Work-Based Learning and Research for Mid-Career Professionals: Professional Studies in Australia
Work-based learning has been identified in the literature, and is established in academia and in the global worlds of work; however, an examination of work-based research, particularly at the doctoral level, has been less well articulated. Moreover, a paucity of published literature on either work-based research or Professional Studies means little is known about the dynamics and drivers of these domains. This study aims to begin addressing the shortfall in literature on work-based research and Professional Studies programs, using the program at University of Southern Queensland as an example
This paper examines work-based research in the context of the Professional Studies program at University of Southern Queensland in Australia, with which the authors are affiliated.
Analysis of work-based research includes discussion of ‘messy’ research environments and the changing nature of workplaces, along with the opportunities and challenges such environments pose for action researchers.
In addition to addressing a shortfall in the published literature on work-based research, the paper also contributes insight into the mechanisms used to promote reflective practice and the generation of professional artefacts.
Often driven by altruism, work-based research as implemented in the Professional Studies program results in a so-called ‘triple dividend’, designed to benefit the individual researcher, work environment, and community of practice.
To be successful contributors to work-based research, practitioners need to reflect carefully and deeply on experience, planning and outcomes, using what in this paper we call ‘micro-reflective’ (personal) and ‘macro-reflective’ (program) cycles of reflection.
In addition to generating new knowledge and expanding the frontiers of workplaces, work-based research is often motivated by complicated and wide-reaching imperatives; work-based researchers therefore need to consider the goals, objectives, priorities and vision of their work environments, as well as understand issues related to bias, ethical practice and the nature of insider research.
Work-based learning and research address the complexities, challenges and future demands of Australian workplaces along with the work, mobility and personal development needs of mid- to senior-career professionals.
In addition to the multitude of action research programs possible in work-places in Australia, more research is needed to understand higher education work-based learning and its relation to, and impact on, work-based research, particularly when applying mixed methods research to work environments.