Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Work-based learning: negotiating and integrating theory and practice within the real world of organisational change

Keywords: work-based, organisational, change, evaluation, reflection

Authors: Mrs Lesley Moore (University of the West of England, Bristol); Doctor Jane Bridger (University of the West of England, Bristol)


Recent criticisms of learning in the workplace suggest that there needs to be significant change in order to transform a rules based person into a professional, capable of integrating enquiry and evidence to enhance practice development. Rigorous systems underpinning work-based learning (WBL) may facilitate the educational process within the milieu of organisational change of human service provision. The preliminary findings being presented here are from an evaluation project, based on Pawson and Tilley's (1997) framework,which has been gathering evidence of good practice and issues regarding WBL.


Triangulated data was collected from the learners, their mentors/facilitators, managers and academic staff. This comprised of a mixture of questionnaires, interviews, along with analysis of various documents,for example, learning contracts, and reflective assignments.


Preliminary analysis of data has revealed that personal development is the more dominant feature arising from WBL. Evidence suggests many transitions from passive to deep learning and growth in reflective practice. There are a number of key caveats to successful WBL, for example, a motivated learner supported by committed managers and learning facilitators. The project chosen should have a very clearly structured focus, and normally arise from organisational and personal need. There should be an aknowledgement that WBL is commonly more complex and time consuming than often considered at first. Managers and learning facilitators should be aware of the external and internal preparation, and dissemination that is required. The latter is crucial to ensure the organisation is engaged with the process and oucomes of knowledge transfer and exchange.


The project has been exploring areas of good practice, and the issues that both academia and practice need to address in the future to enable promotion and integration of knowledge and practice. Thus sustaining a flexible and reality oriented mode of learning,which meets the challenges of organisational development and change.

This longitudinal evaluation, financed by a professional charity, arises from a three year developmental project where the academic worked with practitioners to build a prototype for WBL and validate a suite of generic WBL modules to accredit outcomes. This developmental project commenced with a single health care profession who were interested in this way of learning but all developments were examined by critical readers from other professionals of health and social care. The learning from this work will be of interest to other practitioners and policy makers.

Date: Wednesday 23 January 2008, 11.30-12.00

Venue: Harris Two

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).