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Using sociocultural insights to enhance work-integrated learning

Purpose: When learning in the workplace is conceptualised as a social process, different social or cultural features of workplaces may enable or constrain students’ learning. The purpose of this paper is to understand the views of students, workplace supervisors and university academics concerning sociocultural features that influenced work-integrated learning (WIL) experiences. Design/methodology/approach: An interpretive case-study methodology, incorporating questionnaires and semi-structured interviews was used to determine the views of stakeholders involved in WIL experiences in a sport undergraduate degree., Findings: Students’ learning was enhanced when they participated in authentic activities, worked alongside colleagues and could assume increasing responsibility for roles they were given. Social experiences, interactions and activities provided them with opportunities to access individual, shared and tacit knowledge, to learn about language, processes and protocols for interacting and communicating with others, and to become aware of the culture of the workplace. When students successfully acquired this knowledge they were able to ‘take-on’ the accepted characteristics and practices of the workplace community – an outcome that further enhanced their learning. Practical implications: Students need to understand the social and cultural dimensions of how the work community practices before they begin WIL experiences. Practical ways of addressing this are suggested. Originality/value: This paper conceptualises WIL as learning through the ‘practice of work communities’ whereby through the activities of the community students can access knowledge in a way that may differ from what they are familiar with from their experiences within the university environment.