Workbased learning : an analysis of the expectations of staff, students and employers of students placed for inservice learning.
Experiential learning is an integral part of most programs offered at the M.L.Sultan Technikon because of the technical nature of the programs. This study focuses on learning from experience when students from the technikon are placed in work-based settings. It considers how successful workplace experience are from the perspective of staff involved with the Dental Assisting program, students registered for the program that are placed for in-service learning and employers that are involved with these placements, in the light of student learning. With transformation and restructuring within the present higher education system, currently more emphasis is being placed on experiential learning at both universities and technikons. The primary objectives of this study therefore were: (1) to examine the link between education, work and personal development, (2) to document experiences which students lived through during their placements (3) to evaluate how successful workplacements were from the perspective of staff, students and employers in the Dental Assisting program. Two models of experiential learning, Kolb's Model (1984) as a learning cycle and Boud and Walker's model (1991 ) provided a framework for examining and strengthening the critical linkages among institution, the learner and the workplace supervisor. The study looks at student preparation before the placement; it considered thoroughly the environment in which students found themselves; the difficulties students faced in the workplace and reflection during and after the event. The study provides a holistic integrative perspective on learning and the total educational experience of students. A small sample was selected to afford the opportunity of assessing a lot of information through interviews. Data was analysed by identifying patterns of responses or embedded themes from the interviews. As a qualitative and ethnographic research project the results and recommendations made from the analysis can be utilised to improve my practice. Although student placements were successful in terms of their learning, there needs to be adequate pre-placement preparation for both students and employers in order to enhance the success of the placement. There is also a need to encourage students to reflect on their experience in order to make their learning more meaningful.