As you read in the WIL definition section, the work-integrated field is a crowded one, with many different stakeholders, some shared goals, and some distinct ones.  To enhance the common understandings of experience-based education, specifically in the field of WIL, the British Columbia WIL Council developed a comparative WIL matrix to allow for comparing and contrasting of WIL represented in the BC context. The attributes have allowed for “conversations around work-integrated learning that extend beyond definitions and have shifted the discussion more towards attributes of quality programs” (McRae & Johnston, 2016, p. 338). McRae and Johnston (2016) stated that “this work was a response to significant confusion in the field with respect to defining and describing the many and diverse models of WIL” (p. 337). 

We remind you to reconsider how the primary purpose of your WIL Program fits with the definitions of the types of WIL. The BC Comparative Matrix provides attributes that apply to quality WIL programs and the attributes are grounded in the relevant literature and derived, in part, from the Canadian Co-op (CEWIL) national accreditation criteria.  Without such definitions, conversations often conflate multiple models and it becomes difficult to distinguish “what” exactly is being discussed, tracked, evaluated, researched, etc.  With this amount of definitional “noise” in the field, “the potential for developing and promoting appropriate offerings, conducting meaningful research, collecting data, developing quality standards, and assessing impact is limited” (McRae & Johnston, 2016, p. 338). 

The WIL Comparative Matrix, shared in the image below, offers a way to focus on the high-impact attributes of various WIL models that best assure quality outcomes.

Comparative Matrix

See the comparative matrix document here.

Purpose and Outcomes Driven Approach

Another method to help institutions develop coherent narratives and shared understandings regarding their offerings is the Purpose and Outcomes Driven (POD) approach. The POD framework focuses on shared quality attributes and unique outcomes across model types, helping link each model’s purpose to student, institutional, and other stakeholders’ outcomes while also providing the ability to report on collective model outcomes by their shared purpose (e.g., employability).

Looking at the POD arrow, we see that the points of the arrow for different WIL program types are directed to the primary purpose and outcomes of that WIL type. 

POD arrow

For example if your WIL program is first and foremost about developing students’ social responsibility (e.g. a Service Learning experience), the arrow will be pointed to the outcome(s) that are indicative of this purpose.  If your WIL program has as its primary purpose enhancing employability (e.g. co-operative education) its unique attributes such as paid work, immersion into a workplace, alternating school and work, etc.) are there to guide the point of the arrow to employability related outcomes. These unique program attributes are represented by the fletchings on the arrow and differ across different WIL types to ensure that each unique purpose is targeted as indicated by the outcomes. What is common to all is captured in the shaft, and these attributes should be present in all quality WIL design.

Reflective Prompts

WIL Practitioner

Use the reflective journal and take a moment to reflect on the types of WIL offered at your institution. Review the WIL types again to see how your WIL program may align with one or more types of WIL. While imperfect, having shared terminology for various WIL types helps us speak about their unique traits, conduct and share WIL research, track various types of WIL participation, and plan strategic growth of experience-based education. Whether at the program, institutional, provincial, or national level it is important to know what you mean by the term WIL in your context - what programs fall under that umbrella for you, and how they “fit” with other WIL programs at your institution and beyond.

In reflecting on the WIL program(s) at your institution you may want to ask yourself:

What is the primary purpose of the programs that are offered? What is your WIL program trying to accomplish for students, the institution, employers, and other important stakeholders? What are the expected outcomes of the program and how do you measure them?

By thinking through these questions, you will be better able to assess the quality attributes of your program.