‘Working it Out’, According to student perception, what purpose does an optional placement module serve on the Education Studies degree course?’

The title of research was ‘Working it Out’, According to student perception, what purpose does an optional placement module serve on the Education Studies degree course?’
This study was interested to find if the module under investigation;
• Identified opportunities placement offered students
• Explored the impact placement had upon student beliefs of professional attributes
• Held implications for further career choices
Previous study in the field by Little and Harvey (2007) informed research design and offered terms of reference for what was meant by professional attributes. Research aimed to extend key discourse by Hodkinson (2009) in whose small scale study Education Studies was observed to offer a continuum of employability and identified graduates’ destinations. This research aimed to assess student ‘readiness’ to place themselves on such a continuum and communicate what employment skills they saw to be personally valuable. The implications for teaching and learning in Education Studies were considered through Morrison (2013) where the purpose of the ‘placement module’ was examined to consider if, as practitioners, we need to be more aware of how students perceive their own potential.
The study design was qualitative and gathered student interactions and values, outlined in Atkins and Wallace (2012). To gather student perception two data collection tools were used, a focus group, useful according to Agar and MacDonald (1995, cited in Smithson, 2010) which encouraged rich student led data. A second tool of a semi-structured interview was deployed offering triangulation of results in order to address the complexities of extracting reliable focus group data, as noted by Smithson (2000).
Results showed students observed placement as having three main purposes, as academic, as professional and as transformational. Dominant themes emerged such as assuming an alternative identity, adoption of actors’ behaviours, the concept of performance space and the relationship of this to employability.

Reference List
Atkins, L. and Wallace, S. (2012) Qualitative Research in Education, London: Sage

Hodkinson, A. (2009) Education Studies and Employability: how do students and graduates define the subject and what do they perceive its vocational relevance to be?, Educationalfutures, 2:1,
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Little, B. and Harvey, L. (2007) UK Work Placements: A Choice Too Far?, Tertiary Education and Management, 13:3, 227 – 245

Morrison, A. (2013) A class act? Lecturers’ views on undergraduates’ employability, British Journal of the Sociology of Education, http://dx.doi.org.10.1080/01425692.2013.802420

Smithson, J. (2010) Using and analysing focus groups: Limitations and possibilities, International Journal of Social Research, 3:2, 103 – 119

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