Department of Education

Student placements and their impact on learning and employability

Research Team: Kate Bullock with Momna Hejmadi (Biology and Biochemistry) and Gary Lock (Mechnical Engineering)
Funder: University Teaching and Development Fund
Date of Completion: 2008

Summary

This pilot study explored the impact of extended work placements on student learning in different groups of learners across disciplines in the University. It worked with students from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry and the Department of Mechanical Engineering to compare practices and student learning outcomes in terms of both academic achievement and transferable skills. In addition, the study investigated the employers’ perspective on placement learning. It explored what a placement employer gains from the relationship, and what the employers consider the learning outcomes of a placement experience should be. Finally, attitudes of academics towards work placements in the two departments were also evaluated.

Outcomes

The most important conclusion from this study was that students who go on placement recognise the vital role that placements play in enhancing their career progression and employability prospects. This importance is also recognised and supported by most academics and employers, although not all academics may necessarily be aware of the support needed to ensure a successful placement experience for students.

Study findings

  • Over 94% of students rated their placements as an overall positive experience
  • Placement allowed students to develop transferable skills, and increased their confidence and maturity
  • Placement students showed better improvement and higher marks than non-placement students
  • Placement providers found Bath students competent, enthusiastic and well prepared for employment
  • Most academics recognised the role of placement as providing more that purely academic and practical skills.

Issues for consideration

  • Strategies to encourage more students to go on placement
  • Better dissemination and sharing of good practice of placement provision and learning among academic departments (either through institutional events or the placement tutors forum)
  • Better provision for support to students and/or contacts with the university while on placement
  • Using placements to strengthen academic links with industry (such as studentships or curriculum design)
  • Better awareness among academics on the various benefits of placement, and their role in encouraging students to take the opportunity to go on placement