New publication by Dr. James Gavin: Placement Experience in Higher Education

New publication by Dr. James Gavin: Placement Experience in Higher Education

Dr James Gavin is an Early-Career Academic in Exercise Science, has just published a paper on: ‘Placement experience and learning motivations in higher education: A comparison between practical- and study-based programmes’ in the Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education. James said, “Based upon data from my PgCert, the article provides insight into the changing learning motivations of students studying undergraduate degrees with (practice-based), and without (study-based) work placements”.

Below, James summarises the key findings of his research and provides a link to the full article.

Key Findings:

Context Students suggested work placements fostered a greater link between academic content and work experience (mainly due to placement duration, insight into working practices and “real life” applications).

Career awareness Work placements provided greater understanding of the job market, degree transferability and career availability (but had little influence on organisation and self-management). Some secured networks for future employment.

Reflection Work placements were suggested to offer reflective time beyond academic constraints, strengthening links between theory and practice.


Final year students: the major motivational factor was knowledge of academic grades (students also valued course-specific reading and life-long learning).

First year students: the major motivational factor was the multidisciplinarity of their course (students were reliant upon academic staff to direct learning, due to limited experience of summative assessment).

Final year students displayed greater self-discipline, focus and an ability to prioritise, in comparison to first year students

Having completed a study-based undergraduate degree, the work highlighted the importance of students gaining experience and skills in the workplace. Most importantly the awareness of: employer expectations, workplace routines (and for some, reality and monotony), career trajectories and the relevance of life-long learning (particularly as a career is no longer defined by a single ‘job for life’). This knowledge can lead to future research exploring the impact of work placements on student learning motivations across a range a practical-based HE courses.

If you are interested further, the article can be found on the Emerald Insight website below.

Gavin, J. P., & Coleman, I. (2016). Placement experience and learning motivations in Higher Education: a comparison between practical-and study-based programmes. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, 8(3).

If anyone would like to discuss James’ research please leave a comment here or email him directly –

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