Agi Bodis outlines how industry need drove a unit redesign that resulted in incorporating a work-integrated learning activity in her unit. The challenge was to create a fair and equitable assessment task that took into consideration the variety of contexts and projects that students would be working on.

As part of a broader course-restructure, I took the plunge and added a work-integrated learning (WIL) placement activity to a non-placement unit, APPL8240 Language testing and evaluation. Work-integrated learning (WIL) can provide an enriching experience for students as well as valuable connections for their future careers (Pazur Ancic & Divjak, 2022).

Why I added a WIL placement to a non-placement unit

I work in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at the Department of Linguistics and our students, a large proportion of which are international students, end up working as English language teachers.

Industry need provided the main reason for changing the unit curriculum. As language assessment is a skill teachers develop from each other and on the job rather than during their training (e.g. see CPD Framework descriptors in English Australia, 2023), new graduates with such expertise and practical experience would be highly beneficial for English language teaching institutions in Australia. As a convenor and lecturer in this unit, my own practical expertise with language assessment lies in language assessment design and writing proficiency test items. So… why not get the students gain experience in these areas before they graduate?

International students, in particular, need more exposure to Australian workplaces to develop employability skills specific to Australia and establishing valuable contacts with the industry they will be working in after graduation.

How I embedded the WIL activity into the unit curriculum and adjusted the assessment

It all started with industry consultation. I reached out to teaching institutions to assess their needs: firstly, they needed helping hands with assessment development projects and in the long run they needed graduates with language assessment experience. Luckily, language assessment is a broad term, so there were numerous placement opportunities, including various university language colleges (including our own Macquarie University College), TAFEs, a primary school and even our own Academic Literacy Unit – yes, some of the StudyWise self-assessment content has come out of this project!

Industry needed helping hands!

The unit learning outcomes were reformulated to allow for an industry experience focus. After gauging the kind of assessment projects, I front-loaded the essential theory and basic practical skills-focused seminar activities in the semester. Employability-focused resources had already been a part of the unit e.g. analysing interviews with assessment specialists and job ads. I also made sure that students prepare for their placement projects through setting up a research task as a first assessment task.

Students then spent 15-20 hours on the assessment project towards the middle of the semester, with a check-in meeting scheduled with me. As no single institution can host 25+ students and provide the same learning experience, the challenge was to set up a suite of appropriate assessment tasks for the unit.

I found that reflective practice was the key

The assessment focused on reflection

As both the placement contexts and the projects (even within the same placement context) were different, I had to carefully design a valid and fair assessment task attached to this activity. After much thought, I decided to keep the assessment requirements generic and focused on reflection. This flexibility ensured that all parties benefitted from the placement activity: the project was completed for the host institution, but our assessment was focused on the learning process during the placement rather than the outcome of the project.

This was done through a reflective presentation that involved students outlining the project and their learning in a video format that was accessible for the whole class. Students then watched each other’s videos on VoiceThread and discussed the experiences in a timetabled seminar, which facilitated peer-led and incidental learning.

An enhanced learning experience

The new design was extremely successful with students who were especially proud that their work had been integrated into professional assessments and quality assurance.

Getting to be immersed in a real institution and having to consider the relevant contextual factors there when doing assessment design [was the most enjoyable part of the assessment]. It was great to have a mentor to guide me through my project, and having a purpose there made the placement feel meaningful and more realistic than case studies in the classroom [on campus].

Anonymous feedback from a student

The placement institutions also benefited from the new design.

This is filling a gap in the market and would stand TESOL grads in good stead in their ability to support regulators as well as providers with assessment creation.

Director of Studies at a university college

Overall, the aim was to expand on the practical test-design skills students learn in the seminars and allow them to gain experience in how assessment is managed at the workplace. The unit fared well on this WIL Quality assurance self-audit tool. The added value was providing international students with Australian workplace experience and industry connections.

Read more about WIL at Macquarie

Exploring different ways to do PACE and WIL
A community of practice to share insights on teaching WIL
Work integrated learning – designing and embedding opportunities for students
Careers in Curriculum – resources for teaching staff to embed in their units (iLearn site)

Join the WIL Community of Practice

Macquarie University’s work-integrated learning (WIL) community of practice (CoP) is a supportive community of current and aspiring WIL practitioners who come together to share experiences, ideas, successes and lessons learned. The WIL CoP meet 3-4 times per year to share information and resources.

MQ staff presenting at a WIL CoP meeting

Complete this form to join Macquarie’s WIL CoP.


English Australia (2023). Continuing Professional Development Framework.

Pazur Ancic, K & Divjak, B (2022) Work-integrated learning in higher education: student, teacher and employer motivation and expectations. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 23:1, p9-64.

Dr Agnes (Agi) Bodis is a Lecturer (Teaching and Leadership) in the Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Medicine, Health & Human Sciences and teaches prospective English language teachers. She is the Course Lead of the Graduate Certificate of TESOL course. Agi’s research interests are language teacher training as well as multilingualism and linguistic inclusivity in higher education. She also blogs about her research on Language on the Move. View Agi’s profile.

Banner image: Photo by Sahara Prince on Shutterstock
Helping hands image: Image by starline on Freepik
Reflection image: Image by diana.grytsku on Freepik

Posted by L&T Development

The Learning and Teaching Staff Development team works with staff across the University to ensure they are supported to facilitate quality learning for students. This includes offering professional development, contributing to curriculum and assessment design, recognising and rewarding good practice, supporting peer review of teaching, and leading scholarly reflection. Email with questions or requests.

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