Pedagogies for Work-based Learning

Findings Report


The findings report to follow is derived from the work of the Pedagogies Project in the period January – June 2017 with stages and outputs illustrated in the diagram below ( Fig 1).

(GA - Graduate Apprenticeship)

(WBL - work-based learning)


The Centre for Work-based Learning (CWBL) wants everyone to think differently about learning at work, and the benefits of a new approach to learning through work.  The Pedagogies Project aims to ensure through its activities  

"That the approach to delivery of teaching and skills through apprenticeships is developed to enable enhancement of content and learning outcomes"

with outputs to follow: 

'The development of a WBL guidance that defines an optimal experiential approach.'

'Employers are engaged within and work in partnership to develop good quality, relevant WBL products and pathways.'


Progressive Work-based Learning Pedagogies

Progressive WBL pedagogies conceive of learning as a social activity, within which individuals recognise the authenticity of their learning and learn from teachers, peers, work-colleagues and the wider community.  As such WBL pedagogies encourage the development of new skills, knowledge and work-related personal development, in the Centre we are calling these ‘meta-skills’, the skills that enable us to learning other skills, talents and higher order learning. 

The development and delivery of WBL programmes should be determined by demand and involve multiple stakeholders including amongst others; employers, learners and professionals from the learning and skills sector.

Progressive WBL pedagogies encourage reflective practice.  This enables learners to move beyond what they know to creating new knowledge and skills to the application of these in real contexts.  In this sense one of the purposes of WBL is to produce reflective practitioners:  active learners that can produce and apply their knowledge and skills in the real-world reinforce the potential to develop the innovation, multi-skilled and self-directed worker-learners needed in the future workplace.

Contemporary pedagogies will also demand contemporary assessment approaches, and this too lies within the pedagogies project, and connects this work with another project around the theme of Standards and Frameworks for work-based learning.

Progressive WBL pedagogies build from the pedagogies of the past but introduce contemporary approaches to address the complexity of balancing of the demands of the workplace (as a learning environment) and the need to develop professional practice while fostering a culture of enquiry that supports personal development and maintains academic validity.

Contemporary work-based learning can provide excellent access routes to career progression, success and qualifications for many facing barriers to learning.

As a result of the above CWBL therefore proposes that professionals from education and industry will benefit from a collaborative approach to the design, development and delivery of work-based learning products (Graduate Apprenticeships) and pathways, from school to graduation.


What is Different? 

Learning and teaching, that is pedagogy, is normally directed, facilitated or delivered by trained and qualified teaching staff in a range of carefully selected or managed learning environments.  These pedagogues use an array of approaches as fits their subject matter and the learning objectives, is based on experience of what works, and in environments that they have determined to be appropriate.  In effect the pedagogues are in control of the learner’s learning experience.

As we push the boundaries of:

  • Who can be involved?
  • Where can learning take place?
  • A more learner-centred model

we are also pushing the boundaries to create a richer, deeper learning experience, based on real life, real world and real life work issues.  Whilst promoting the opportunity for a more engaged, motivated learner with effective learning opportunities we also introduce new parties (potentially inexperienced in learning design, delivery and development) into the learning process.

We propose however that:

  • Learning should be designed around the learner
  • Learning should be designed for current and future generations (and so optimise of learning tools and resources that will work best!)
  • Learning requires an appropriate support infrastructure
  • Learning  requires new and innovative assessment approaches
  • Learners will require all parties to work within the terms of a live contract.


WBL Partnerships: What can we assume?

We work from the assumption that all partners in engagement with CWBL activity will agree to the shared goals and objectives from the outset, after all the Co-Design of a WBL degree will have been designed by employers and learning professionals at a national level, with scope to accommodate difference within that sector. It is recognised already that employers value WBL qualifications and the positive and productive impact that the learner can have in the workplace during the learning journey. 

Importantly this demands that the employer is interested not only in the outputs of the learner journey, but also in the journey itself.

Employers require an awareness that: 

  • They will have involvement in the design, development or delivery of the qualification (or for some they will be involved in all three).
  • They will be responsible for playing a key role in 
    recruitment and selection of each Graduate Apprenticeships as an employee in their organisation.
  • They will be required to support the provision of an appropriate infrastructure for the learners, which may include mentor appointments, space for learning, ongoing stakeholder coordination and communication.

The work of the project is illustrated in Figure 2 below, in which we are working with clearly identified participating organisations, to agreed Framework Designs delivered through the TEGs (Technical Expert Groups) and delivered through partnerships led by Learning Providers, typically Scottish universities and colleges with employers, learners and other stakeholders. 

