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Student dignity during work-integrated learning: a qualitative study exploring student and supervisors’ perspectives


While University students increasingly participate in work-integrated learning (WIL), their dignity is often violated during WIL. The current literature is limited in so far as it typically focuses on student perspectives within healthcare contexts and does not use the concept of ‘dignity’. Instead, this study explored student and supervisor perspectives on student dignity during WIL across healthcare and non-healthcare disciplines. Research questions included: What are: (1) types of student dignity experiences and patterns by groups; (2) factors contributing to experiences; (3) consequences of experiences? Sixty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted using narrative interviewing techniques with 30 supervisors and 46 students from healthcare (medicine, nursing and counselling) and non-healthcare (business, law and education) disciplines. Data were analyzed using framework analysis. Nine common narrative types were identified within 344 stories: verbal abuse, right for learning opportunities, care, inclusion, reasonable expectations, right for appropriate feedback, equality, trust, and right to be informed. Factors contributing to dignity experiences and consequences were often at the individual level (e.g. student/supervisor characteristics). We found some salient differences in perceptions of experiences between students and supervisors, but few differences between healthcare and non-healthcare disciplines. This study extends WIL research based on student perspectives in healthcare, and provides practice and further research guidance to enhance student dignity during WIL.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    IDs throughout consist of unique identifiers, including participant gender (M = male, F = female), participant number (ascending order), discipline (M = medicine, N = nursing, C = counselling, E = education, L = law, B = business), and participant type (S = student, W = workplace supervisor).


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We would like to acknowledge the participants who generously gave their time to share their stories so openly. This study was funded through a 2017 Learning & Teaching Research Grant, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University. We would also like to thank Kat Orgallo, Graphic Designer, Teaching Resources Support Unit (TRSU), Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University, for her help in designing Fig. 1.

Author information

CER had the original idea for the study. AC, JC, PESC, NJ, TM, JM, KS and CER designed the study and secured funding. PESC developed the study materials with input from CER, AC, JC, NJ, TM, JM, KS and gained ethical approval. CD and PESC recruited participants and conducted the interviews. CD, CER and OAK developed the coding framework for the data analysis with feedback from all authors. CD and OAK coded all data and explored patterns in the data under the supervision of CER. CD conducted the literature review and wrote the first draft of the paper, with significant editing done by CER. All authors contributed feedback to each iteration of the paper and agreed to the final paper. CER was Principal Investigator for the study.

Correspondence to Charlotte E. Rees.

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See Table 2.

Table 2 Key themes and sub-themes related to the research questions

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Davis, C., King, O.A., Clemans, A. et al. Student dignity during work-integrated learning: a qualitative study exploring student and supervisors’ perspectives. Adv in Health Sci Educ 25, 149–172 (2020).

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  • Health professions education
  • Healthcare student
  • Higher education
  • Supervisor
  • University student
  • Work-based placement
  • Work-integrated learning
  • Workplace dignity