This blog was co-authored by Dimity Wehr and Aurora Murphy

Do you wish you had some simple hacks to improve your supervision of students in their Work Integrated Learning (WIL) experience?

In 2021 the TACT team from IML surveyed and interviewed students across UTS to share their experiences with WIL. Students from all faculties talked to us about their placements, internships, projects, studio and problem-based practice tasks. While each of their experiences were unique, there are some commonalities that can inform the way we work with our external partners to support students.

What students said

Students gave us important messages about the way they learnt before, during and following their professional placements or similar learning experiences. From 146 different student responses, some common reflections on learning with external partnerships are:

I was really learning a lot of it on the job. And they gave me like training and stuff. But something I’ve also realised is that they also don’t know all of it, like the actual industry. People don’t know it all themselves. And I’m actually learning alongside them.

I felt somewhat prepared, but not that prepared. But I think that’s actually a good thing. Like the whole point of doing an internship or whatever it is to learn on the go, if you came there 100% prepared… it’s kind of defeating the purpose

This not only opened my worldview, but also reassured me that I could overcome any nerves or anxiety in entering every new experience

The major message noted from these interactions with students was that students want to learn with and alongside their mentors and colleagues.

Simple actions for positive change

Some simple actions can help students feel enabled to learn alongside industry partners. Students said they could participate when they felt included and valued in the workplace, e.g. when they were invited to lunches with their peers or given a mentor. More formal inclusive practices such as asking students to deliver a presentation, facilitate a meeting or undertake some professional development also supports students’ engagement and their ability to learn in their WIL experiences. 

If you are working with external partners who supervise or mentor your students, these questions can help them establish and maintain good relationships:

  • Is there anything that would make your time with us more comfortable? 
  • What would you like to learn while you’re here?
  • Is there anything you learn at university that you’d like to show us?

Asking these questions  may avoid making assumptions about students and ensure that they feel that their individual learning needs have been addressed.

More info and resources

In 2021 at the inaugural WIL Symposium, the UTS WIL network merged with the Careers network to create the PEPN (Professional Education and Practice Network). We also created a WIL Hub with resources for Academics working in this space to direct to Students and External Partners; resources include this flyer featuring tips for supervising students in placement. Further information on this topic can be sourced in our Supervising Interns resource collection.

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