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  • 1.
    Björck, Ville
    University West, Department of Health Sciences, Section for health promotion and care sciences.
    Learning 'theory' at university and 'practice' in the workplace: A problematisation of the theory-practice terminology that the dualistic design of Work-integrated Learning institutionalises2020Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    Work-integrated Learning (WIL) is a label for a form of higher education whose usual design in many degree programmes involves splitting students' education into on-campus training and work placements. This thesis focuses on a theory-practice terminology that is reflected in this WIL design and spreads a dualistic thinking with a basic message. The message is that on-campus and placement-based training teach you opposite bases for learning a profession, namely an abstract research-based knowledge called 'theory' and a concrete work called 'practice'. This thesis argues that when this dualistic thinking is spread to students, it primarily contributes to the creation, but also to the bridging of the gap between these forms of training that the said WIL design seeks to bridge for them, the so-called theory-practice gap. Based on this argument, the thesis has two overall aims: to problematise (1) the dualistic nature of spoken and written instances of the theory-practice terminology and of the usual WIL design, and (2) the possibility of establishing physical and/or virtual countersites to the usual WIL design. Such sites are not established institutional arrangements at present. The idea is that they should be set up not to embody the dualistic notion that theory is the abstract research-based knowledge brought from campus to 'practice', but to offer a non-dualistic experience that would provide a key opportunity to avoid creating the so-called theory-practice gap for students. I refer to an experience of how theory is a form of knowledge that already exists in – and is created through – the daily work practices of a profession in various shapes and forms.

    To achieve the first aim, this thesis conducts Foucault-inspired discourse analyses of how four ideas of the theory-practice terminology spread dualistic messages. The ideas are explored together in three studies. Study I explores two ideas that interviewed students voiced when asked about the usual WIL design. These are the idea of theory vs. practice as the point of departure for learning and the idea of theory and practice as harmonious points of departure for learning. Using a genealogical discourse analysis, study II traces the idea of academia and the real world while study III examines the dualistic meaning that the theory-practice terminology ascribes to the graduate employability idea, backwards in time from the present. The empirical basis for this consists of present and past documents that three higher education institutions have used to promote the Cooperative Education (Co-op) model of the usual WIL design to their prospective and existing Co-op students. Together, the three studies show how the four ideas include accounts that spread antagonistic and/or harmonious messages. The former messages imply that on-campus and placement-based training do not combine well because 'theory' and 'practice' are not a good match, while the latter imply that these forms of training combine perfectly because 'theory' and 'practice' are a perfect match. The thesis concludes that antagonistic messages only contribute to creating the so-called theory-practice gap for students, whereas harmonious messages contribute to both creating and bridging the gap. To achieve the second aim, the three studies introduce a discussion on a) what countersites to the usual WIL design could look like and b) how they could possibly avoid creating this gap. This discussion is developed in the discussion chapter of this thesis, where these countersites are referred to as third places for learning professions. A focus of this discussion is to problematise the fact that sites of this nature are difficult to establish because the theory-practice terminology they must avoid incorporating to offer a non-dualistic experience is so established that it is easily used out of habit when trying to establish such sites.

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  • 2.
    Björck, Ville
    University West, Department of Health Sciences, Section for health promotion and care sciences.
    Problematizing work integrated learning2018In: VILÄR abstraktbok / [ed] Kristina Johansson, Trollhättan: Högskolan Väst , 2018, p. 1-1Conference paper (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    The discourse on Work-integrated Learning (WIL) has long promoted a binary reading of graduate employability. This reading is problematic because in key ways it polarises 'theory' and 'practice' for students, and thereby create the very theory- practice gap that WIL seeks to bridge. To explore this problem, I conduct a genealogical discourse analysis of how the idea of graduate employability operates in 87 present and past official documents about the Cooperative Education (Co-op) WIL model. The bulk of the empirical material consists of student-oriented brochures that the University of Cincinnati (USA), the University of Waterloo (Canada) and University West (Sweden) have used between 1928 and 2018 to promote Co-op to prospective and enrolled Co-op students. The results show that two accounts of this idea are often used in both present and past documents. These are the practice acclaiming account and the theory and practice account. The former account is merely creating the theory-practice gap while the latter is in one way creating this gap and in another way bridging it. I argue that a non-binary reading of graduate employability could be useful for students because it could emphasise that employability is about knowing how theories (ideas and principles etc.) and practice co-exist in professional work. This message does not disconnect theory from practice but could instead encourage students to learn how they co-exist in this work, an insight which could make them experts at 'doing' theories at work. I finally argue that one way of providing scope for a non-binary reading of graduate employability is to create a non-dualistic WIL desig s how theories and practice co-exist in professional work.

  • 3.
    Björck, Ville
    University West, Department of Health Sciences, Section for health promotion and care sciences.
    Taking issue with how the Work-integrated Learning discourse ascribes a dualistic meaning to graduate employability2021In: Higher Education, ISSN 0018-1560, E-ISSN 1573-174X, Vol. 82, no 2, p. 307-322Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Work-integrated Learning (WIL) is renowned for providing a bridge between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ that fosters ‘employable graduates’. This study critically argues that the WIL discourse continues to ascribe a dualistic meaning to graduate employability that primarily contributes to creating the so-called theory–practice gap for students. As an argument towards such a conclusion, a genealogical discourse analysis of how the graduate employability idea operates in 87 present and past official documents concerning the Cooperative Education (Co-op) WIL model is used. Two accounts of graduate employability, the antagonistic practice acclaiming account and the harmonious theory and practice account, recur in both the present and past documents. Both accounts contribute to creating the gap, while the latter also contributes to bridging it. The non-dualistic account, which involves knowing that the key to becoming employable is understanding how both research-based and informal theory shape daily occupational work, could be a useful alternative to these accounts. This is because it could encourage students to see how theory is a form of knowledge manifested in, rather than disconnected from, this work. However, the usual WIL design, whereby universities and workplaces outside universities are respectively institutionalised as the places where ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ is learnt, is not so much instrumental in spreading this non-dualistic account, but rather implies to students that ‘theory’ is absent from daily work until they apply it. Thus, I discuss how establishing physical and/or virtual countersites to the usual WIL design could potentially spread this account to students

