Higher Education

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 129–148 | Cite as

Learning for the professions: lessons from linking international research projects

  • Madeleine Abrandt Dahlgren
  • Anna Reid
  • Lars Owe Dahlgren
  • Peter Petocz
Article

Abstract

At the core of higher education is the experience of students whose focus for learning is often directed towards their future employability. In this paper, we explore the intersections between two large international research projects involving over 500 students. Interviews with students yielded their conceptions of learning and work in specific discipline and professional areas. Analysis of the Swedish and Australian data sets showed the important interplay between students’ individual ideas about learning and future work with their workplace. A meta-analysis of the two projects highlights the utility of higher education for students’ future working life and suggests ways in which institutions and policy makers can critique current practice in a way that will incline curriculum and teaching development towards professional formation.

Keywords

Higher education Working life Transition Qualitative analysis Meta-analysis Professional Entity Journeymen 

References

  1. Abrandt, M. (1997) Learning physiotherapy: The impact of formal education and professional experience. Linköping Studies in Education and Psychology, 80, 79–147.Google Scholar
  2. Abrandt Dahlgren, M., Hult, H., Dahlgren, L. O., Hård af Segerstad, H., & Johansson, K. (2006). From senior student to novice worker: Learning trajectories in political science, psychology and mechanical engineering. Studies in Higher Education, 31(5), 569–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Australian Qualifications Framework. (2004). AQF Advisory Board Guidelines on Cross Sector Qualifications Linkages. On-line at http://www.aqf.edu.au/cs.htm
  4. Bologna Working Group on Qualification Frameworks. (2005). A framework for qualification of the European higher education area. Copenhagen: Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.Google Scholar
  5. Cackowska, M., Kopciewicz, L., Mendel, M., Meczkowska, A., Struzynska, A., & Szkudlarek, T. (2003). Freshmen students on education and work – work package one report. Poland, Gdansk: University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Dahlgren, L. O., Abrandt Dahlgren, M., Gajda, M., Hult, H., Hård af Segerstad, H., Jurgiel, A., Kopciewicz, L., Marzec, J., Meczkowska, A., Mendel, M., & Szkudlarek, T. (2006). Conceptions of learning among teachers and students in higher education: A Swedish-Polish comparative study. In T. Maliszewski, W. J. Wojtowitcz, & J. Zerko (Eds.), Anthology of social and behavioural sciences. 20 years of co-operation between the universities in Linköping and Gdansk (pp. 89–115). Linköping: Linköpings Universitet.Google Scholar
  7. Dahlgren, L. O., & Fallsberg, M. (1991). Phenomenography as a qualitative approach in social pharmacy research. Journal of Social and Administrative Pharmacy, 8(4), 150–156.Google Scholar
  8. Dahlgren, L. O., et al. (2005). Students as Journeymen between cultures of education and working life. http://www.hewl.net/HPSE_CT-2001-0068__final_ju.pdf
  9. Davies, A., & Reid, A. (2001). Uncovering problematics in design education: Learning and the design entity. In C. Swann & E. Young (Eds.), Re-Inventing Design Education in the University: Proceedings of the International Conference (pp. 178–184). Perth: School of Design, Curtin University.Google Scholar
  10. De la Harpe, B., & Radloff, A. (2001). Learning to be strategic about helping staff to increase graduate employability. In C. Rust (Ed.), Improving learning strategically (pp. 220–226). Oxford: OCSLD.Google Scholar
  11. Eklund-Myrskog, G. (1998). Students’ conceptions of learning in different educational contexts. Higher Education, 35, 299–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. European Union (EU). (1999). The Bologna declaration of 19 June 1999: Joint declaration of the European Ministers of Education.Google Scholar
  13. Franz, J., Ferreira, L., Loh, H., Pendergast, D., Service, M., Stormont, D., Taylor, L., Thambiratnam, D., & Williamsson, B. (1996). Students’ and lecturers’ conceptions of learning in context: An interdisciplinary study. Teaching in Higher Education, 1(3), 325–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gee, J. P. (1999). An introduction to discourse analysis. Theory and method. London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  16. Greene, J. C., Caracelli, V. J., & Graham, W. F. (1989). Toward a conceptual framework for mixed-method evaluation designs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 11(3), 255–274.Google Scholar
