Work Placements for International Student Programs: A theoretical model

With a marked increase of international students enrolling in programs in Australia it is important their personal and professional experiences are positive. Of interest is the work place component of international students’ study programs, as these experiences provide opportunities for students to socialise into the work place and a new cultural context. The first paper therefore presents a theoretical model based on ongoing data collection for an Office of Learning and Teaching Innovation and Development grant titled: Improving work placement for international students, their mentors and other stakeholders (also known as the WISP project – Work placements for International Student Programs). The model takes into account the relationship between the concepts of internationalisation, professional socialisation, reflection and cultural development. It explores Knight’s (1999) work on internationalisation including the activity, process, competency and ethos dimensions; Billett’s (2009) work on professional socialisation, particularly in relation to students’ own personal agencies and dispositions as well as affordances and opportunities provided by mentors/supervisors in the work place; effective reflective practice (Ryan & Ryan, 2013) on the work place practice itself; and the notion of cultural development (Wells, 2000). We argue that an enhanced ‘ethos’ approach, particularly adopted by work place supervisors, and strong personal and professional agencies of students assists success during the work placement.
Additionally, as international students experience a ‘multi-socialisation’ process it is critical that they are able to reflect on this experience, take on board feedback, and reconstruct their practice where necessary. Further, as international students engage in their work place experience the development of cultural awareness and cultural competencies is heightened for both the student and their work place colleagues. We argue if all of these elements are taken into account and the interrelationship between them is understood then it is more likely that the work place experience is positive and successful for all stakeholders.