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Emotional challenges and pre-placement preparations: a cross-disciplinary, longitudinal study of ‘learner-worker’ undergraduates (in an Irish HEI)

Diver, G (2020) Emotional challenges and pre-placement preparations: a cross-disciplinary, longitudinal study of ‘learner-worker’ undergraduates (in an Irish HEI). Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning. ISSN 2042-3896

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The aim of this cross-disciplinary, longitudinal qualitative study was to gain useful insights into the experiences of undergraduates undertaking work placements. It captures, analyses and evaluates the stories, observations and reflections of a small group of students from an HEI in the north west of Ireland. The volunteer participants hail from four quite different programmes in terms of discipline, but all were interviewed at length both before and after their placement, and all shared the records of their experiences via their reflective learning journals. A critical examination of the findings offers a basis for asking whether current perceptions of work-based learning (tutor, student and placement-provider) fully take into account the psychological and emotional demands that are made upon undergraduate students when they are out on work placement. The study sought also to evaluate the extent to which such placements might serve to bridge the various gaps that exist between the very different worlds of Higher Education (HE) and the workplace. Though based in Ireland, the findings would be of interest to other jurisdictions where work placements are offered to undergraduates: the issues encountered (and the solutions suggested) are not exclusive to Irish HE. As a means of capturing the thoughts, feelings, fears, and hopes of the participants both pre and post-placement, the core research question was two-fold: ‘How effectively do work placements bridge the gap between HE institutions and the workplace?’ and ‘Does placement prepare students for the world of work and/or lead to improved academic performance?’ Several key themes emerged from the participants’ interview and reflective journal entries, namely: Student Expectation and Preparation for placement; Contexts, remits and roles during placement; Learning Gain as enhanced employability and/or improved academic ability (as self-gauged by the students, at the close of the project). The findings suggest that whilst a wide range of employer-valued transferable key skills may be gained via informal modes of workplace learning, some of the activities carried out during placement may vary widely. Nonetheless it is important to prepare students thoroughly pre-placement, and to act promptly upon their feedback. A draft checklist aimed at placement mentors, academics and course leaders is offered here as guidance and is based upon the study’s findings: its generic nature may be of wider use in HEI both in Ireland and beyond, e.g. in crafting meaningful work-based learning opportunities and outcomes for our students.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The AAM is deposited under the above licence and any reuse is allowed in accordance with the terms outlined by the licence. To reuse the AAM for commercial purposes, permission should be sought by contacting permissions@emeraldinsight.com.
Uncontrolled Keywords: employability; work placement; emotional maturity
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Divisions: Education
Publisher: Emerald Publishing
Date Deposited: 07 May 2020 10:06
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 07:20
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/12902
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