Work-based learning in a business school context: artefacts, contracts, learning and challenges

Cheryl Brook, Marjorie Corbridge

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    Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to highlight some of the issues involved in ensuring that final year undergraduate students have a meaningful work based learning experience as part of their business degree. It originated in discussions between the authors concerning varying attitudes towards the idea and practice of WBL in business schools. The study examines examples of artefacts produced for assessment, as well as perceptions of the practice of work based learning through an exploration of the perspectives and views of students and employers. Material was also gathered from the reflections of the authors in their capacity as WBL supervisors.

    Design - This paper draws on a qualitative research study which used semi structured interviews to obtain views on a range of issues associated with work-based learning, including the nature and scope of what is learnt and acted upon in the workplace and the value of the learning contract. The data comprises semi structured interviews with 13 graduates of a post-1992 UK University and with 5 employers. The authors also reflect on their experience in delivering the WBL unit.

    Findings - This study examines some key issues associated with work based learning. It supports the idea that unintended, informal and even ‘tacit’ knowledge may be effectively reflected upon and assessed; that learning contracts play an important role in work based learning arrangements and do not necessarily restrict or constrain what is learnt or how that learning is developed, and that artefacts provide the bridge between knowledge and work.

    Research limitations / implications
    - Employer feedback was limited, and despite attempting to contact all WBL graduates, only 13 responded and were able to be interviewed. The findings will be helpful to different stakeholders engaged in WBL who wish to develop effective strategies to maximise the benefits of WBL. The findings of this research relate to different elements in the process including the value of the employer-led project and the evidence of real improvements/contributions made in delivering their artefact, of the learning contract as a ‘live’ document and the value of informal, experiential learning in the process.

    - The paper offers a contribution to our knowledge and understanding of perceptions of the actual practice of business students’ work based learning.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)249-260
    Number of pages12
    JournalHigher Education Skills and Work Based Learning
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


    • work-based learning
    • artefacts
    • informal learning
    • learning contracts
    • challenges


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