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  • 4.
    Björck, Ville
    University West, Department of Health Sciences, Section for health promotion and care sciences.
    The idea of academia and the real world and its ironic role in the discourse on Work-integrated Learning2020In: Studies in Continuing Education, ISSN 0158-037X, E-ISSN 1470-126X, Vol. 42, p. 1-16Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Work-integrated Learning (WIL) seeks to bridge the gap between ‘scholastic’ training and work. This study explores the ironic fact that the WIL discourse remains formed by the idea of academia and the real world, an idea that in decisive ways creates this gap. A genealogical discourse analysis of how this idea operates in 79 present and past official documents promoting the Cooperative Education (Co-op) WIL model is used to explore this ironic fact. Two accounts of this idea are dominant in both present and past documents – the deficit account, which merely creates the stated gap, and the collaborative account, which both creates and bridges this gap. I emphasise that the Co-op and other standard WIL models embody and (re)produce the stated idea because they locate ‘scholastic’ training outside the ‘real world’. This separation dates back to scholè – the ancient Greek school that aimed to disconnect ‘school’ from ‘work’. Because WIL has the opposite aim, I argue that this separation is in fact counterproductive for WIL. Finally, I argue that locating WIL in a third place outside university and working life can be a way of avoiding the separation that (re)produces the idea of academia and the real world.

  • 5.
    Björck, Ville
    et al.
    University West, Department of Social and Behavioural Studies, Division for Educational Science and Languages.
    Arveklev Höglund, Susanna
    University West, Department of Health Sciences, Section for health promotion and care sciences.
    How a norm-critical approach can be applied: Reflections from some university employees2023In: Abstracts för Decemberkonferensen, Trollhättan: Högskolan Väst , 2023, p. 1-1Conference paper (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    A key contribution of both norm-critical pedagogy and norm-critical research is to show how established norms in the form of unwritten rules and unwritten expectations can encourage people to think and behave in stereotypical ways. However, a criticism of both this pedagogy and this research is that they can be too guided by theories that provide the answer to rather than promotes an open-minded investigation into which norms that need to be problematised. This study explores how 38 university employees in an individual course assignment reflect about the ways in which they can apply a norm-critical approach in their work. The aim is to explore what type of reflections that emerge in the data and whether these reflections represent varied or similar ways of thinking about what a norm-critical approach means and can be used for.

  • 6.
    Björck, Ville
    et al.
    University West, Department of Health Sciences, Section for health promotion and care sciences.
    Johansson, Kristina
    University West, Department of Social and Behavioural Studies, Division of Psychology, Pedagogy and Sociology. University of Gothenburg, Rigshospitalet, Umea University, University of California San Francisco.
    Problematising the theory-practice terminology: a discourse analysis of students  statements on Work-integrated Learning2019In: Journal of Further and Higher Education, ISSN 0309-877X, E-ISSN 0013-1326, Vol. 43, no 10, p. 1363-1375Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This study uses a Foucault-inspired discourse analysis to examine two ideas about learning which reinforce the terminology whereby theory means campus-based training and practice means work placements. The purpose is to problematise this theory–practice terminology and provide scope for a non-dualistic alternative. The ideas examined are the idea of theory vs. practice as the point of departure for learning and the idea of theory and practice as harmonious points of departure for learning. These ideas were voiced by interviewed students who discussed the usual design of Work-integrated Learning (WIL) whereby students go to university to learn ‘theory’ and into working life to learn ‘practice’. The analysis shows how the ideas are formed by different ranking orders between theory and practice which are mutually exclusive, while also working together to reinforce the theory–practice terminology. The discussion on how a non-dualistic terminology can emerge highlights how the usual WIL design forms a dualistic setting where the theory–practice terminology thrives and how designing WIL at a third place between university and working life can provide scope for the terminology we seek.

  • 7.
    Haj-Bolouri, Amir
    et al.
    University West, School of Business, Economics and IT, Divison of Informatics.
    Björck, Ville
    University West, Department of Health Sciences, Section for health promotion and care sciences.
    Toward Hybrid Spaces for Immersive Experiences of Work-integrated Learning: An Initial Inquiry2019In: VILÄR 5-6 december 2019, University West, Trollhättan: Abstracts / [ed] Kristina Johansson, Trollhättan: University West , 2019, p. 10-10Conference paper (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    This work-in-progress paper briefly scrutinizes and discusses how immersive media (e.g. virtual reality, augmented reality) plays a role in supporting work-integrated learning through immersive experiences.

    In order to achieve this, a literature search was performed to identify and scan studies that emphasize immersive media and work-integrated learning. Initial findings resulted in a discussion about the concept of hybrid spaces, and how immersive media can mediate an experience of work-integrated learning in higher education.

    Finally, the paper concludes with a short discussion on the limitations of this study and potential research challenges that need to be addressed through further work.

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