In Education and Training 44:6 (2002) pp.281-289
Situated learning, or learning through work experience, gives added value to typical classroom-based, work-related learning in three ways: it improves learning as propositional knowledge (learning about), procedural knowledge (learning how) and dispositional knowledge (learning values and attitudes). This research uses a longitudinal study of 58 pupils participating in an engineering traineeship in their last two years of secondary school to assess the knowledge gained in the three areas of proposition, procedure and disposition.
The study began in 1994 and looked at the Australian Vocational Training Scheme Metals and Engineering Pilot, which involved a partnership between a secondary school, a higher education institute and a business to deliver the engineering traineeship. Through integrating secondary and tertiary education with industrial work experience, students had a more well-rounded experience. The longitudinal study was conducted in 2000 and consisted of questionnaires sent to the 81 trainees who completed the engineering traineeship programme between 1995 and 1999. The response rate was 72%. In all years, male pupils made up the majority of course participants.
Overall 71% of respondents went on to undertake apprenticeships in the year after completing the engineering programme, 17% went on to further study and 7% went on to full-time employment. In total, 95% of participants were either in employment, apprenticeships or further study, suggesting that the programme had a successful impact on career opportunities and pathways for participants. Interestingly, from a longitudinal perspective, the number of those in apprenticeships declined over time as the number in full-time employment increased, demonstrating a move from apprenticeship to employment. The respondents in the qualitative data overwhelmingly sang the praises of the programme as a way to develop or kick-start a career. Participants learned valuable employability skills and gained knowledge of the industry which informed their decision of whether to continue a career in a similar field or look elsewhere.
Thus it would appear that the programme was highly successful in improving pupils’ school-to-work transition as pupils gained knowledge in the three key areas of proposition, procedure and disposition which come as a result of situated, rather than classroom-based, learning.
The main limitation of this study is the fact that it follows one particular programme and therefore the results cannot be readily generalised, especially as this programme involved a workplace which was particularly enthusiastic to participate in such a pilot. Nevertheless, the benefits of partnerships and integrating secondary, tertiary and industry-specific learning can only be seen as beneficial to the employability of the pupils who undertook this situated learning programme.