansea University are assessed via portfolio. In the past, students submitted paper copies which were vulnerable to loss, mandated travelling significant distances for submission, and hindered the ongoing supervision of work through the module.

Using the PebblePad eportfolio system, the Enhanced Professional Practice (EPP) programme introduced electronic submission of work-based learning portfolios. It was hypothesised that doing so would facilitate closer academic supervision through a continuous submission and feedback process in addition to improving the security of our submission process.

In order to evaluate this intervention, students and staff members were issued with questionnaires in which they were asked to detail their experience of using the system. The questionnaires sought to establish whether using PebblePad aided efficient tracking and supervision of student progress. The impact on marking/moderation and security were also reviewed.

This talk will present the outcomes of our case study focussing on the perceptions and experiences of staff and students using PebblePad for assessment in work-based learning. We will also discuss our own experiences in implementing eportfolios and present the barriers we faced, providing recommendations that other educators can use to overcome similar barriers to success.


Using Actor Network Theory to theorise the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

Helen Pokorny, University Campus St Albans, Oaklands College.


Portfolios are used in the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to assess learning from experience. At the crux of the RPL portfolio assessment process is a learning narrative with artefacts, presented as an evidence-based portfolio. Anthropologists have traditionally tried to understand cultures partly through objects and artefacts that are integrated into meaningful social practices, and this is an approach often taken by RPL advocates as they try to build bridges between informal and formal learning. However, the portfolio format has been criticised for being onerous and can result in portfolios filled with excessive documentation (Peters, 2005). Pokorny (2012) suggested that whilst RPL portfolio evidence was of particular significance to students, their tutors placed their emphasis on the written narrative element. This paper explores how Actor Network Theory (ANT) can highlight the role(s) that evidence might play in RPL and the impact of evidence on the student’s RPL practices. Whilst RPL remains a marginal activity in UK, the development of innovative degree apprenticeships that include portfolios in their End-Point-Assessment makes it likely this form of assessing prior learning through work will have an increasing profile in many HE courses. A better understanding of portfolio building can potentially inform the guidance and support provided to students who are demonstrating learning embedded in practice and make the RPL process more accessible and inclusive.


The study reported is located in a postgraduate course for HE educators. Each of the participants had successfully undertaken a process of RPL and had provided a variety of evidence in their portfolios. ANT was chosen as an approach to theorise the students’ differing experiences because it provides a movement away from the concept of a single reality experienced differently by individuals, to a concept of multiple individual realities (Law and Singleton, 2005). A key component of ANT is the process of symmetry. This is the principle that human and non-human elements (actors) should be analysed in the same way. Participants’ experiences of undertaking RPL  and their perspectives on the role of the evidence differed widely. For some, the evidence promoted reflection and new learning which was central to their narratives and for others it represented a tick box exercise in a process within which they struggled to find a voice. There were also differences in the nature of the portfolios produced.Thus this paper argues that ANT can make to a contribution to studies of innovative work-based portfolio practices through a better understanding of students' realities and the performativities of both human and non-human actors in these realities, leading to more inclusive outcomes and effective guidance.



Law, J.and Singleton, V. (2005). Object lessons.Organization, 12(3) pp. 331–355.

Peters, H., (2005), Contested discourses: assessing the outcomes of learning from experience for the award of credit in higher education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 30, (3), 273-285. 

Pokorny, H. (2012), ‘Assessing Prior Experiential Learning: issues of authority, authorship and identity,’ Journal of Workplace Learning  24, (2).


Therese CamilleriTitle: ‘Formalizing the informal? A critical review of adopting a learning outcomes approach within apprenticeship & work-based learning legislation’ 



This paper stems from outcomes of the Thematic Country Review on Apprenticeships (Cedefop, 2015) and European Alliance for Apprenticeship (EAfA, 2013), both of which recommended that all apprenticeship and work-based learning VET programs in Malta should design work-based learning modules through a learning outcomes approach. The Maltese government consolidated its current reform of the national apprenticeship and work-based learning schemes by implementing learning outcomes. This led to the enactment of the Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeships ACT (WBLA, Government of Malta, 2018), which legally recognises different forms of learning occurring within the workplace and how they are to be regulated. Of particular interest is that the WBLA ACT (2018) explicitly conditions all VET providers and program designers to ensure work-based learning components are formulated in terms of learning outcomes in terms of knowledge, skills and competences, as an integral part of their quality assurance process.  


This paper is part of Doctorate research and presents a review of the challenges identified in adopting a learning outcome approach, considered to provide the optimal learner-centred pedagogical conditions (Harden, Crosby & Davis, 1999; Smith, Dollase & Bose, 2003; Hussey & Smith, 2008; Prøitz, 2016) and  which aims to ensure “…what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after a completion of a process of learning” (Gonzalez & Wagenaar, 2008). It also explores and discusses the impact of learning outcomes, often considered as “…ill-defined and problematic”(Schon, 1983)on their pedagogical effectiveness when adopted to workplace practice where learning processes are inseparable from the actual daily work routine processes (Eraut et al, 1998). 


UALL Work and Learning Network Annual Conference 2019

Re: Digital learning (artificial intelligence, online portfolios, learning analytics)



The role of technology in a Doctorate of Professional Practice

By Christine Davies, UWTSD


The Doctorate of Professional Practice programme (DProf) at the Wales Institute for Work-based Learning (WIWBL), University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), is generic, part-time, and intended for those in employment at a fairly senior level. Research into professional, work-based practice is at the heart of the programme. 

Technology is becoming increasingly important within the programme to diversify and enhance the learning experience, and to support communication between candidates who come from a range of different professions and countries. This presentation discusses technologies that have helped candidates on their DProf learning journeys.

One example is the use of a module-specific website within the taught Part 1 of the programme which was constructed using the ‘Blogger’ blogging tool ( This website has allowed topics to be displayed in a user-friendly way, and the lack of login requirement means that it is easier to access than the university’s Virtual learning Environment (VLE), Moodle. This is an important issue for learners (Naveh et al, 2012), especially when work-based. Candidates are directed to read specific web-pages in advance of seminars to increase familiarity with topics, an example of ‘flipping’ which has been found to be very helpful, allowing seminars to move away from fundamental issues to focus on discussion and questions. 

‘Skype for Business’ is another technology which has become important for the DProf, not just for individual communication with candidates based overseas, but also in the delivery of seminars. Candidates can attend these in person, but also via ‘Skype for Business,’ since this technology accommodates power-point presentations, as well as sharing of screens. The latter is particularly useful to demonstrate statistical procedures involving software such as MS Excel or SPSS. Sessions can also be recorded.

Candidates are increasingly using their own technology - including Facebook and WhatsApp – within the programme to help provide peer support, and to maintain the important ‘cohort effect’ (Bista and Cox, 2014) that is first established at residential workshops.



  • Bista, K., & Cox, D. (2014). ‘Cohort-based doctoral programs: What we have learned over the last 18 years’. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 9, 1-20. Retrieved from 020Bista0425.pdf

  • Naveh, G., Tubin, D., and Pliskin, N. (2012) ‘Student Satisfaction with Learning Management Systems: A Lens of Critical Success Factors’. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 21 (3), p.337-350.


UALL Work and Learning Network Annual Conference 2019, University of the Arts, London @ 28 Jun.


Presenters: Brian Sutton and Sai Loo


Title:Informal Learning, Practitioner Inquiry and Occupational Education



This presentation is based on the project with the same title. The intention of this submission is to present some preliminary findings of the project. One end of the spectrum of learning and working is a front-loaded approach (Clarke and Winch, 2004) where an acquisition of knowledge and skill sets is carried out by enrolling in a structured programme of study usually at a higher education institution: formal learning. At the other end of the spectrum such as informal learning, the acquisition of the relevant knowledge and experiences occurs in work settings (Coffield, 2000; Hager, 2004; Hager and Halliday, 2008; Marsick and Watkins, 2016; Segers, Dochy and Messmann, 2018). Know-how may be viewed eclectically as disciplinary knowledge, experiences, abilities, dispositions and skill sets (Evans, 2016; Loo, 2018).  The aim of this project is to study the in-between areas of the two ends of the work-learning spectrum.


‘Practitioner inquiry’ is used to denote the ‘formal investigation’ of a person’s current occupational practice. This formal investigation may include enrolling on a research programme of study (e.g. DProf) to action research her/his current occupational practice. This programme is unlike a conventional postgraduate programme of studies such as a PhD or EdD.


‘Occupational education’ (OE) is defined as a study of work-related learning and teaching, which covers the academic levels of pre-university, first degree and postgraduate education. OE includes vocational/TVET, higher vocational and professional education. OE may also offer international comparisons of countries and related systems, which involve learning, teaching and work (Loo, 2019).


In studying the grey areas in this continuum of learning and work, 11 case studies are used as empirical data. These case studies are from purposive practitioners in their current occupations who are or have been enrolled on a practitioner inquiry programme relating to their occupational practices. Practitioners write these case studies in different occupations ranging from acting, boardroom coaching, road transportation, management of education, occupational psychology to nutritional therapy. The individual chapters are reflective commentaries of the contributors’ journeys to their current occupations, their acquisition of the necessary knowledge, abilities, experiences and skill sets, and how these contribute to recognised practice excellence. For many of the contributors, they have previous occupational experiences in other fields and thus their professional journeys, and past occupational experiences and knowledge may affect and support their current occupational practices. As these professionals develop within their careers and organisations to positions of leadership, the nature of the problems they face tends to become ‘wicked’ (Rittle and Weber, 1973; Conklin, 2006) and resistant to simple single discipline focused solutions. We see that these senior practitioners tend to privilege transdisciplinary forms of knowing and their route into these domains of knowing is invariably through experience and social and collaborative networks.


Arising from these case studies are three significant areas using thematic analysis. These areas include reflective practice, emerging professions and professionals, and learning with and through others. The presenters will then offer some possible implications of these tentative findings.




Clarke, L. and Winch, C. (2004) Apprenticeship and Applied Theoretical Knowledge. Educational Philosophy and Theory: Incorporating ACCESS, 36(5), 509-521.


Coffield, F. (2000) (Ed.) The necessity of informal learning. Bristol: Polity Press.


Conklin, E. J. (2006) Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems. Chichester, UK, John Wiley & Sons.


Evans, K. (2016) Higher vocational learning and knowledgeable practice: The newly qualified practitioner at work. In S. Loo and J. Jameson (Eds.) Vocationalism in Further and Higher Education: Policy, Programmes and Pedagogy.(p. 117-130). Abingdon: Routledge.


Hager, P. (2004) Front-loading, Workplace Learning and Skill Development. Educational Philosophy and Theory: Incorporating ACCESS, 36(5), 523-534.


Hager, P. and Halliday, J. (2008) Recovering Informal Learning: Wisdom, Judgement.Heidelberg: Springer.


Loo, S. (2018) Teachers and Teaching in Vocational and Professional Education. Abingdon: Routledge.


Loo, S. (2019) (Ed.)Multiple Dimensions of Teaching and Learning for Occupational Practice. Abingdon: Routledge.


Marsick, V. and Watkins, K. (2016) Informal and Incidental Learning. Abingdon: Routledge.


Rittel, H., and Weber, M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4, p. 155-169.


Segers, M., Dochy, F., and Messmann, G. (2018) (Eds.) Informal Learning at Work: Triggers, Antecedents, and Consequences. Abingdon: Routledge.



Laureano Jiménez Esteller1, Alba Molas1, Karsten Krüger2, Andreas Saniter3, Dieter Thomas Boer1

1University Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain

2 Fundació Bosch i Gimpera, Barcelona, Spain

2 Universitat Bremen, Bremen, Germany



The challenge of training professionals for the real sector of economy has emerged due to the development of technologies, shortening the period from development to implementation, and the growing technological needs of the society. New educational approaches are need to make curricula sensitive to the demands of companies and methodologically flexible. One of the most promising approaches is to get companies onboard, which participate actively in the training and teaching process. In this sense, dual education and similar keyword appear inthe market (apprenticeship, work-based learning, on-the-job training, blended education…). The main supporting factor is the mismatch of skills and knowledge of leavers of traditional educational pathways and the industry needs, while the main hindering factor is the belief, that education is a public duty, only. The basis of dual education is to combine work-based learning in a company and class-based learning in the same course following the evaluation by competences. 

In the TEEDE Erasmus project (Towards Excellence in Engineering Curricula for Dual Education), dual learning programs in higher education are developed (or under development) at partner universities (2 in Cambodia, 2 in China, 2 in India and 4 in Russia: most of them with limited experience in non-traditional teaching approaches). The first step was to perform a regional needs analysis involving all stakeholders (i.e., university, companies, HE regulator, quality agencies, social actors…) to know their commitment using semi-structured questionnaires.Based on this information, each partner decides the level (i.e., B.Sc., M.Sc. and/or PhD), the engineering domain (i.e., new program or modify an existing) and if the program has to be offered as a parallel track to a school-based scheme (or not). So far, 11 B.Sc., 5 M.Sc. and 1 PhD programs in different fields of engineering are developed, partly developed or waiting for the very long and complex bureaucratic procedures to be implemented. In this case, the programs developed can be considered as cases of apparent good practice as they have a clear pedagogical purpose, defined learning outcomes and specified objectives.

As expected, there is a wide diversity of programmes in the participating countries, ranging from ad-hoc(tailor-made) measures with innovative (or unscripted) local curricula that often rely on the engagement of a single person to established programmes. Tailor-made, often modularized programmes, seem to be more flexible, updating learning outcomes in the curricula, but with the risk that industry dictates the content. In our estimation, standardized programmes, that do have established structures but allow a cerTain degree of freedom are favorable.  


Keywords: Dual learning, engineering higher education, blended education, apprenticeships, work-based Learning



The UALL Work and Learning Network Annual Conference 2019

‘Learning for, at and through work: capturing workplace learning for transformative Higher Education’

Poster presentation application:  Innovation through 5 steps to wellbeing

Relevant to: Mental health and work-based learning theme

Presenters: Debbie Scott, Wendy Miller, Lee Bennett, University of Chester, and Jamie Toner, British School, Doha


This poster illustrates how graduates and their tutor continue to apply and develop approaches used during their studies on negotiated programmes of work based learning at Masters Level in their continuing professional practice.  Such activitynot only energises and innovates practice but leads to enhancement of wellbeing for themselves and colleagues.

The poster should be relevant to individuals interested in the small, individual and organisational steps one can take to strengthen wellbeing in the workplace, and in everyday life: practical steps that can have long term impact.  


It references the University of Chester’s wellbeing app which is aligned with the NHS’s 5 steps to mental health wellbeing, and which is intended to support staff and students.  The 5 steps are:  Connect; Be Active; Keep Learning; Give to Others; Be Mindful.


Participants can explore the above 5 steps and apply the concept to their own innovative practices.  The poster will include interactive items (such as ideas for wellbeing activities, which can be taken to use later; and requests for participants’ own suggestions) with the aim of engaging participants and inspiring action.  It offers interactivity via links to NHS Moodzone site, Mind site, and Government Office

The poster includes practical examples of wellbeing activity used by the poster presenters:

•           Lee connects, keeps learning and giving back, by collaborating with academics in the production of educational videos, AV training sessions and journal articles.

•           Wendy takes notice of the continuous learning and developmental needs of her staff and connects with them in her ‘Pat on the Back Friday’ sessions

•           Jamie keeps learning and is mindful, collaborating with internal and external groups on strategies relating to educational and social development of international students. 

•           Debbie keeps learning and active, using creative ideas from her research in work with students


Mark Edwards – Nurse Lecturer

Lisa Duffy – Nurse Lecturer

Emma Williams – Nurse Lecturer 


Work Based Learning: A collaboration between Swansea University and clinical partners to deliver a flexible pre-registration nursing programme in South Wales


Across the United Kingdom there has been a decrease in the number of those applying to be a student nurse. In 2016-17, there was a 19% reduction in nurse applicant. The trend continued in 2017-18 with a 9% reduction, with an overall decrease of 28% since 2014.This trend is also being experienced in Wales with the retention of nursing staff being a growing concern, especially in rural, remote or isolated regions (RCN Wales 2016). Despite successive increases of commissioned student nursing places in Wales, there are still severe nursing shortages. 


