CEWIL Research Matters: May 2016

Article #1: How often do they change their minds and does work-integrated learning play a role? An examination of “major changers” and career uncertainty in higher education (2015)

Author 

Maureen Drysdale, Natalie Frost and Margaret McBeath

Journal 

Asia Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, Vol 16 Issue: 2, pg. 145-152

Source 

Work-Integrated Learning Research Portal

Purpose

To examine the role of cooperative education in changing majors and career uncertainty in Canadian university students.

Methodology

143 co-op and non-co-op students at Waterloo completed an online survey.

 

Practitioner's thoughts by

Rosemary Kay (Career Advisor, Centre for Career Action, University of Waterloo)

What insights did you gain from reading this article that were useful to you?

The findings of this study reinforce my view that work-integrated learning (WIL) stimulates a positive, synergistic relationship between clear academic focus and career confidence. As a practitioner, it is not surprising to learn that when researchers examined how often students change their minds about their major, they found that “students in cooperative education programs change their majors significantly less often than students in regular programs.” The study suggests that students’ career certainty is enhanced across all academic programs, regardless of major, as they begin the process of integrating their chosen educational plan with work experience. The article also astutely acknowledges the complexity of factors affecting student decision-making.

Does this study raise questions for you that require further research/investigation?

This study is consistent with the substantive body of authoritative research extoling the benefits of work-integrated learning. As the recognized visionary leader in co-operative education, I wonder whether Waterloo can extend our strategic leadership role in WIL. How could we enhance and promote increased access to WIL resources for all Waterloo students? Future investigations could reveal additional innovative solutions to deepen student engagement with WIL resources.


Article #2: A behaviour focused assessment of co-op performance: A comparison of co-op and non-co-op graduating students (2016)

Author

Antoine Pennaforte

Journal

Asia Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, Vol 17 Issue: 1, pg. 62-74

Source

Work-Integrated Learning Research Portal

Purpose

To propose a new definition of individuals’ performance in work-integrated learning and how to identify performance behaviours of student workers.

Methodology

Online survey of 4,707 co-op and non-co-op students at Waterloo with at least one work term or summer work experience.

 

Practitioner’s thoughts by

Harold Harder (Student Advisor, Co-operative Education, University of Waterloo)

What insights did you gain from reading this article that were useful to you?

  1. Student’s “task” and “team” performance measures increased as the student’s understanding of the workplace and their own level of self-awareness increased;
  2. When WIL students are treated the same as the employer’s full-time staff, the student’s performance scores increased. In these workplace environments, students tend to become more “proactive” and contribute more “new ideas”;
  3. According to Pennaforte, stronger connections should be built between all stakeholders in the WIL educational process. Pennaforte  especially mentioned the importance of faculty members working with WIL practitioners (i.e. student advisors and account managers in the University of Waterloo co-operative education context) to help ensure learning expectations are met both in class and at work.

How might the results of this study impact how you do your job?

Sometimes co-op employers ask me how they can be a better employer or how they can best help co-op students grow and develop. As a student advisor and when appropriate, I will mention to employers that recent research has suggested that the more students feel a sense of belonging to their team and organization the greater the likelihood that students will be more proactive and will generate more new ideas. I will continue to offer the employer support tools to employers that includes effective materials to help facilitate all aspects of the co-op work term including the onboarding process that is critical to student’s work performance success.