In the emerging knowledge-based economy, employers are requiring new levels of skill from labour market entrants. As employers’ expectations of postsecondary graduates increase, Ontario’s publicly funded colleges and universities are working to provide students with much of the knowledge, skills, and training needed for success in the community and in the changing workplace. As a result, there has been a movement within the postsecondary education (PSE) sector to provide a closer integration of learning and work as a strategy for workforce skills development (Fisher, Rubenson, Jones, & Shanahan, 2009).
In particular, work-integrated learning (WIL) programs such as co-operative education, internship, and apprenticeship are frequently endorsed as educational modes of delivery to support such integration. Offering work-integrated learning experiences for students requires a significant investment of human and financial resources to be effective. Faculty in particular play an important role in designing, supporting, and implementing WIL opportunities for students. Despite a growing recognition of the essential role played by faculty, very little is known about their perceptions of and experiences with WIL. To shed light on this issue, this report provides the results of the WIL Faculty Survey conducted by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) in partnership with 13 Ontario postsecondary institutions.
The report is part of a broader multi-phase project being undertaken by HEQCO on WIL in Ontario’s PSE sector.
The WIL Faculty Survey was designed to better understand faculty experiences with and perceptions of WIL as an element of postsecondary curriculum. Guided by a Working Group comprised of representatives from the 13 participating postsecondary institutions, the study sought to address four primary research questions:
1) How do faculty perceive the value and benefits of WIL to students, faculty members, and postsecondary institutions?
2) Do faculty views about WIL differ by employment status, program, gender, years of teaching, previous employment experience, or their own past WIL experience?
3) How do faculty integrate students’ work experiences into the classroom?
4) What concerns do faculty have about introducing or expanding WIL opportunities in postsecondary institutions?
The survey instrument was developed in consultation with the Working Group and was pre-tested with 25 faculty members. The survey was administered online from March to May, 2011, with e-mail invitations to participate sent to 18,232 faculty from the 13 partner institutions (6,257 college faculty and 11,975 university faculty). In total, 1,707 college faculty and 1,917 university faculty completed the survey to an acceptable cut-off point, for an overall response rate of 19.9%. Close to two-thirds of college faculty and roughly half of university faculty respondents reported having experience teaching in a program in which students participate in a co-op or apprenticeship. Fewer faculty had experience personally teaching a course with a WIL component, with 47.5% of college faculty and 28.9% of university faculty currently or previously having taught a course involving WIL. Among those who had taught a course with a WIL component, field placements were the most common type of WIL among college faculty, followed by mandatory professional practice (student placements required for licensure or professional designation). For university respondents, mandatory professional practice was the most common type of WIL taught, followed by applied research projects.