In exploring possible solutions to address the problem a request was made by the NHS Wales Workforce Education and Development Service (WEDS) to design a curriculum that would attract and retain the nursing workforce. Consequently a part- time 3 day pre-registration nursing degree programme has been developed in collaboration with our local health boards. It is anticipated that nurturing a relationship between our stakeholders and our University creates a culture that promotes optimum professional competence (Nevalainen, Lunkka & Suhonen 2018). Transforming the way nurses are educated in Wales will hopefully see qualified nurses retained in the Welsh health care system and they will have the knowledge and skills to adapt to an ever changing health care environment

Local Health boards employ several thousand healthcare support workers (HCSWs) with many of them having the requisite entry qualifications to access a nursing degree but are unable to consider applying due to financial commitments / constraints.  The BSc Nursing part–time modular programme is delivered using a blended learning approach, which includes work based learning (WBL). This inventive programme provides a flexible approach and also addresses issues in relation to student’s financial constraints. The format of WBL is well established within the College and concurs with modern learning philosophies enabling students to learn in their working environment being mentored by experts in clinical practice and supported by the university. The structure and nature of the programme with its emphasis on WBL develops critical thinking, dialogue and reflective practice and supports a formative assessment strategy and continual professional development. This innovation is supported by clinicians within practice and upon completion; students are guaranteed jobs within the Health Board that have supported their career developments, whilst working in partnership with Swansea University, College of Human & Health Science. 


Nevalainen M, Lunkka N & Suhonen M (2018) Work-based learning in health care organisations experienced by nursing staff: A systematic review of qualitative studies  Nurse Education in Practice 29, 21-29

RCN Wales (2016) Nursing numbers in Wales: an overview. 


Laureano Jiménez Esteller Title: ‘Responsible Research and Innovation: Just a New Fashion Keyword?’





The impact of technology on professional work


Stan Lester 

possible paper/discussion session for UALL Work & Learning 2019


Several recent studies predict an imminent step-change in the effect of technology on professional work. Until recently, the main effect of technology on knowledge-based work has been to complement and augment it, as described in Autor et al’s 2003 analysis.  More recent developments are starting to result in knowledge work being automated and substituted, developments that to date have been more familiar in factory and basic administrative settings (e.g. assembly line work, typists, telephonists). A widely-quoted study by Frey and Osborne (2013) indicates that 47% of (US) jobs are under threat from automation or substitution, while Susskind and Susskind’s 2015 analysis, drawing on eight professions including law, medicine and architecture, concludes that professional occupations as we currently understand them will undergo unprecedented disruption and job losses as machines become more capable of performing ‘intelligent’ and human-facing work.  

While these studies draw attention to the capability of future and even current technology to take over complex and nuanced tasks, their conclusions need to be approached with some scepticism.  Subsequent analyses of Frey and Osborne’s work (e.g. Arntz et al2016) generally support its conclusions at the level of tasks, but they also demonstrate that jobscan be relatively fluid and are as likely to evolve as to disappear.  A more critical reading of Susskind and Susskind’s conclusions indicate that they are based on a transactional and technocratic interpretation of professional work that is already widely perceived as inadequate and out-of-date.  Overall, a picture is being provided of increasingly capable technology impacting on a set of occupations that are otherwise not evolving, and ignoring capacity to make value-decisions about how technology is used or its benefits distributed. Predictions about the end of work, or the end of professions, are decidedly premature.  

Nevertheless, what has been termed the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ or ‘industrie 4.0’ is likely to see a fundamental shift in the type of work that people do, particularly in fields where a high proportion of tasks relate to analysis, diagnosis, sequencing and control, and to the assembly of information.  Jobs will dissapear, be transformed, and be created, as will entire professions, and the emphasis for human activities is likely to shift to those where there are either ‘technological bottlenecks’ or moral and societal reasons for decisions being made or activities performed by people.  Recent studies suggest that activities (and therefore skills) that will come to the fore include those concerned with ethics, creativity and interpretation and judgement (and therefore information literacy and discrimination), while work that is of a finite or convergent nature, even when highly complex, is more subject to technological automation or substitution.  The implications for professional education are themselves complex, as while a simple analysis indicates the increasing importance of transversal or transprofessional abilities, the ability to make judgements in context requires a deep understanding of contextual factors that may be technically complex and profession-specific.  


