Outcomes of student semi-structured interview

Learning Enhancement and Innovation Fund

The initial themes from a paired semi-structured interview with Level 5 Foundation Degree Learning and Teaching students emphasise the value of students’ informal discussion of their work-based practice. The interview produced some very interesting and insightful comments which indicated that students’ informal discussion of their practice and their knowledge, helps their confidence and security within the group.


The interview highlighted how the students’ development of two Facebook groups gives them the chance to explore their ideas and think out loud with a group of supportive peers. The interview responses provide evidence of how students share their thoughts and concerns and share problem solving, and this in turn contributes to them embedding their understanding of their own work-based practice. They articulate their thoughts and consider solutions to problems. This creates an environment which encourages students to learn from each other (Jiwani, 2015). It appears to be a means of students developing their own collaborative learning opportunities which facilitate their building of social and transferable skills relevant to the workplace; communication, problem solving and team working (Brame et al 2015). The interviews indicate that students are demonstrating that they see real value in opportunities for spontaneous conversations and meetings within the student group (Eraut, 2007).



Work-based Practice and Employability – Faculty Forum

The Faculty of Education and Humanities Autumn Faculty Forum incorporated small group discussion of key questions related to how students share their experience of work-based learning and the link between this and students developing confidence in their employability skills. The groups were  composed of staff from across the programmes within the Faculty and key points were recorded via the use of a Padlet.

The relevance of the discussion in the context of this research project is our consideration of how students share their work-based experience with peers, particularly with respect to considering how planned and informal instances of social interaction occur and the context of Eraut (2007: 407), identifying that ‘much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour.’ Some points from the discussion groups explore the extent to which these opportunities are embedded within programmes and the extent to which they are made possible by the programme providing an environment and an ethos that is conducive to their development. This provides a backdrop to the later stages of the project which incorporates data drawn from the student perspective, of the value of sharing work based experiences and how this influences the development of communities of study and whether this can impact positively upon the student experience and on the development of students’ employability skills.

One of the themes that emerged from the discussions, was how taking part in work-based practice and work-related practice conversations can provide opportunities for students to find common experiences that draw them into debate and student-led learning opportunities.

The points which emerged are grouped:

  • Role of Programme Teams in providing environment for discussions that support students’ confidence in articulating their work-based experience
  • The value to students of having opportunities for reflection


Role of Programme Teams in providing environment for discussions that support students’ confidence in articulating their work-based experience



Sense of students having common purpose when they are discussing and reflecting upon transferable skills, their professional development and career opportunities and this provides opportunities for open debate. Students share the experience of presentations and speaking to their peers. They have opportunities to take part in activities and assessments that involve teamwork.


Self and peer reflection provide opportunities that develop students’ ability to recognise, evaluate and improve their employability skills.


Programme teams value giving students activities that enable them to:

•            build relationships

•            practise social and communication skills

•            improve interpersonal collaboration.


Scaffolding group discussion and seminar discussions can help students to be aware of and articulate the differences between their work-based experiences.


A module that incorporates or is structured around debate gives students the opportunity to extend their knowledge and they identify that this gives them confidence, for example, at interviews.


Aim for an ethos which will develop confidence in students.


Student experiences in and from the work based placement need to be valued and form part of the discursive process.


Help students to really understand and articulate what they are capable of.


Provide professional dialogue opportunities for undergraduates to present themselves and their development. This makes them think about how their learning relates to their employability.


Provide students with chance to visit settings with good practice and link this to their reflection on how this has contributed to their degree studies in relation to knowledge and skills gained.


Identify ways to provide networks for students.


Programmes need to be cognisant that students may not have clear sense of what they want to get out of their studies – programmes need to be responsive to this eg via tutorials, targets, use of career aims discussions, provision of bespoke events which include employer input.


Facilitate students to be able to understand and explain how their degree studies are preparing them for the world of work.


The value to students of having opportunities for reflection


Reflection means having the power and the confidence to articulate what has been learnt and may provide a sense of being able to influence and challenge current practice.


Students value opportunities for recording and reporting the impact they have made on placement and this supports their skills of reflection and understanding of progression.


Discussion opportunities provide a safe space for students to engage in shared reflection without feeling compromised or that they have failed in some way. They can recover from their ‘mistakes’ and learn to negotiate with others.


Encouraging students to highlight their skills and knowledge through development of impact stories.


Benefits of group projects – benefit of shared learning embedded in the process of group project related to work based learning and the opportunity to evaluate this in relation to how this has contributed to their studies and enhanced their confidence.


Value of assessment that uses methods used in work-based practice and gives relevant opportunities for reflection.




At the end of last academic year we asked Foundation Degree in Learning and Teaching (FDLT) students to make video or audio clips about their experiences on the course, including any advice they would give new and prospective students.  These clips were analysed to identify some themes for the questionnaire and focus groups.  The key themes, relevant to this project, that came out of these clips were the importance of sharing your experiences, learning from others (taking their practice and trying out yourself) and how this developed an understanding of the relationship between theory and practice in the classroom.


Following on from this a short questionnaire has been devised to gather information about how FDLT and BA Learning and Teaching (BALT) top-up students communicate with one another outside of their face-to-face contact.  Responses to the questionnaire, along with the key themes from the audio/visual clips, will form the basis of the core questions for the focus groups.  It was initially intended that both the questionnaire and focus groups would take place before Christmas but a combination of staff illness and bad weather meant that these have had to be rescheduled. 


A sampling strategy for the focus groups has been devised that draws a number of participants from each of the 4 groups (FDLT Year 2 and BALT in Northampton; FDLT Year 2 and BALT in Leicester) in proportion, considering the size of the group in relation to the size of the population; the strategy also takes into account the gender split within each group.   The next step is to administer the questionnaire and confirm participants for the focus groups.


University of Northampton: Learning Enhancement and Innovation Bids 2017-18

This is the blog for the Learning Enhancement and Innovation project: Communities of Study – sharing work-based experiences.

The project will:

identify the methods Foundation Degree Learning & Teaching (FDLT) students use to share their experiences, both of their work based practice and academic work, in order to support one another and build a ‘community of study’

investigate how these students develop opportunities to share their work based practice, both within the University’s systems and separate from those systems

evaluate the various ways the students develop a community of study and how this supports their retention and progression 

apply the outcomes to developing a better understanding of the role of shared learning, work based learning and employability skills in contributing to student progression and retention

Visit the blog for the latest updates on the project.