A theoretical framework of workplace learning for entry-level software engineering graduates

Siobhán Drohan

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    This purpose of this study was to investigate the organisation of the workplace to support the workplace learning (WPL) of entry-level software engineering (SE) graduates. To profile the SE WPL environment, the prevalence and perceived effectiveness of five specific areas were studied – WPL strategies, experienced guides, the SE graduates as learners, organisational supports, and learning opportunities – and a theoretical framework emerged from the literature review, representing the rhetoric of the SE WPL environment. Such profiling necessitated a mainly quantitative approach using a series of three web-based survey instruments – graduate survey, on-the-job learning guide survey, and organisation survey. A non-probability, convenience sampling approach was used for all three surveys. The key findings indicate that direct guidance and dynamic resources (e.g. Internet, Knowledge Bases, etc.), along with the Instructional Model of Learning were the most effective strategies for SE graduate WPL. Indirect guidance strategies were not used frequently. The most effective strategies were using the Internet, scaffolding, diagrams, feedback, and using knowledge bases of previous problem solutions. Graduates and guides were very willing participants in WPL. Guides emerged as an effective support for WPL, particularly when they were selected for the graduate by the organisation. Graduates that selected their own guide were not adequately prepared for WPL which was considered ineffective. Organisations were an effective support for WPL and their workplaces invited WPL to take place. Learning opportunities were available and structured. They were also sequenced along pathways of learning designed to take the graduate from peripheral to full participation in the task. The theoretical framework was revised based on the findings, resulting in a revised theoretical framework that represented the reality of the current SE WPL environment. This revised framework was reflected into the SE industry and recommendations were provided for supporting, evaluating, and improving WPL. The framework was also reflected into higher education practices so that recommendations could be made to better prepare SE graduates for the expectations of WPL. To facilitate this reflection, a fourth survey was conducted – the undergraduate survey – which provided a baseline of the WPL supports and strategies used in the higher education classroom. Again, a non-probability, convenience sampling approach was used for this survey.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Carlile, Orison, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


    • Workplace learning, Software engineering, Graduates


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