What might a practice-based undergraduate curriculum look like?


Carol Costley, Middlesex University



A curriculum which takes for granted that lecture courses are the centrepiece is hardly practice-based. Activities in which students are involved in meaningful and substantial tasks must be the focus and this means engaging in practice rather than hearing about practice. This would involve a whole curriculum approach, with some components taking place in external settings and some on-campus, but all having a strong practice focus and linked to an overall purpose. Courses would need to be coherent and balanced from an individual perspective and have learning outcomes, processes and assessment criteria suitable for the appropriate university level and the nature of the qualification.


There would be structures that enabled agreement about what the learner would do, the support the university and often an employer or other stakeholder would provide and the types of evidence to be produced for assessment. Such a curriculum may be described as post-disciplinary. It would be designed for outcomes such as those that meet the top 10 skills as set out by the World Economic Forum (Gray, 2016).


Components of the curriculum could include:


·               enquiry-based activities with substantive tasks involving working with others

·               reflection and reflexivity on practice

·               simulations and role play

·               part-individual and part-group activities

·               negotiation around learning contracts or agreements

·               recognition of prior learning; to gain credit or a starting-point for reflecting on practice

·               a portfolio of work accompanied by an evaluative narrative

·               course-based and peer-group activities

·               assessments that portray what students can do


It would be unlikely for there to be the polarity between theory-based and practice-based course modules that is common in existing professional curricula. Such a dichotomy is a heritage from an earlier separation between academic and vocational courses that it would be inappropriate to reify (Boud, 2012).



moving from an expert or transmission model of higher education to a facilitative one


A distinct practice-led pedagogical approach is where the roles of tutors move from teacher/ supervisor to facilitator/mentor/ coach and expert resource. The more recent roles may include guiding and helping learners to:


·         become active in identifying their needs and aspirations and managing the learning process

·         develop abilities of critical reflection and enquiry

·         identify and work with issues concerning workplace values and ethics

·         make effective use of workplace resources

·         develop and use academic skills in the workplace

·        be provided with specialist expertise

·         be inspired and encouraged 


assessing through adequate and valid methods that focus on practice


A practice-based curriculum is typically issue-led and driven by learner activities, not formal inputs. In that sense, assessing learners’ progress may be described as assessing ‘map-makers’ rather than confirming their proficiency as ‘map-readers’ i.e. their expertise in propositional knowledge. The focus is typically on learners’ reasoning and critical reflection, how they develop their capability as practitioners and how they make critical judgements in the work context. 


The technicalities of this are commonly supported through generic level statements and criteria at the relevant academic level. It may involve individual learning outcomes and sometimes assessment criteria that are negotiated as part of a learning agreement. A programmatic approach to active practice-based assessment is required. “Assessment should reflect the kinds of social, cultural and contextual knowledge and abilities that are used in the workplace” (Lester and Costley 2010).

Assessments take whatever form is needed for the outcomes being demonstrated and thus may not necessarily be writing in the conventional form of essays, or responses to tests. Assessment is likely to involve peers and include some elements of self-assessment.



Boud, D. (2012). Problematising practice-based education. In Higgs, J., Barnett, R., Billett, S., Hutchings, M. and Trede, F. (eds.) Practice-Based Education: Perspectives and Strategies, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 55-69.


Gray (2016) The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. World Economic Forum   accessed 30/01/2019


Lester, S. and Costley, C. (2010) Work-based learning at higher education level:  value, practice and critique, Studies in Higher Education 35 (5), 561-575



Carol Costley is a Professor of Work and Learning and Director of the Work and Learning Research Centre at Middlesex University. Carol is Chair of the International Conference on Professional Doctorates 2009, Chair of the ‘Association of Practice Doctorates’ since 2009 and ‘Researching Work and Learning’ conference series committee member 1999. Her research interests are in Professional Doctorates, Work-based and Work-Integrated Learning, especially in examining methodologies and epistemologies in work and learning and how they are additional to and support subject based approaches to knowledge. 

Carol works with organisations in the private, public, community and voluntary sectors internationally in the learning and teaching of work-based, taught and research degrees.


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