Work integrated learning (WIL) practitioners' perceptions of the value of communities of practice : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Education in Tertiary Education at Massey University (Manawatū), New Zealand
Work integrated learning (WIL) practitioners design and deliver situated, experiential learning opportunities for a growing number of programmes within the New Zealand tertiary sector. Professional development opportunities for WIL practitioners’ should lead to effectively designed and delivered WIL programmes for learners. Due to the limited availability of formal professional development opportunities, much of WIL practitioner development is through informal and incidental on-the-job learning (Lazarus, Oloroso, & Howison, 2011). Greater collaborative learning opportunities have been advocated as beneficial by the WIL community (Brown, 2010). In addition, professional development initiatives are increasingly focusing on Communities of Practice (CoP) to support situated learning for educators. The pressure on teachers required to design, teach, administer and manage WIL experiences, raises issues of how best to develop and support them in effectively fulfilling their roles.
This qualitative study explores and interprets the experiences and perceptions of WIL practitioners of the value of communities of practice. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews. A recursive approach to the data collection and analysis stages (an adaption of the Wenger, Trayner, and de Laat (2011) five cycles of value creation framework) was adopted.
The study findings indicate a lack of common understanding of WIL terminology, and that WIL practitioners want greater access to WIL networks, expertise, best practice and related policy information. The many and varied relationships of WIL practitioners, provide inherent values, upon which to benchmark and develop their practices. However, the invisible nature of many WIL activities, hidden within programmes, makes it difficult at times for WIL practitioners to identify each other, connect in networks and develop relationships. WIL practitioners want more collaborative learning opportunities and sharing of best practice resources. In spite of this, WIL practitioners are seeking out expertise that assists them to be more competent, knowledgeable and effective practitioners.
The study has highlighted that WIL practitioners are engaging in, and gaining value from, the very same process of learning within CoPs, that they co-ordinate for their students. WIL CoPs are valuable mechanisms for WIL practitioner development that should be acknowledged and encouraged.