ERG SES H 02, Mobility and Education
Universities are facing today great national and international pressures to adapt to more economical aims and to promote graduates’ employability (Tymon, 2013) through the development of skills (OECD, 2012). Such pressures are supported by Human Capital Theory (Becker,1993) and the idea that education will contribute to the development of national economies and their competitiveness by equipping individuals with knowledge and skills that are relevant for enterprises’ productivity. Moreover, organizations like OECD (2013a, 2013b) argue for the private and social benefits of education while governments rest on its social benefits to promote the expansion of the sector and widen participation. In other words, Becker (1993) laid the foundation for the argument that more education will increase the individual´s income and reduce possible experiences of unemployment (Wolf, 2002) and therefore, education will make students employable.
Employability is then regarded as a direct outcome of Higher Education and its responsibility (Cole and Tibby, 2013) and has been defined as graduates’ ability to get and maintain a job after graduation (Støren and Aamodt, 2010). Within this definition, Higher Education should support students in acquiring and developing knowledge, skills and behaviours to use in employment and in other areas of life (Cole and Tibby, 2013). However, such rational is based on several assumptions, namely, that skills do promote employability or that what students learn in Higher Education is easily applied in the workplace (Atkins, 1999) and in the other spheres of life. There is, overall, an assumption that learning transfer between Higher Education and the workplace is occurring in an easy and straight forward way, as direct application of knowledge (Bransford and Schwartz, 1999).
More recent research on employability is calling for a different understanding of the link between Higher Education and the workplace than the one offered by employability (Tymon, 2013). One that should focus on process rather than on the application of skills and that would prepare students for transitions rather than for specific job descriptions (Oliveira, 2013).
Here, a model based on learning transfer as the mediator of students’ transitions between Higher Education and the workplace is presented (Oliveira, 2013). The model is developed along a socio-personal perspective of transfer (Billett, 2013), encompassing individual agency, social interactions (Beach, 2003) and looking at the workplace as communities of practices (Lave and Wenger, 1991, Wenger, 1998). It aims to look at three dimensions of transfer - knowledge, self and social interactions - by understanding how students develop the figured world (Holland et al., 1998) of work and what artifacts (Wartofsky, 1979) they use to promote transfer and offer an alternative to the employability framework
The following research questions directed the questioning that supports this paper:
- 1. How do students experience the transition between Higher Education and the workplace in their placements?
- 2. In what way and to what extent are students’ experiences congruent with the developed learning transfer model?
- a. Do students transfer different types of knowledge to the workplace?
- b. Which tools (artifacts) do students use to promote their transfer?
- c. Do students consider social interactions relevant to their transfer and in what way?
- d. Do students adapt their identity as a student to a professional identity and in what way?
- e. Do students experience intercontextuality between Higher Education and the workplace and in what way?
- f. Are context features relevant to their transfer and in what way?
- 3. In what way are student´s experiences and understandings of the transition between Higher Education and the workplace congruent with the employability framework provided by Human Capital Theory?
ATKINS, M. J. 1999. Oven-ready and Self-basting: taking stock of employability skills. Teaching in Higher Education, 4, 267-280. Beach, K. (2003). Consequential Transitions: A Developmental View of Knowledge Propagation Through Social Organizations. In T. Tuomi-Grèohn & Y. Engestrèom (Eds.), Between School and Work: New Perspectives on Transfer and Boundary Crossing. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing. BECKER, G. S. 1993. Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education, USA, University of Chicago Press. BRANSFORD , J. D. & SCHWARTZ, D. L. 1999. Rethinking Transfer: A Simple Proposal With Multiple Implications. Review of Research in Education, 24, 66-100. COLE, D. & TIBBY, M. 2013. Defining and developing your approach to employability: A framework for higher education institutions. The Higher Education Academy. CUMMING, J. 2010. Contextualised performance: reframing the skills debate in research education. Studies in Higher Education, 35, 405-419. ERAUT, M. 2004. Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26, 247-273. ERAUT, M. 2011. Informal learning in the workplace: evidence on the real value of work-based learning (WBL). Development and Learning in Organizations, 25, 8-12. HARDING, J. 2013. Qualitative Data Analysis from Start to Finish, London, SAGE Publications. HOLLAND, D., LACHIOTTE, W., Jr., SKINNER, D., & CAIN, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds, Cambridge, Harvard University Press. KVALE, S. & BRINKMANN, S. 2009. InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing, SAGE Publications. LAVE, J., & WENGER, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge,Cambridge University Press. MILES, M. B. & HUBERMAN, A. M. 1994. Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook, California, SAGE Publications. OECD. 2012. Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies. OECD Publishing. OECD. 2013a. Education at a Glance 2013. OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing. OECD. 2013b. What are the social benefits of education? Paris: OECD Publishing. OLIVEIRA, G. 2013. PhD Upgrade Document: Transfer of Learning in Higher Education. Unpublished. STØREN, L. A. & AAMODT, P. O. 2010. The Quality of Higher Education and Employability of Graduates. Quality in Higher Education, 16, 297-313. TYMON, A. 2013. The student perspective on employability. Studies in Higher Education, 38, 841-856. WARTOFSKY, M. W. 1979. Models: Representation and the Scientific Understanding, Dordrecht, Reidel Publishing Company. WENGER, E. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. WOLF, A. 2002. Does Education Matter? Myths about education and economic growth, London, Penguin Books.
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