Globally, the role and identity of universities is shifting because of their position in a force field that is increasingly dominated by economic imperatives. More and more, universities are expected to produce employable and work ready graduates. As a response to these demands, many universities have adopted workplace learning (WPL) as a strategy to deliver on these expectations. In this context, the dominant purpose of WPL, underpinned by an economic transaction approach, threatens to hollow out and vocationalise university education. Broadly, though, WPL has been described as a bridge between theory and practice and as a way of integrating the world of education with the world of work. This suggests, possibilities of using WPL as a sociomaterial, critical pedagogical vehicle, have too often been overlooked. Some of these possibilities include facilitating learning to think morally, act thoughtfully and develop people who contribute to their communities, while also focusing on teaching factual knowledge and technical skills to prepare students for interdisciplinary and socially emergent and future practices.
During this seminar, I will discuss findings from several research projects on WPL practices and pedagogies conducted in Australia with students, academics and workplace supervisors. Drawing on practice and education theories located within the hermeneutic and critical traditions, I will present an argument that universities can integrate a broader WPL approach to meet not only their economic imperative, but also achieve a new professional education mission: educating the deliberate professional who is better prepared for emergent and future professional practices. I will discuss what it means to educate for and through deliberate practices that enable students as well as academics to become more explicitly ethical, critical and appropriate professionals in ever changing practice contexts. I will present the theoretical underpinnings of a pedagogy of deliberateness and illustrate ways of carving out learning spaces in universities to better prepare students for the uncertain world of professional practices.
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