Work integrated learning in creative disciplines

Work integrated learning is a familiar concept to the Learning & Teaching community. Every institution in tertiary education has to address it. For every teacher, whether you see education as a path to employment or a pursuit in its own right, there is an imperative to provide real world, authentic learning opportunities.

Work integrated learning can train students for the jobs they may have in the future and particularly for the capabilities they will need in the digital future.

What is work integrated learning?

Work integrated learning is traditionally defined as “the integral link between professional practice, internships or practicum placements within discipline areas that are professionally accredited” (Wade, Trinidad & Woodward).

It is formally embedded in some programs already. For professions like teaching, engineering, social work, accounting or nursing, there is a great deal at stake in making sure graduates have practicum placements and are job-ready in order to assure accreditation is sustained.

But what about creative arts discipline areas and, arguably, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences?

Efforts to benchmark best practice in creative disciplines

When it comes to creative arts discipline areas, there is a much less clear link or accreditation rationale for the embedding of work integrated learning.

In the near future, the expectation of work integrated learning in creative areas will be mandated. Vocational education and training is leading the way and some areas already require things like Work Health and Safety certification in order to ensure graduates are able to enter the workplace.

What does best practice in work integrated learning in creative arts disciplines look like?

Wade, Trinidad and Woodward looked at case studies across Australian tertiary providers. Examples included professional practice, client projects, work-based learning, residencies, mentoring, job shadowing, student businesses and business incubators.

By looking at a range of case studies of how work integrated learning was done in various tertiary providers, we can set a benchmark for best practice and get a clear understanding of what it looks like. The successful ones demonstrated high quality industry engagement, positive outcomes or value for students, instructors and industry partners, and various opportunities across a student’s course progression for integration in professional practice.

Different opportunities in creative disciplines

There are two key differences in opportunities for industry partnerships and professional practice in the arts, humanities and social sciences compared to other disciplines:

  1. They don’t fit the higher education semester system; businesses can’t always work to our academic timetable.
  2. They don’t always emerge as highly pre-planned or structured placements or field work, unlike teaching practicum placements or engineering projects.

Put simply, work integrated learning opportunities in creative disciplines are different in how structured they are and in how much “lead-time” there is to make arrangements before the learning experience occurs.

Click the hotspots on the image below to explore three different kinds of opportunities that can arise due to different amounts of structure and lead-time:


Beyond understanding the three kinds of work integrated learning opportunities, there are ten key recommendations for tertiary education providers to consider.

Use the hotspots below to explore the recommendations:


Bill Wade spoke at the 2016 Navitas Professional Institute Conference and shared more about the history and future of practices in work integrated learning. You can learn more about the conference and watch Bill’s presentation here.