Work-related teaching and learning methods to foster generic skills in Higher Education. An Italian experience

  • Daniela Frison University of Padova, Italy
  • Concetta Tino University of Padova, Italy
  • Jonathan W. Tyner Texas State University, United States
  • Monica Fedeli University of Padova, Italy
Keywords: work-related learning, generic skills, higher education, teaching and learning methods, university-business cooperation


Within the framework of modernisation of higher education systems in Europe, universities are invited to go beyond a knowledge-based perspective focused on disciplinary approaches and to be more concentrated on encouraging generic skills to deal with today’s complex and unpredictable career paths. The literature about Work-Related Learning and Work-Integrated Learning offers evidence to research regarding contributions of work-related experiences to the development of generic skills. The first part of the article presents a literature review carried out following the matching among three main keywords: work-related learning, generic skills, and higher education. Resources focused on the integration/teaching of generic skills in formal curriculum or in co-curriculum work-related activities and they were collected in order to explore the link between work-related learning in higher education and the development of generic skills. The focus is to identify valuable considerations to improve teaching strategies and methods. The second part presents an Italian work-related experience developed within the course of “Organizational Intervention Research Methods,” which involved 22 master’s degree students. The work-related assignment will be described in addition to the content analysis process of the 22 collected texts and the findings about the development of generic skills.

Published online: 30 November 2016


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Daniela Frison, University of Padova, Italy

PhD in Educational Sciences at University of Padova (2012), is currently Post-Doc Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Education, and Applied Psychology, University of Padova. She is coordinator of the project PARIMUN: a University-Enterprise Alliance to Promote Widespread Expertise which aims at developing intervention-research projects starting from business needs and carried out by graduating students in Educational Sciences. She teaches “Methodology of Training” and “Intervention-Research Strategies”. Her current interests include: university-business cooperation, teaching and learning methods in higher and adult education, with a specific focus on work-related learning. She is member of the project team of two Erasmus+ projects: REFLECT — Reflection as core transferable competence in higher education and adult education, University of Vilnius, Lithuania (2014-2016) and COMPALL — Comparative Studies in Adult and Lifelong Learning, Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Germany (2015-2017). She is member of the Young Scientist Committee of the international book series: Adult learning strategies, methods and contexts. Mail:

Concetta Tino, University of Padova, Italy

Doctoral student at University of Padova (Italy). Her main fields of research are the School-Work Alternation programs as part of Work-Based Learning experiences, and the training of teachers-tutor involved in supporting students in the transition school-to-work. At the moment she is spending two months at University of Georgia for her research. She has participated to two Erasmus+ projects: REFLECT — Reflection as core transferable competence in higher education and adult education, University of Vilnius (2014-2016) and COMPALL — Comparative Studies in Adult and Lifelong Learning, Julius-Maximilian-University of Würzburg, Germany. (2015-2017). She participated in the last two years at International Winter school- Comparative studies on Adult and Lifelong Learning Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Germany. Mail:

Jonathan W. Tyner, Texas State University, United States

Doctoral student in the Adult, Professional, and Community Education program at Texas State University. His current position is the international engagement specialist for Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. His research interests are focused on international education, international student mobility, international student motivation, faculty professional development, work-related teaching and learning, and internationalizing the curriculum through cultural inclusion and pedagogical adaptation. In regards to work-related learning experiences, he has worked on appreciative inquiry projects with community based non-profit organizations, conducted qualitative research that interviewed business managers and organizational leaders in order to obtain their perspective on the values and necessity for work-related learning and continued education, led professional developments that integrate work-related teaching and learning for higher education administrators and student affairs professionals, as well as recently published a book review in the Australian Journal of Adult Learning that discusses teaching international students in vocational education. Mail:

Monica Fedeli, University of Padova, Italy

PhD in Teaching and Learning and Special Education, is currently Associate Professor at University of Padova, where she is Program Coordinator of the MD course: Management of Educational Services and Continuing Education and Advisor for Faculty Development and Didactic Innovation. She has been Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University. U.S.A., at Julius Maximilians University of Wurzburg, Germany and Visiting research and professor at Boston University, School of Education and at California University Berkeley School of Education. Her current interests include: participatory teaching and learning in higher education, reflection and learning, organization development, faculty development and faculty development in international settings. She published more than 60 articles, books and book chapters in variety of national and international journals: Adult Learning, Educational Reflective Practices, Giornale Italiano della Ricerca Educativa and in a variety of book series. She is member of the steering committee of the journal: Educational Reflective Practices, Co-editor of the International Journal: Excellence in Teaching and Learning; and of the international book series: Adult learning strategies, methods and contexts. She is leading as principal investigator specific national and international projects designed to develop research and facilitate networking, including agreements with several American and European universities. Mail:


Abeysekera, Indra. “Issues relating to designing a Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) program in an undergraduate accounting degree program and its implications for the curriculum.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education 7, no. 1 (2006): 7-15.

Atchison, Mary, Sarah Pollock, Ern Reeders, and Janine Rizzetti. Work integrated learning paper. Melbourne: RMIT University (2002).

Bennett, Neville, Elisabeth Dunne, and Clive Carré. “Patterns of core and generic skill provision in higher education.” Higher education 37, no. 1 (1999): 71-93.

Bridgstock, Ruth. “The graduate attributes we’ve overlooked: Enhancing graduate employability through career management skills.” Higher Education Research & Development 28, no. 1 (2009): 31-44.

Burchell, Noel, Dave Hodges, and L. Rainsbury. “What competencies do business graduates require? Perspectives of New Zealand stakeholders.” Journal of Cooperative Education 35, no. 2-3 (2000): 11-20.

Cannan, James. “Practice based learning: exploring current models used for real world learning at a “dual sector tertiary institution”.” WACE Asia Pacific Conference E-Proceedings (2008): 91-97.

Commission of the European Communities. A new partnership for the modernisation of universities: the EU Forum for University Business Dialogue, 2009. Accessed July 22, 2016.

Coll, Richard K., Chris Eames, Levinia Paku, Mark Lay, Diana Ayling, Dave Hodges, Shiu Ram, Ravi Bhat, Jenny Fleming, Lesley Ferkins, Cindy Wiersma, and Andrew Martin. “Putting the ‘integrated’ in work-integrated learning.” In World Association of Co-operative Education Asia Pacific 2008 Conference: Work Integrated Learning (WIL): Transforming Futures, Practice… Pedagogy… Partnerships (2008): 101-107.

Coll, Richard K., and Karsten E. Zegwaard. “Perceptions of desirable graduate competencies for science and technology new graduates.” Research in Science & Technological Education 24, no. 1 (2006): 29-58.

Cooper, Lesley, Janice Orrell, and Margaret Bowden. Work integrated learning: A guide to effective practice. Routledge, 2010.

Crebert, Gay, Merrelyn Bates, Barry Bell, Carol-Joy Patrick, and Vanda Cragnolini. “Developing generic skills at university, during work placement and in employment: graduates’ perceptions.” Higher Education Research & Development 23, no. 2 (2004): 147-165. doi:

Devadason, Evelyn Shyamala, Thirunaukarasu Subramaniam, and Esther Gnanamalar Sarojini Daniel. “Final year undergraduates’ perceptions of the integration of soft skills in the formal curriculum: a survey of Malaysian public universities.” Asia Pacific Education Review 11, no. 3 (2010): 321-348.

De Villiers, Rouxelle. “The incorporation of soft skills into accounting curricula: preparing accounting graduates for their unpredictable futures.” Meditari Accountancy Research 18, no. 2 (2010): 1-22.

Dirkx, John M. “Work-Related Learning in the United States: Past Practices, Paradigm Shifts, and Policies of Partnerships.” The Sage Handbook of Workplace Learning (2011): 293-306.

Drummond, Ian, Iain Nixon, and John Wiltshire. “Personal transferable skills in higher education: The problems of implementing good practice.” Quality assurance in education 6, no. 1 (1998): 19-27.

Eames, Chris, and Beverley Bell. “Using sociocultural views of learning to investigate the enculturation of students into the scientific community through work placements.” Canadian Journal of Math, Science & Technology Education 5, no. 1 (2005): 153-169.

