What was the experience of undergraduate disability and developmental education students undertaking a short-term international Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placement?

Author: Peggy Essl

Essl, Peggy, 2017 What was the experience of undergraduate disability and developmental education students undertaking a short-term international Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placement? , Flinders University, College of Nursing and Health Sciences

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Abstract

In Australia, most universities have an internationalized curriculum with international Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placements a common means to increase students' cultural competence, increase their generic employability skills and bridge the gap between theory and practice. As Australia has one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world, allied health professionals need to be able to work with diverse clients, which requires advanced levels of multicultural awareness. This current study aimed to explore the experiences of Bachelor of Disability and Developmental Education (BDDE) undergraduate students who undertook a three-week international WIL placement in Brunei Darussalam in 2015. In particular, it examines the students' perspectives of the value of the international WIL placement as well as the impact the experience had on their personal and professional growth. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with five students who went on the international WIL placement to Brunei Darussalam. Transcripts were imported into NVivo 10 and analysis was conducted using a thematic and iterative qualitative approach compatible with phenomenology. Three major themes exploring student experiences emerged, including 'valued experiences', 'cultural dissonance', and 'personal and professional growth'. In addition, five themes were identified illustrating student expectations, including 'difficult to define', 'culturally confronting', provision and funding of disability services', 'environmental factors' and 'overall placement experience'. Finally, five student recommendations were revealed, 'comprehensive pre-departure sessions', living environment', 'quality university supervision', 'inherent student qualities that influence/enhance the experience' and 'advice to students contemplating undertaking a international WIL placement'. Indicative findings suggest the international WIL placement had a valuable and positive impact on the students, increasing their cultural competence and assisted with their personal and professional growth. Additionally, the findings provide information on what makes international WIL placements successful and what promotes optimal learning. These include the need for international WIL placements to be thoroughly planned and well supervised and the need to ensure students have adequate living arrangements in the host country and for the students to be open-minded, flexible and non-judgemental.

Keywords: Work Integrated Learning (WIL), undergraduate disability and developmental education students, international placement, Brunei Darussalam
Subject: Disability Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Supervisor: Michelle Bellon