  17. Harvey, L., Moon, S., Grail, V., & Bower, R. (1997). Graduates’ work: Organisational change and students’ attributes. Birmingham: Centre for Research into Quality.Google Scholar
  18. Ho, A., Watkins, D., & Kelly, M. (2001). The conceptual change approach to improving teaching and learning: An evaluation of a Hong Kong staff development program. Higher Education, 42, 143–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Johansson, K., Hård af Segerstad, H., Hult, H., Abrandt Dahlgren, M., & Dahlgren, L. O. (2007a). The two faces of Political Science Studies. Junior and senior students’ thoughts about their education and their coming profession. Higher Education (accepted).Google Scholar
  20. Johansson, K., Kopciwicz, L., & Dahlgren, L. O. (2007b) Learning for an unknown context. A comparative case study, some Swedish and Polish political science students’ experiences of the transition from university to working life compare (accepted).Google Scholar
  21. Johnston, B. (2003). The shape of research in the field of higher education and graduate employment: Some issues. Studies in Higher Education, 28(4), 414–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jones, P. (1998). Globalisation and internationalisation: Democratic prospects for world education. Comparative Education, 34(2), 143–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Journeymen project reference: HPSE CT-2001-00068, project home page http://www.hewl.net
  24. Karseth, B., & Solbrekke, T. D. (2006). Characteristics of professional graduate education: Expectations and experiences in psychology and law. London Review of Education, 4(2), 149–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kaufman, P., & Feldman, K. A. (2004). Forming identities in college. A sociological approach. Research in Higher Education, 45(5), 463–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lindblad, S., & Wallin, E. (1993). On transitions of power, democracy and education in Sweden. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 25(1), 77–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lindsay, R., Breen, R., & Jenkins, A. (2002). Academic research and teaching quality: The views of undergraduate and postgraduate students. Studies in Higher Education, 27, 310–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lonka, K., & Lindblom-Ylänne, S. (1996). Epistemologies, conceptions of learning, and study practices in medicine and psychology. Higher Education, 31, 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maiden, S. (2004). Graduates ‘failing the university of life’. The Australian, June 10.Google Scholar
  30. Marton, F. (1994). Phenomenography. In T. Husén & T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of education. London: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  31. Marton, F., Beaty, E., & Dall’Alba, G. (1993). Conceptions of learning. International Journal of Educational Research, 19, 277–300.Google Scholar
  32. Marton, F., Dahlgren, L. O., Svensson, L., & Säljö, R. (1977). Inlärning och omvärldsuppfattning. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell.Google Scholar
  33. Meyer, J. H. F., & Boulton-Lewis, G. M. (1999). On the operationalisation of conceptions of learning in higher education and their association with students’ knowledge and experiences of their learning. Higher Education Research and Development, 18(3), 289–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mumby, D. K., & Robin, P. C. (1997). Organizational discourse. In A. Van Dijk Teun (Ed.), Discourse as social interaction. Vol. 2 of discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction. London: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  35. Petocz, P., & Reid, A. (2001). Students’ experience of learning in statistics. Quaestiones Mathematicae, Supplement 1, 37–45.Google Scholar
  36. Petocz, P., & Reid, A. (2003). Relationships between students’ experience of learning statistics and teaching statistics. Statistics Education Research Journal, 2(1), 39–53. Online at http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/∼iase/serj/SERJ2(1).pdf
