An Explorative Study of the Relationship Between Work-Based Learning and the Development of Graduate Attributes in Biomedical Science Education

  • Deborah O'Donnell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisProfessional Doctorate (ProfD)


In 2005, Biomedical Science (BMS) education in Scotland introduced a practice placement within the BMS degree creating the BSc (Hons) Applied Biomedical Science (ABMS) degree.This was in response to concerns regarding the recruitment and training of Biomedical Scientists. There is also, however, the potential for placements to contribute to student development, e.g., through improving graduate employability. There is significant research on the impact of placements on student learning in a variety of disciplines; however,insufficient attention has been given to how placements could develop students within the life sciences field, particularly within BMS since the practice placement is a recent introduction to BMS education. Furthermore, most of the studies investigating practice placements are limited to the impact of placements on student employability and related aspects such as the development of transferable skills. Other important areas of practice placements such as the role placements may have in intellectual development of students,as well as exploring the process of learning through placements, has not been sufficiently researched. Thus, to address this gap in knowledge, the aim of this research was to explore the relationship between Work-Based Learning (WBL), i.e. the placement and the development of graduate attributes in BMS education. A mixed methods approach was used to realise the aim of the study. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with students who had completed the placement at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) in2013 and BMS employers with scope to employ graduates from the BMS degrees.Statistical tests including multiple regression analysis were carried out on secondary data which were obtained from GCU administrative records.

This is the first study to explore the learning and development of ABMS students through practice placements and the findings contribute to new knowledge in the field of BMS and education. The 15-week practice placement can add academic value through development of knowledge; learning/enhancing key skills and fostering positive attitudes to learning.Students who complete the placement could gain, on average, an advantage of 4% in year 4 academic performance and this could result in an improved degree classification. Thestudy has provided a revised model of graduateness and has demonstrated that the BMS placement has the potential to develop graduateness in the domains of personal and intellectual attributes; global citizenship; and employability and career development. The findings also contribute to knowledge and understanding in learning theory and pedagogy of WBL and highlight the importance of experiential and situated learning within BMS. These findings are significant as the introduction of the practice placement in BMS education is a recent development, thus there is limited research in this area. Furthermore,the findings provide evidence that WBL is a valuable educational strategy for the development of graduate attributes in BMS. The results of the study contribute to the current evidence that, along with enhancing employability, university placements do add academic value. Thus, the integration of WBL with traditional classroom-based university education should be a key strategy for higher education (HE) policy and procedure in order to maximise the educational experience for students within HE.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
SupervisorWendy Mayne (Supervisor), Sandra Johnston (Supervisor) & John Houston (Supervisor)

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