We learned through our dialogue with key partners that the factors involved in the creation of effective pedagogic relationships go far beyond ‘just pedagogies’ or designing, developing and delivering learning and teaching.  Some of these support factors or features are illustrated in the ‘board-room table’ graphic below (Figure 3)  with the darker ‘chairs’ highlighting the most pertinent pedagogy issues.  The wider collaborative approach will be taken into account in delivering the CWBL Strategy, and pedagogies will be the focus of the Pedagogy Project.

In summary therefore the Pedagogies Project activity will:

  • Create  effective learning environment, with time and  place in the learning process for reflective learning, consolidation and planning
  • Support leaders in learning (sound approaches and innovation)
  • Support creativity regarding Graduate Apprenticeships learning, teaching and assessment needs, and embrace ICT through sound digital literacy
  • Will support critically reflective practitioner development
  • Support the development of competence in pedagogy for the creation of effective learning
  • Support the development and innovation in the use of effective, quality assessment approaches and the recording of progress 


Promoting Transformation

The entire work-based learning programme revolves around the learner needs for success in his/her real work context. It integrates knowledge, skills and values with the learner’s beliefs and actions.

The Pedagogies Project process so far recognises that the CWBL will take a TRANSFORMATIONAL approach to learning.  For this to be achieved CWBL will provide leadership for change and the development of a strategy in which partners will understand their roles and responsibilities.  For the Pedagogies Project this is more specific and success factors are detailed below:


Earlier sections of the document highlight the importance of the development of skills (including meta-skills), knowledge, professional practice and behaviours.  The types of learning are expanded below:



Key Findings

The pedagogy work will require taking a twin-track approach of academic and applied research, alongside the development of Graduate Apprenticeships collateral and tools, pilot and testing.  

Core to the work of the pedagogies project’s success is the need to recognise and address critical factors.  These are outlined below:

  • The importance of mentoring, and the live learning planner and recording tool as a support for the learning process to be effective.
  • The importance of joint planning, design and partnering by key players,  in the development and delivery of work-based learning.
  • The importance of recognising (and not unnecessarily repeating) prior learning, and informal learning that occurs on the learning journey.
  • Agreement that a constructivist approach is one of the most effective pedagogies for WBL, supported by some well recognised and tools, techniques and approaches  for which some examples are outlined below:


    • Recognition of preferred learning styles
    • Project–based learning
    • Process (work tasks)- based learning
    • Learner-centredness (with critical reflexiveness)
    • Self-directed learning, and expansive opportunities embraced
    • Consolidation accommodated in the learning experience
    • Collaborative and experiential learning
    • Flexibility in delivery
    • Evidence-based assessment
    • Self and peer-assessment
    • Flipped classroom/labs
    • Peer review and support
    • On-line learning
    • Observations and shadowing


Further Research

The further research will support the development of innovation and best practice, for future scalability and sustainability of WBL.  Much more knowledge is needed to inform the development if we are to drive change, work with informed and engaged partners and support the development of a sustainable work-based learning model for Scotland: 

  • To fully understand all WBL stakeholders needs and issues, and address these.
  • To highlight what works, and how it could be transferred, and scaled-up.
  • To consider how the early Graduate Apprenticeships focus can inform future WBL pathway innovations, and learner journey progression.
  • To inform and challenge more traditional assumptions and pedagogical practices,
  • To support the development of structure and rigorous quality approaches, yet with the flexibility needed for learner success.


Pilot Work, Testing and Materials Development

The ambition of learning partners involved in Graduate Apprenticeships development is that we should create a qualification and associated learning experience that has a distinctive identity, adding value to and creating synergy from the coupling of the theoretical and practical, WBL opportunity.  

In the ‘practice’ space we aim to determine pedagogical roles of each of the players, including current and possible future role changes and development.  

For success in this work we aim to continue the CWBL’s pedagogy work through the development of a WBL PEDAGOGIES TOOLKIT and WBL PEDAGOGIES CPD PROGRAMME with some pilot approaches developed and tested as we progress the implementation of the Graduate Apprenticeships frameworks across Scotland. (More information on the above work is available via the author of this report).



It is evident through the collaborative work with partners: employers, providers and SDS internal staff members, that there is a requirement for a focussed approach to the development of work-based learning, teaching and assessment.  This work will progress harmony and in a mutually supportive relationship with other projects within the CWBL Learner Journey and Graduate Apprentice  development teams to assure it’s appropriate scope and deliver aligned and sequential outputs for a long-term positive outcome and impact.

As the work of the Centre’s Skills 4.0 Project evolves it becomes nationally informative and influential as a critical underpinning research strand for the pedagogies development, illustrating the depth and the reach of the skills that can and require to be delivered through WBL pathways. This is a key factor for Scotland’s economic success in the 21st Century.

Young people will require a diverse skill-set for our emerging technologically changed workplaces, and our learning and skills infrastructure will require to underpin and support that young talent development.  With employers it is hoped.


Janet McCauslin MBE

Senior Innovation Manager

8 August 2017


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