Conflicting values in reflection on professional practice

Siebert, Sabina and Costley, Carol ORCID: (2013) Conflicting values in reflection on professional practice. Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning, 3 (3) . pp. 156-167. ISSN 2042-3896 [Article] (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.
Keywords Professional practice, Reflection, Work based learning, Organizational practices,
Corporate learning, HE management programmes, Employees, Personal and professional development.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
Item ID: 12649
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Carol Costley
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2013 10:02
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2021 17:13

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