Learning in Workplace Simulations in Vocational Education: a Student Perspective

Helen Jossberger*, Saskia Brand-Gruwel, Margje W. J. van de Wiel, Henny Boshuizen

*Corresponding author for this work

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In vocational education, workplace simulations (WPS) have been implemented to ensure a better connection between the educational setting and the labour market. Moreover, WPS are supposed to motivate students and promote self-directed learning. So far, however, not much is known about the way students experience these WPS. The aim of the present exploratory case study was to investigate students' perceptions and preparedness for WPS and explore what factors they perceive to be relevant for their learning in these simulations. Forty students from three different pre-vocational secondary schools participated. Semi-structured group interviews were conducted and thematic analysis was used to examine the qualitative data. The results revealed that authentic WPS can increase student motivation and engagement. Learner characteristics regarded as relevant in WPS were motivation, responsibility, independence and discipline. For students, the presence and guidance of the teacher played an essential role in their working and learning effectively. They felt limited in making choices to direct their own learning. Assessment criteria were not transparent enough for students. Concluding, we found that students perceived factors closely related to self-regulated and self-directed learning to be relevant for their learning; however, these learning activities and processes have not yet been sufficiently promoted and supported in the investigated vocational schools. The study highlights design dilemmas for vocational practice and offers indications in how to match both learning environmental characteristics and teacher support tailored to learners' needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-204
Number of pages26
JournalVocations and Learning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Vocational education and training
  • Workplace simulations
  • Student perspective
  • Self-regulated learning
  • Self-directed learning

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