Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Work Integrated Learning in the sciences – a national snapshot of current practice and future directions (#162)

Daniel Edwards 1
  1. Australian Council for Educational Research, Camberwell, VIC, Australia


This presentation is based on the findings of a national study relating to the practice of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) in science, ICT and agriculture disciplines. It draws on data collected from interviews undertaken at every university in Australia and presents evidence of the scale of activities being undertaken, best practice features and suggestions for further incorporation of WIL into the curriculum. While based in science and technology disciplines, the findings from this study are generalisable across other disciplines – especially those with limited WIL at present.

The initiative

Developing curricula that links with industry is seen as an increasingly important way of maintaining the relevance of undergraduate degrees and of providing students with many of the skills identified in university graduate capabilities statements. WIL activities are shown through Australian and international literature to be important in achieving these aims. However, simply adding a WIL activity to an existing subject is not a guaranteed pathway to success. This presentation explores particular elements that are shown to increase the likelihood of ‘Good WIL’ and presents some examples of how this is currently being undertaken in the Australian setting.


This presentation is based on the findings of a national study aimed at undertaking a stock take of WIL in science, ICT and agriculture in Australia. Every university in Australia was visited as part of the research. More than 120 academics and support personnel were interviewed and additional quantitative data was collected. National and international literature was reviewed to further explore best practice and synthesise with the findings from the interviews.

Evidence of effectiveness

The presentation will highlight the way in which WIL activities are undertaken currently, elements that are recognised as improving the effectiveness of WIL and recommendations of how future development of WIL-related activities could be undertaken.

Addressing the themes of the conference

This presentation primarily addresses the first sub-theme of this conference: Educating graduates be responsive and adaptable professionals. Its focus is on the development and practice in Work Integrated Learning activities in Australian universities – such activities are specifically designed to develop the ‘work-readiness’ of university students. The presentation explores particular ways in which the skills required in the workforce can be best enhanced through WIL activities. The study described here has particular relevance to the sciences, which offer broad graduate pathways (rather than streamlining graduates into specific vocations) and inevitably require students to be responsive and adaptable.