This paper presents action research which was initiated with professional support staff during the Working in Higher Education Award, an accredited, work-based course at the University where they were employed. The research participants perform a variety of roles within the University and have diverse educational experiences. Two interventions, use of e-portfolio tools and a critical friend, were integrated into the initial module, and their impact on participants’ capacity to link learning to practice was investigated via primarily qualitative methods.
The connection between learning and professional practice is an area of particular pertinence for work-based learners. Literature on this topic indicates three significant domains in relation to fostering the linkage between learning and work: the work environment, the learning environment, and the learner. The research findings contributed to the further elaboration of these domains, and an additional key theme, labelled “social”, was identified; this represented the impact of support from others, particularly colleagues and line managers, on participants’ confidence, motivation, and reflective capacity.
Insightful recommendations emerged from the findings which may be of relevance to work-based learning practitioners, for example the significance of fostering social engagement in the learning and work environments, the alignment of the curriculum to disparate professional roles, and the use of the interventions developed as a vehicle to promote reflection.