Our new paper on helping students prepare for the workplace


Lina Markauskaite & Peter Goodyear

Preparing students for the workplace and assessing their readiness are often major challenges for university teachers. What kinds of concrete tasks help students develop professional capacities needed for situated knowledgeable action in a broad range of possible future workplace settings?

Our research examined assessment tasks that university teachers set for students in courses that were preparing them for work placements in five professions: nursing, pharmacy, teaching, social work, and school counselling. We combined ‘actionable knowledge’ and ‘objectual practice’ perspectives and investigated what students were asked to do, what they were expected to learn and how. Specifically, we analysed the nature of the objects that teachers selected for assessment tasks and the nature of the concrete artefacts that students were asked to produce.

Our results show some fundamental differences in teachers’ choices of objects. They ranged from basic and very specific aspects of professional work to some of the hardest and most broad-ranging challenges in the profession. The tasks also required students to engage in the production of a wide range of artefacts. We classified these as ‘cultural artefacts’, ‘conceptual artefacts’ and ‘epistemic artefacts’. Our discussion draws parallels between these three kinds of artefacts and the notions of ‘work ready’, ‘work knowledgeable’ and ‘work-capable’ graduates, respectively. We argue that teachers, through task designs, shape ways in which students learn to link action (skill) with meaning (knowledge). Our findings raise some important questions about the kinds of authentic tasks that help prepare work-capable graduates for future learning.

Keywords: Objectual practice, knowledge artefacts, assessment

The full paper is available in the HERDSA proceedings here.

If you’re interested in learning more about the underling ideas, see our book on Epistemic fluency in professional education and our Epistemic Fluency website.

Epistemic resourcefulness and evaluative judgement

Epistemic games

In October 2016, David Boud and colleagues at Deakin University (Melbourne) held a symposium on evaluative judgement in higher education. I gave a brief presentation connecting some of the ideas that Lina and I have been developing on epistemic games and epistemic resourcefulness to evaluative judgement. We’ve written a chapter for the “book of the symposium” which Routledge should be publishing in 2017. Here’s the abstract for that chapter:

This chapter examines the development of evaluative judgement from the perspective of professional education, with a focus on the abilities needed to deal with problems that are both complex and novel. Professional work regularly entails engaging in knowledgeable action in previously unencountered situations and formulating methods, on the fly, for making judgements about the adequacy of one’s actions. On this view, evaluative judgement is an epistemic (knowledge creating) activity. We show how developing evaluative judgement can be understood as learning to play a range of epistemic games, and how epistemic resourcefulness enables one to frame complex judgements in principled ways.

Online learning doesn’t happen online …

Jo McKenzie tweeted a nicely tidied up comment from me at the ISSOTL conference recently.

Jo tweet

One of the reasons I wanted to mention this at the conference is that good empirical research into the study practices of “online” learning is surprisingly scarce. We have a couple of nice examples of research on people configuring their learning spaces in the next book to come from the Laureate project. The book is called “Place-Based Spaces for Networked Learning” and should be published by Routledge in 2016. Two chapters that are right on the topic:


Chapter 7: THE SONIC SPACES OF ONLINE, DISTANCE LEARNERS  (Michael Sean Gallagher, James Lamb and Sian Bayne)

If you are interested in this area, see also: Kahu, E. R., Stephens, C., Zepke, N. and Leach, L., 2014. Space and time to engage: Mature-aged distance students learn to fit study into their lives. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33(4), 523–540 ( http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02601370.2014.884177 )

Learning: Research and Practice

It’s not often I get excited by the arrival of a new journal, but this one is making a terrific start and the papers in the first issue are currently on open access. In issue 1 we have: Mitchell Nathan on gesturing in mental model construction (drawing on research in embodied cognition); Wolff-Michael Roth on a post-constructivist theory of learning; Manu Kapur on productive failure; Deanna Kuhn on argumentation as core curriculum and Alexander Renkl on principles-based cognitive skills.