Eyler, Janet. “The power of experiential education.” Liberal Education 95, no. 4 (2009): 24-31.

European Commission. Supporting growth and jobs — an agenda for the modernisation of Europe’s higher education systems, 2011. Accessed July 22, 2016.

_____. Modernisation of Higher Education. Report on Improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013. Accessed July 22, 2016.

Freudenberg, Brett, Mark Brimble, and Craig Cameron. “It’s All about’I’: Implementing ‘Integration’ into a WIL Program.” eProceedings of the WACE Asia Pacific Conference, 2009. Accessed July 22, 2016.

_____. “Where there is a WIL there is a way.” Higher Education Research & Development 29, no. 5 (2010): 575-588.

_____. “WIL and generic skill development: The development of business students’ generic skills through work-integrated learning.” Asia-Pacific Journal of cooperative education 12, no. 2 (2011): 79-93.

Frison, Daniela. “Esperienza e apprendimento: verso una didattica work-related”. In Coinvolgere per apprendere. Metodi e tecniche partecipative per la formazione, edited by Monica Fedeli, Valentina Grion, and Daniela Frison, 259-288. Lecce: Pensa Multimedia, 2016.

Frison, Daniela, Monica Fedeli, and Edward W. Taylor. “Work-Related Learning: a survey on Teaching and Learning Methods in the Italian Higher Education System.” ICERI 2015 Proceedings, (2015): 8393-8401.

Gardner, Phil, and Kenneth R. Bartkus. “What’s in a name? A reference guide to work-education experiences.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education 15, no. 1 (2014): 37-54.

Kearns, Peter. Generic Skills for the New Economy. Review of Research. Leabrook: National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 2001.

Lee, Scott. “A comparison of student perceptions of learning in their co-op and internship experiences and the classroom environment: A study of hospitality management students”. Diss., University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida, 2006.

Litchfield, Andrew, and Nettleton Skye. “Work-ready wiki: Supporting the learning and teaching of professional graduate attributes.” Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings of Ascilite Melbourne (2008): 552-561.

Mayer, Eric. Putting general education to work: The key competencies report. Canberra: Australian Education Council and Ministers for Vocational Education, Employment and Training, 1992.

McLennan, Belinda, and Shay Keating. “Work-integrated learning (WIL) in Australian universities: The challenges of mainstreaming WIL.” ALTC NAGCAS National Symposium, 2008. Accessed July 22, 2016.

Merriam, Sharan B., and Elizabeth J. Tisdell. Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

Munari, Aberto. “L’osservazione sistematica e strutturata della gestione degli spazi di un’organizzazione”. Unpublished manuscript, University of Padova, Italy, 2013.

Nealy, Chynette. “Integrating soft skills through active learning in the management classroom.” Journal of College Teaching & Learning (TLC) 2, no. 4 (2011): 1-6.

Sambrook, Sally. “Factors influencing the context and process of work-related learning: Synthesizing findings from two research projects.” Human Resource Development International 8, no. 1 (2005): 101-119.

Scott, John L., and Michelle Sarkees-Wircenski. Overview of Vocational and Applied Technology Education. Homewood Illinois: American Technical Publishers, 2004.

Shakir, Roselina. “Soft skills at the Malaysian institutes of higher learning.” Asia Pacific Education Review 10, no. 3 (2009): 309-315.

Subramaniam, Nava, and Brett Freudenberg. “Preparing accounting students for success in the professional environment: Enhancing self-efficacy through a work integrated learning programme.” Asia-Pacific journal of cooperative education 8, no. 1 (2007): 77-92.

Technopolis. Education in the Knowledge Triangle, 2012. Accessed July 22, 2016.

Weber, Melvin R., Dori A. Finley, Alleah Crawford, and David Rivera, Jr. “An exploratory study identifying soft skill competencies in entry-level managers.” Tourism and hospitality Research 9, no. 4 (2009): 353-361.

How to Cite
Frison, Daniela, Concetta Tino, Jonathan W. Tyner, and Monica Fedeli. 2016. “Work-Related Teaching and Learning Methods to Foster Generic Skills in Higher Education. An Italian Experience”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 4 (1), 145-67.