  37. Petocz, P., & Reid, A. (2005). Something strange and useless: Service students’ conceptions of statistics, learning statistics and using statistics in their future profession. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 36(7), 789–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Petocz, P., & Reid, A. (2006). The contribution of mathematics to graduates’ professional working life. Australian Association for Research in Education 2005 Conference Papers. Compiled by Jeffery, P. L., AARE, Melbourne. Online at http://www.aare.edu.au/05pap/pet05141.pdf
  39. Pillay, H., & Boulton-Lewis, G. (2000). Variations in conceptions of learning in construction technology: Implications for learning. Journal of Education and Work, 13(2), 163–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Purdie, N., Hattie, J., & Douglas, G. (1996). Student conceptions of learning and their use of self-regulated learning strategies: A cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88(1), 87–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Reid, A. (1997). The meaning of music and the understanding of teaching and learning in the instrumental lesson. In A. Gabrielsson (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third Triennial ESCOM Conference, Uppsala University, Vol. 3, pp. 200–205.Google Scholar
  42. Reid, A. (1999). Conceptions of teaching and learning instrumental and vocal music. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Technology, Sydney.Google Scholar
  43. Reid, A. (2000). Self and peer assessment in a course on instrumental pedagogy. In D. Hunter & M. Russ (Eds.), Peer learning in music (pp. 56–62). Belfast: University of Ulster.Google Scholar
  44. Reid, A. (2003). Students’ ideas about their future work: Using research approaches for curriculum development in legal studies. Australian Association for Research in Education 2003 Conference Papers. Compiled by P. L. Jeffery, AARE, Melbourne. Available online at http://www.aare.edu.au/03pap/rei03249.pdf
  45. Reid, A., Nagarajan, V., & Dortins, E. (2006). The experience of becoming a legal professional. Higher Education Research and Development, 25(1), 85–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Reid, A., & Petocz, P. (2002). Students’ conceptions of statistics: A phenomenographic study. Journal of Statistics Education, 10(2). Online at http://www.amstat.org/publications/jse/
  47. Reid, A., & Petocz, P. (2003). Variation in musicians’ experience of creating ensemble. In Proceedings of the National Australian Association of Researchers in Music Education Conference, Newcastle, September 2001, pp. 119–129.Google Scholar
  48. Reid, A., & Petocz, P. (2004). The professional entity: Researching the relationship between students’ conceptions of learning and their future profession. In C. Rust (Ed.), Improving student learning: Theory, research and scholarship (pp. 145–157). Oxford Brookes (ISBN 1873576714).Google Scholar
  49. Reid, A., Petocz, P., Smith, G. H., Wood, L. N., & Dortins, E. (2003). Maths students’ conceptions of mathematics. New Zealand Journal of Mathematics, 32(Supp Issue), 163–172.Google Scholar
  50. Reid, A., Smith, G. H., Wood, L. N., & Petocz, P. (2005). Intention, approach and outcome: University mathematics students’ conceptions of learning mathematics. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 3(4), 567–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Säljö, R. (1982). Learning and understanding: A study of differences in constructing meaning from a text. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.Google Scholar
  52. Teichler, U. (1999). Research on the relationships between higher education and the world of work: Past achievements, problems and new challenges. Higher Education, 38, 160–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. United Nations. (2004). First Regional Meeting on Education for Sustainable Development. Economic Commission for Europe, Geneva, February. On-line at http://www.unece.org/env/documents/2004/cep/ac.13/cep.ac.13.2004.3.e.pdf
  54. Wisker, G., Tiley, J., Watkins, M., Waller, S., Thomas, J., & Wisker, A. (2001). Discipline-based research into student learning in English, law, social work, computer skills for linguists, women’s studies, creative writing: How can it inform our teaching? Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 38(2), 183–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madeleine Abrandt Dahlgren
    • 1
  • Anna Reid
    • 2
  • Lars Owe Dahlgren
    • 1
  • Peter Petocz
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Behavioural Sciences and LearningLinköping UniversityLinkopingSweden
  2. 2.Macquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations