Conflicting values in reflection on professional practice

Siebert, S. and Costley, C. (2013) Conflicting values in reflection on professional practice. Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning, 3(3), pp. 156-167. (doi: 10.1108/HESWBL-07-2011-0032)

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the use of reflection as a tool of enquiry within the context of higher education work-based learning. The aim of the study is to investigate how reflection on professional practice brings about a review of the values underpinning that practice. Design/methodology/approach – The data were collected from a group of undergraduate students undertaking their studies by work-based learning in the area of management in a Scottish University. An open-ended questionnaire was designed to learn about the participants’ views on their perceived freedom to reflect on their workplace practice in the university, their ability to challenge the organizational values and established practices in the workplace, and on their relationship with the workplace mentor. Findings – Students on work-based learning programmes are subjected to demands from at least three directions: first, their own expectations, in terms of both what they want to achieve by way of their own development, second, the needs of their organization; and third, expectations of the university in ensuring that the work produced meets the standard for an academic award. These interests can sometimes coincide, but they can also conflict, and such a conflict can reveal tensions that run deeper into the culture of the organization. Research limitations/implications – This study is based on a relatively small sample of learners in one university, hence the findings are of preliminary nature. Despite the small sample size, the conclusions are indicative of a potential problem in the design of work-based learning, and a larger cross-institutional study would allow the validity of these results to be verified. Practical implications – The findings emerging from this study have implications for the facilitators of work-based learning in higher education. Although university work-based learning programmes differ significantly from corporate learning and development efforts, this paper suggests that work-based learning providers should co-operate more closely with the learners’ employing organizations towards creating an environment for learning at work. More co-operation between the university and the employer might be more beneficial for all stakeholders. Originality/value – The literature on work-based learning focuses in the main on the use of reflection as a tool of enquiry into workplace practice. Drawing on the study of contemporary work organizations, this paper explores the tensions arising from reflection on the learners’ practice, and possible conflict of values that reflection exposes.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Siebert, Professor Sabina
Authors: Siebert, S., and Costley, C.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning

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