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Wicked WIL: A case of perceptions and experiences of academics in Australian universities

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posted on 04.05.2022, 22:12 authored by Melissa SullivanMelissa Sullivan
This thesis reports on a qualitative case study that has explored the perceptions and experiences of academics engaged with work integrated learning (WIL) in Australian universities. The complicated work undertaken by these academics is situated in the WIL borderlands and involves working with wicked problems: problems that resist clear formulation, are malignant and tricky, and give birth to new problems through the process of ‘solving’ them. This study sought to determine academic perspectives of WIL across 11 disciplines and 6 universities. Little is known about academic perspectives of WIL; academic voices are largely silent in the literature. An online exploratory survey was used together with semi-structured interviews to collect data. Conceptually, tribes and territories as well as borderland theories were interwoven to interpret the wicked problems encountered by the academics in the WIL borderlands. Three themes were constructed from this study that describe the territories of the WIL borderlands in which academics work. First, the Realist WIL Territory is defined by tightly coupled discipline-profession relationships, sequenced curriculum and development of competencies recognised by the professions the disciplines serve. Second, the Impressionist WIL Territory fosters graduate attributes in a stand-alone unit designed to prepare students for the broader worlds of work. Finally, the Surrealist WIL Territory is an emerging territory characterised by interdisciplinary collaboration, innovative practice and entrepreneurial applications of disciplinary knowledge. Conceptualising these territories of the WIL borderlands provides an alternative framing of WIL. Reframing WIL in this way demonstrates that different WIL territories require different academic work and employability outcomes for students and require specialised relationships with critical stakeholders. This study provides an informed platform for future interdisciplinary academic collaboration, improved academic professional development and increased innovative practice in WIL.



Central Queensland University

Open Access


Era Eligible



Professor Roberta (Bobby) E Harreveld ; Associate Professor Julie Fleming

Thesis Type

Doctoral Thesis

Thesis Format