Work-Based Learning and Research for Mid-Career Professionals: Two Project Examples from Australia

Lee Fergusson, Timothy A Allred, Troy Dux, Hugo M. Muianga
Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning  •  Volume 14  •  2018  •  pp. 019-040

Most research on work-based learning and research relates to theory, including perspectives, principles and curricula, but few studies provide contemporary examples of work-based projects, particularly in the Australian context; this paper aims to address that limitation.

The Professional Studies Program at University of Southern Queensland is dedicated to offering advanced practice professionals the opportunity to self-direct organizational and work-based research projects to solve real-world workplace problems; two such examples in the Australian context are provided by this paper.

The paper employs a descriptive approach to analyzing these two work-based research projects and describes the mixed methods used by each researcher.

The paper provides examples of work-based research in (a) health, safety, and wellness leadership and its relation to corporate performance; and (b) investigator identity in the Australian Public Service; neither topic has been examined before in Australia and little, if anything, is empirically known about these topics internationally.

The paper presents the expected outcomes for each project, including discussion of the ‘triple dividend’ of personal, organizational, and practice domain benefits; as importantly, the paper presents statements of workplace problems, needs and opportunities, status of the practice domain, background and prior learning of the researchers, learning objectives, work-based research in the practice domain, and lessons learned from research which can be integrated into a structured framework of advanced practice.

This is a preliminary study of two work-based research projects in Australia; as these and other real-world projects are completed, further systematic and rigorous reports to the international educational community will reveal the granulated value of conducting projects designed to change organisations and concordant practice domains.

While introducing the basic elements of research methods and expected out-comes of work-based projects, examples in this paper give only a glimpse into the possible longer-term contributions such research can make to workplaces in Australia. Researchers, as a consequence, need to better understand the relationship between practice domains, research as a valuable investigative tool in workplaces, and organizational and social outcomes.

Work-based learning and research have been developed to not only meet the complex and changing demands of the global workforce but have been implemented to address real-world organizational problems for the benefit of society; this paper provides two examples where such benefit may occur.

Future research should focus on the investigation of triple-dividend outcomes and whether they are sustainable over the longer term.

advanced practice professional, work-based learning, work-based research, leadership, safety, investigation, identity
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