Do accelerated, work-based programmes enhance student learning? An action research study

Berry, R. 2019. Do accelerated, work-based programmes enhance student learning? An action research study. PhD thesis Bournemouth University Centre for Excellence in Media Practice

TitleDo accelerated, work-based programmes enhance student learning? An action research study
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsBerry, R.

Flexible learning has been an important part of Government policy for over 20 years. Often connected to economic performance, the driver is improved productivity. This study critically evaluates the development and delivery of two flexible learning programmes - BA (Hons) Advertising (WBL) and BA (Hons) Public Relations (WBL). These were developed as part of a HEFCE Catalyst-funded project ‘Towards Higher Apprenticeships’ led by the Sector Skills Council for the creative industries and a consortium of five universities. The study aims to improve practice and inform the literature on the design and delivery of flexible programmes. Research questions critically evaluated the participants’ experiences, nature of learning and outcomes. The research addresses gaps in the literature in relation to student, staff and employer perspectives and outcomes in the co-production of accelerated, work-­based learning programmes.

Using an interpretive philosophy, the study employed an action research approach, that is, the study is primarily intended to inform practice within a specific social situation, the findings of which may be transferable. Documentary analyses, interviews and field notes were analysed inductively. The research participants included the research author who also headed the project for the lead institution, students, academic staff, employers and the Sector Skills Council (SSC).

The findings of the research suggest that the active, multi-­‐modal learning opportunities offered by accelerated, work-­‐based learning programmes can facilitate the attainment of planned and emergent outcomes cultivating the creation of capital, building communities of practice and contributing to the productivity that is a key driver in government higher education and skills policy. However, the research suggests that the foundation for such programmes requires: an innovative institution, where teams have existing strong industry links and an employability focus, particularly in industries with a clear skills shortage; a reachable target audience with raised awareness of the benefits of such programmes; and an active Sector Skills Council to raise awareness, particularly amongst small to medium-­‐sized businesses, and to act as an umbrella organisation. Employers engaged in such programmes should be prepared to devote sufficient resources.

This research, through adopting an action learning approach, has been able to develop a conceptual framework which, whilst focused around accelerated work-­based learning, has the potential to be equally applicable to other forms of work-based learning such as apprenticeships.

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