Learning: Research and Practice is an initiative of the National Institute of Education in Singapore. The journal has been under development for quite some while – great to see the first issue now.

Learning research & practice cover

The Art and Science of Learning Design

There’s a chapter from the work of our ARC Laureate team featuring in this new book. Really pleased with it.

Goodyear, P., Thompson, K., Ashe, D., Pinto, A., Carvalho, L., Parisio, M., . . . Yeoman, P. (In press, 2015). Analysing the structural properties of learning networks: architectural insights into buildable forms. In B. Craft, Y. Mor & M. Maina (Eds.), The art and science of learning design (pp. 15-29). Rotterdam: Sense.

Here’s the Overview


A good repertoire of methods for analysing and sharing ideas about existing designs can make a useful contribution to improving the quality and efficiency of educational design work. Just as architects can improve their practice by studying historic and contemporary buildings, so people who design to help people learn can get better at what they do by understanding the designs of others. Moreover, new design work often has to complement existing provision, so the sensitive analysis of what already exists is an essential part of enhancing, rather than undermining, prior work (Goodyear & Dimitridis, 2013). Since many factors can affect what and how people learn, the scope of analysis for design is broad. In fact, it has to go beyond what has been explicitly designed for learning, to take into account the various configurations of things, places, tasks, activities and people that influence learning. Part of the skill of analysis is knowing how to put a boundary on what one studies (Hutchins, 2010). We believe that analysis of this kind can help improve the design of all kinds of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) systems. But to focus our argument, this chapter draws on our recent collaborative analyses of learning networks (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014). Our thinking has been influenced quite strongly by the writings of Christopher Alexander on the properties that ‘give life’ to places and artefacts. The first part of the chapter has an ontological function – since analysis involves some decisions about the nature of the existence of its objects of inquiry. The second part illustrates the application of some of Alexander’s ideas to the analysis of the structural properties of learning networks, where the goal of analysis is to inform design.


New article on taking over someone else’s design

Karen Scott (CoCo PhD 2012) has an article in the latest issue of Research in Learning Technology. Details below.

Taking over someone else’s e-learning design: challenges trigger change in e-learning beliefs and practices

Karen M. Scott


As universities invest in the development of e-learning resources, e-learning sustainability has come under consideration. This has largely focused on the challenges and facilitators of organisational and technological sustainability and scalability, and professional development. Little research has examined the experience of a teacher dealing with e-learning sustainability when taking over a course with an e-learning resource and associated assessment. This research focuses on a teacher who was inexperienced with e-learning technology, yet took over a blended unit of study with an e-learning resource that accounted for one-fifth of the subject assessment and was directed towards academic skills development relevant to the degree program. Taking a longitudinal approach, this research examines the challenges faced by the new teacher and the way she changed the e-learning resource and its implementation over two years. A focus of the research is the way the teacher’s reflections on the challenges and changes provided an opportunity and stimulus for change in her e-learning beliefs and practices. This research has implications for the way universities support teachers taking over another teacher’s e-learning resource, the need for explicit documentation of underpinning beliefs and structured handover, the benefit of teamwork in developing e-learning resources, and provision of on-going support. Keywords: e-learning sustainability; e-learning beliefs and practices; reflection; longitudinal research (Published: 30 July 2014) Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2014, 22: 23362 – http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v22.23362

The architecture of productive learning networks

Cover - The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks[1]

Really pleased with the latest book from our ARC Laureate project.

It’s been a pleasure working with Lucila Carvalho (post-doc on the project and lead editor of the book). Lucila has done an amazing job in picking case study networks, assembling the team of authors, helping everyone tune in to the analytic framework and managing the million other tasks needed in getting a book from initial concept to final publication.

APLN has been a really useful way of developing skills, shared understanding and research profile within the Laureate team too: all the postdocs and PhD students have played a role in co-authoring chapters.

On Amazon here.