Improving work-placement experiences for international university students

Making work-placements more effective and enjoyable for international students is the goal of the WISP project.
Making work-placements more effective and enjoyable for international students is the goal of the WISP project.

Finding ways to make work-placements more effective and enjoyable for international studentsis the focus of a multidisciplinary, multi-partner project headed by Griffith’s School of Education and Professional Studies.

The project, Work Placement for International Student Programs(WISP), led by Dr Georgina Barton and Dr Kay Hartwig, aims to develop a model of effective practice around key barriers faced by international students.

International students studying in Australia and undertaking work-placements can face a number of barriers, including cultural, social and language differences, challenges around workplace socialisation, and reflection skills to consolidate their professional practice learning.

The research findings will be used to create support materials for current and prospective international students, their mentors, coordinators and relevant university staff.

Dr Barton says the project is investigating experiences across a variety of discipline areas nationally, including business, education, nursing, psychology, speech pathology, and occupational therapy.

“Preliminary findings from the project have revealed there are some highly effective practices currently occurring in the participating institutions,” Dr Barton says.

“These include simulated learning or role playing clinical situations prior to the beginning of placements, as well as preparing video segments of hypothetical placement scenarios.

“A number of challenges have also been identified, including the capacity of international students in developing an understanding of the cultural contexts of their host country, university, and their new work environment.”

English language proficiency for students from non-English speaking backgrounds, as well as the ability to take on board supervisor feedback, reflect on this, and implement change, were also identified as challenges.

Dr Hartwig says, the project also reveals international students must undergo a ‘multi-socialisation’ process.

“They need to understand the university environment and study expectations, as well as their workplace, including discipline-specific andprofessional standards andrequirements, and broader Australian culturalconsiderations,” she says.

Findings have been shared through presentations at national conferences and inter-institutional stakeholder workshops, with brochures, a project website and edited book to come.

Other partners involved in the research include the University of Southern Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Southern Cross University, Deakin University, Monash University, and Curtin University.

For further information contact WISP project manager, Dr Melissa Cain at [email protected].