Engaging colleagues

Increasing and promoting the availability of WIL, as with any curriculum reform, requires buy-in from staff at all levels of the university. Although there is growing impetus for the inclusion of WIL, it can be difficult to engage your colleagues, especially research-focused academics, in WIL. Heavy academic workloads can make it difficult to plan and implement new teaching practices 4.2. This may be exacerbated by the limited experience that many science academics have of WIL and of industry.

We cannot rely on simple dissemination and expect colleagues to implement WIL on the basis of hearing about a successful example 4.4. Engaging in conversation and sharing resources, knowledge and experience, particularly those in similar disciplines, is much more effective for driving the implementation of new practices 4.2, 4.3. Your colleagues are more likely to listen to you and relate to your experiences than they are with people from outside the discipline 4.5.

We gave unit coordinators some language to try and make WIL more explicit, because we had a lot of academics that knew why they were doing what they were doing in class or why the guest lecturer was there, but they weren’t making it clear to the students.

Jo-Anne Chuck, Western Sydney University

When working out how to engage your colleagues, it helps to work out what it is you need them to do 4.6. If you need them to simply spread the word about WIL units to students, it may be sufficient to provide them with information about those units that they can share with their students. If you want them to encourage students to participate in WIL, make sure that they are familiar with the language and concepts so they are confident talking to students about WIL. Helping them to incorporate WIL activities into their own teaching is likely to require a discussion about what they are trying to achieve, how WIL might benefit them and their students, and how they might build WIL into their unit.

Tips for engaging colleagues for WIL

  • Consider your purpose for engaging colleagues – do you need to inform, align or inspire them?
  • Talk about the ‘why’ of WIL, rather than focusing on just the ‘what’ and the ‘how’
  • Show them data relating to the implementation and results of WIL
  • Facilitate a student panel so they can hear directly from students about the impact of WIL
  • Think about their context and how WIL might be implemented or your experience might be applied
  • Share examples of what you, or others in the department, are doing, to create a norm of engaging with WIL
  • Provide easily modifiable materials and case studies that they can apply to their own situation and challenges
  • Break down relevant teaching and learning literature 4.3, 4.5, 4.7.

On communicating with students via staff
In 2016 I sent out a slide information pack for all faculty staff, making them aware of two things. The resources available to students through DeakinTALENT (Graduate Employment Division) in terms of workshops, engaging with employers, careers events, any opportunities that can help them to engage with employers. Then at the faculty level, the information pack has information for all schools on what placement, internship, IBL, units are available and whether it is offered at faculty level or within each school… the message [for students] is start planning early. You need to start thinking about this and planning your course early to incorporate some of these opportunities for experience in your course.

Sharon La Fontaine, Deakin University


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