ESL/EAL Learners in the Workplace Context

Year: 2015

Author: Tangen, Donna, Campbell, Maryilyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Learning for students who undertake work placements occurs in two different settings: educational institutions and the workplace. However, research to date indicates that, for students, the two types of learning do not always connect where, ideally, there should be an integration of learning between the two sectors. This fundamental problem for all students makes it especially difficult for international students from an ESL or EAL background to relate learning in both the sectors to each other to achieve an expected learning outcome in their course of study. Compounding the matter further is that international students may find they lack local industry knowledge relevant to their coursework and thus this lack of knowledge impacts on their ability to engage in productive networking to identify an appropriate placement that will help them achieve their goals. At present there is a dearth of research outlining a theoretical model of support for international students engaged in work placement. This chapter will explore Lave and Wenger’s (1991) Community of Practice as a possible framework for connecting learning between educational institutions and the workplace. In this framework, learning is seen as occurring in social settings where students become legitimate participants who engage in authentic activities of that community. Such a community requires a partnership commitment of all stakeholders: institutional staff (including lecturers and career placement staff), employers and students with clear agreements made about the nature and benefits of the work placement for all parties involved. There needs to be recognition of what Engeström (1999) describes as ‘distributed cognition’ where learning involves not just the person but the person within a system of people within a particular environment. A commitment of all partners in a community of practice ensures that curriculum design both prepares and facilitates student learning, especially for international students.