Developing an innovative and accessible WIL taxonomy to support psychology undergraduate students

Disciplines | Research Grants

Early Career Research Grant

Annabelle Neall, University of Queensland

Australian psychology students are the sole allied-health group ineligible for practitioner registration following conferral of their undergraduate degree. This project aims to construct and validate a taxonomy of work integrated learning activities and initiatives, to enhance the skillset and abilities of psychology undergraduates and endorse their transition to an increasingly diverse workforce.

Themes:  Sustainable, scalable and innovative WIL models, Designing and implementing quality in WIL

If there is WIL, there is a way (to improve psychology graduate employment outcomes)

April 2021 Update

Australian psychology students and graduates are a unique allied health cohort. Following their 3-4 year undergraduate program, which focuses on understanding and modifying human physical and emotional behaviour and cognition, graduates are primed to enter a wide range of industry sectors, including health promotion, marketing, human resources, coaching, policy, and community services. Despite their breadth of knowledge and skills, psychology alumni often struggle to gain meaningful employment following degree conferral. According to the Australian Government Social Research Centre, only 65% of graduates report full-time employment in the 12 months following graduation.

Little research has explored the gaps between psychology undergraduate programs and employment outcomes; however, one possible limitation is the way undergraduate degrees are structured. Specifically, few opportunities currently exist for students to put into practice what they learn during their time at university. Students are not required (according to accreditation standards) to undertake an industry placement, complete clinical simulations, or fieldwork. Additionally, there are few opportunities for internships prior to a post-graduate degree. The result is theoretical and hypothetical learning programs that do not fully prepare graduates to solve complex and multi-faceted problems outside an academic context.

Work integrated learning (WIL) has been shown to aid the development of a range of professional and personal outcomes for graduates, including increased work readiness and employability via professional skill development, theory to practice application, and identity and citizenship (Sachs, Rowe & Wilson, 2017). Thus, the integration of WIL into existing psychology curricula may be key to bridging the transition from academic learning to real world practice.

In this study, we explore how WIL could be implemented into psychology undergraduate programs, and the potential impact of this curricula change on employment outcomes. Working with placement providers and industry staff who employ psychology graduates, psychology graduates, accrediting bodies for Australian psychology programs and experts in WIL, we aim to identify activities, structures and initiatives that allow and support work-integrated learning across the 3 (or 4) year degree, in an economically feasible way.

Sachs, J., Rowe, A., & Wilson, M. (2017). 2017 Good Practice Report-Work Integrated Learning (WIL). Canberra: Department of Education and Training.

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