Research Papers

Document Type

Conference Paper


Many authentic learning environments in formal schooling contexts mimic elements of authentic engineering environments, yet do not afford students to experience the full complexity of a real work environment. Workplace learning is a powerful way for students to close these gaps. In this exploratory study we interviewed 11 students about their experiences in a co-op program in a Midwestern research university in the USA pre-COVID. Our qualitative study was guided by the three dimensions of learning by Illeris: personal, cognitive and social learning. We added the perspective of epistemic learning. Our preliminary findings include a variance of workplace experiences, the tensions between execution of specific tasks and the exploration and ideation of new solutions. In addition, our findings indicate that workplace engineering was demystified as issues students shared were very specific context related and not career choice related. Students also report they learned about relationship building with people from all levels of the organization, the importance of soft skills, and awareness of evaluation as a tool for reflection on the projects and their own professional development.


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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.