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Work integrated learning for a working life in academia: Experiences from working with PhD-students during the covid-19 pandemic
University West, Department of Health Sciences, Section for health promotion and care sciences. Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo (NOR); Jönköping University, Jönköping (SWE). (LINA, LOV)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7669-4702
2022 (English)In: International Conference on Work Integrated Learning: Abstract Book, Trollhättan: University West , 2022, p. 35-36Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Work integrated learning in academia and wellbeing for PhD-students

Few PhD-students have a clear plan for their coming career after completion of their PhD-studies. There can be dreams of starting new enterprises, combining research with innovations in practice, or to pursue a career in academia. In health and welfare research schools there are many PhD-projects involving single PhD-students, as well as part-time PhD-students whose project is connected to their workplace. Research shows risk of low wellbeing and high levels of stress among PhD-students, together with feelings of isolation and impostor syndrome (Seeber and Horta, 2021, Schmidt and Hansson, 2018). Such negative feelings negatively impact the outcome of the PhD period and may also affect the future career of the PhD-student. To promote and sustain PhD-students health and wellbeing, there is a need to test activities that can decrease experienced negative stress during the PhD-period as well as enhancing academic competencies like academic leadership, academic writing skills and pedagogical skills. In addition, successful academics should have excellent competence in their field, collaborate with stakeholders and engage in impact activities. Thus, the PhD period needs to provide work integrated learning in academia to provide learning opportunities to develop those skills. Research conce rning PhD-students’ wellbeing and progress shows that the supervisor has an extremely important role for completion of the PhD and for the wellbeing of the student (Buirski, 2022). However, there are limited resources set up for PhD supervision and mentoring, which can create stress and mismatch in needs and capacities between the supervisor and the PhD-student. During the covid-19 pandemic the risk of losing pace in PhD-projects increased, in addition to disconnectedness with academy due to digital instead of physical meetings. However, this change also provided opportunities for novel and pragmatic ways of structuring supervision and enhancing the self-efficacy of the PhD-students. The purpose is to present learnings and outcomes of work-integrated learning project in academia for PhD-students.The focus is on two novel learning activities: online writing retreats and online monthly meetings, which were tested during the covid-19 pandemic. The aim of the learning activities was to encourage the PhD-students to be the leaders of their projects, to collaborate with others to find their role in academia, and learn the trade of being an academic, while practicing doing so, and promote wellbeing during the PhD period. The project has been performed with Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) in biannual evaluation cycles. The PDSA is a quality improvement tool focusing on the translation of ideas and intentions into action (Reed and Card, 2016). The iterative structure of PDSA is well suited to promote learning of a tested change and help shape organizational culture for the better (Reed and Card, 2016). Evaluation data includes number of participants, types of spin-offs from the learning activities, and participants’ oral and written feedback on the learning activities. The collected data was analyzed from the perspective of usefulness of the learning activities related to theories of work-integrated learning. Online structured digital writing retreats Open to more than the PhD-students supervised by the facilitating supervisor (any PhD-student who considered themselves in need of learning better academic writing structure, master students who wanted to become PhDstudents, other supervisors who wanted to see how a digital writing retreat worked). This activity showed participants the importance and diversity of academic writing. The participants chose their own writing tasks, report on their progress, and plan for their next step – but being their own controller and thus actively practicing self-leadership. At the same time the participants shared their feelings of participating in the writing retreat when reporting their writing progress – thus creating a social, international, and interdisciplinary forum, increasing their networks and enhancing feelings of belonging. This in turn ignited cross-project collaboration, thematic discussions and sharing of scientific literature of importance. As facilitating supervisor, I participated on the same level as other participants, sharing my writing progress and feelings related to academic writing. The 1-hour monthly meetings for PhD students supervised by the same supervisor.

The meetings were co-designed by the PhD-students, where the first meeting developed from a shared practical problem concerning digital data safety. Coming meetings were then co-designed depending on experienced needs by the PhD-students. The PhD-students were in different phases of their PhD-process; thus, they could bring in varied perspectives and share learning with each other on the academic processes. They could also discuss issues that they considered important, such as being asked to review for a journal or being asked to teach at bachelor or master programs. Such collaborative working discussions across projects and disciplines are important in academia and the meetings were used to solve problems in academic practice and to test scientific ideas. As the meetings also were led in turn by the participating PhD-students, academic leadership skills were practiced in this setting. As participating supervisor, I had a more passive role than in traditional supervision meetings, and the meetings were inspirational and provided opportunities for shared learning.

Outcomes from the novel learning activities

The PhD students themselves describe how they have both acquired increased academic skills, and that the online writing retreats have been important in decreasing negative stress, creating a safe social environment which has been important for their wellbeing. The shared learning activities also presented a view of how to work together in academia, which may support the students when thinking of their future career and if this is to relate to academia. As a supervisor, I can clearly see that the activities have enhanced self-efficacy, leadership skills, cross-disciplinary collaboration, national and international networks and decreased dependency on supervisors. The additional bonus of those work-integrated learning activities has been the good progress of the participants’ projects and joy at work!

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Trollhättan: University West , 2022. p. 35-36
Keywords [en]
Academic work, PhD, Digital learning activities, Improvement project
National Category
Nursing Learning
Research subject
Work Integrated Learning; NURSING AND PUBLIC HEALTH SCIENCE, Nursing science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-19543ISBN: 9789189325302 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hv-19543DiVA, id: diva2:1725334
Conference
WIL'22 International Conference on Work Integrated Learning, 7-9 December 2022, University West, Trollhättan, Sweden
Note

The general theme of the conference is: “WIL in the service of society”

Available from: 2023-01-10 Created: 2023-01-10 Last updated: 2024-05-17Bibliographically approved

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Areskoug Josefsson, Kristina

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