Practically-based learning in realistic contexts is recognised internationally as being important for students in preparing for the world of work.
Applied learning is essentially teacher-guided and student-centred. The role of the learner is integral to applied learning and the student plays an active role in managing the processes of applying knowledge. Through applied learning experiences, students broaden and deepen their understanding and are able to plan and guide their own learning.
The Australian Curriculum: Work Studies, Years 9–10 engages students in transferring work-related knowledge and understanding to activities that involve the world of work. Students concentrate on learning and applying the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to solve a problem or implement a project relevant to work or workplaces.
As students take greater responsibility for managing the processes of applying their knowledge, they practise and further develop the critical skills and characteristics that are important for work and daily life in the 21st century. These include organisation, decision-making, collaboration and teamwork, problem-solving, risk-taking, critical thinking, creativity, adaptability and resilience.
By using their knowledge in realistic situations, students gain a better understanding of work and places of work. They see the relevance and purpose of their learning, which increases their motivation. By practising skills in complex realistic situations, students test and adjust their understandings in relation to what they learn at school.
Structured reflection and feedback are fundamental to the success of applied learning. Where students are given opportunities and time to reflect on learning and engage in feedback from peers and adults, their knowledge and understanding are deepened and broadened, and the relevance of learning becomes more apparent.
Activities such as debriefing sessions and keeping journals encourage students to review their work-related experiences methodically and reflect on their meaning and how knowledge and skills can be transferred to new situations. Transferability of knowledge and skills to different contexts is critical to the successful management of change and transition in the world of work.
Work exposure promotes learning in a wide variety of environments, for example, by bringing the world of work into the classroom and taking the classroom to the world of work. It provides a platform for applied learning experiences and is an integral element of the Work Studies Years 9–10 curriculum. Work exposure is embedded in content descriptions and elaborations, making it integral to the curriculum. Work exposure opportunities are not intended to be restricted to the traditional practice of blocks of work experience, although work experience may take up part of work exposure.
Students’ knowledge of the dynamic nature of workplaces and understanding of workplace expectations are enhanced through interacting with employers, employees, self-employed people, entrepreneurs and community agencies.
Work exposure contributes to students’ understanding of the changing nature and requirements of work, the variances between different occupations and industries, and the skills and personal qualities needed for work and life. It encourages students to identify and practise these skills in school and other environments and to recognise the relevance and importance of their ongoing learning. Work exposure provides the opportunities and impetus for students to explore and frame possible future work options and career pathways.
These opportunities require schools to develop and/or continue to expand ties with local industry, business and community agencies, as well as education and training institutions. These partnerships form the foundation for providing students with learning and real work exposure opportunities and allow students to explore traditional and non-traditional employment options.
Work exposure needs to be tailored to meet individual student and school needs, and reflect availability in the local and wider community. Remote schools or schools with limited options for access to such authentic learning experiences may require different solutions to broaden the range of offerings accessible to students such as the use of: