When things go wrong: The implications for facilitators of work integrated learning placements in international destinations

Deb Agnew, Elizabeth Abery, Sam Schulz, Shane Pill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: International work integrated learning (iWIL) placements for university students are widely promoted within universities. However, they cannot be offered and sustained without a great deal of time and effort; most commonly the responsibility of an assigned university facilitator. Preparation and support are essential for a positive student experience and iWIL outcome. However, not all experiences and outcomes are positive, or predictable. Design/methodology/approach: Personal vignettes of university iWIL facilitators are used to create a collaborative autoethnography (CAE) of experiences and outcomes where placements have been affected by unexpected or unprecedented “critical incidents” and the impact incurred on these academics. The vignettes are analyzed according to the Pitard (2016) six-step structural analysis model. Findings: Analysis of the vignettes identifies a resulting workload cost, emotional labor and effect on staff wellbeing. Due to the responsibility and expectations of the position, these incidents placed the university iWIL facilitator in a position of vulnerability, stress, added workload and emotional labor that cannot be compared to other academic teaching roles. Practical implications: It is intended through the use of “real life” stories presented in the vignettes, to elicit consideration and recognition of the role of the iWIL facilitator when dealing with “the negatives” and “bring to light” management and support strategies needed. Originality/value: Research is scant on iWIL supervisor experience and management of “critical incidents”, therefore this paper adds to the literature in an area previously overlooked.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-709
Number of pages13
JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning
Issue number3
Early online date3 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2021


  • Autoethnography
  • Emotional labor
  • International practicum
  • Supervision
  • Work integrated learning
  • Workload


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