The development of a competency trajectory for successive work integrated learning placements: A case study in organisational psychology

Christine Boag-Hodgson, Kaitlyn Cole, Liz Jones

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


The importance of reliably and validly assessing work integrated learning (WIL) competence is fundamental, especially in the domain of psychology where the safety of the public is paramount. Within postgraduate organisational psychology, students undertake a series of successive WIL placements, during which their competence is assessed by multiple supervisors, within a variety of contexts, while undertaking quite disparate WIL activities. For this reason, the means by which competence is assessed should enable students to see their progress within an individual placement, as well as track their competence across successive placements. This competence trajectory can then be used to facilitate the student’s transition to work after graduation, and then feed into their ongoing professional development in the workforce. This chapter describes research that developed a competency assessment framework to assess student competence while undertaking successive WIL placements. Semi-structured interviews with placement stakeholders (students and supervisors) were undertaken to identify the key attributes for a WIL competency assessment framework. Three models – a Likert rating scale, a Pass-fail rating scale, and Miller’s pyramid model – were compared. Stakeholders identified seven relevant attributes that needed to be considered: validity, inter-rater reliability and subjectivity, social desirability, sufficient detail and range, usability, not assessed component, and constructive feedback. The findings indicated that across these attributes, Miller’s pyramid model was most favoured. A validation study was then undertaken which utilised the new competency assessment framework and yielded a substantial improvement in competence assessment. Students described being better informed to make decisions regarding future placements and ultimately career related decisions. In addition, a method for modelling trajectories of competence across successive placements was developed. This visual depiction of competency acquisition readily demonstrated to students the areas where they possess strengths, the areas where they have acquired strengths, the areas where their performance is inconsistent, and the areas they need to focus on for future growth and professional development. A competency trajectory tool enables students to approach WIL placements as a series of enhanced skill acquisition opportunities, rather than isolated WIL experiences. Students can more readily identify the competencies that are their strengths or the areas for future focus, which can better direct their subsequent placement decisions, and ultimately their job search efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnriching Higher Education Students' Learning through Post-work Placement Interventions
EditorsStephen Billett, Janice Orrell, Denise Jackson, Faith Valencia-Forrester
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783030480622
ISBN (Print)9783030480615, 9783030480646
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameProfessional and Practice-based Learning
ISSN (Print)2210-5549
ISSN (Electronic)2210-5557

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