In this blog series, we feature the ongoing scholarship of each research team participating in the Center for Engaged Learning (CEL) 2019-2021 research seminar on Writing Beyond the University: Fostering Writers’ Lifelong Learning and Agency. This blog post features research by a team comprised of Michael-John DePalma, associate professor of English and the coordinator of Professional Writing and Rhetoric at Baylor University (United States); Michelle Eady, associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Wollongong (Australia); Radhika Jaidev, assistant professor at the Singapore Institute of Technology (Singapore); Ina Alexandra Machura, post-doc researcher at Siegen University (Germany); Lilian Mina, associate professor and director of composition at Auburn University at Montgomery (United States); and Kara Taczak, teaching associate professor and director of Faculty Development and ePortfolio Initiatives at the University of Denver (United States). We asked the team a series of questions to help us showcase their work from the seminar and their findings so far.

This team’s research focuses on the productive intersections between two fields: the study and teaching of writing transfer and the study and practice of work-integrated learning (WIL). (For more information on WIL, our related blog post provides an overview.) In the first year of the CEL seminar, researchers are put together in cross-institutional teams and together they establish a research project that builds on their individual expertise and interests. One of the key elements of this team’s work has been figuring out the connections between writing transfer and WIL, a practice well-situated in Australia, where one of the team members lives, but not as common (at least as a composite framing for internships, service-learning, and practicums) in the other team members’ home countries. Identifying the overlap between the two fields has been one of the most exciting and important elements of this team’s work, leading to several forthcoming articles. In particular, the team is exploring what writing transfer can learn from WIL and how WIL can be enhanced by an intentional focus on writing.

Another exciting element of the team’s research has been their multilayered approach to data collection, which includes student and supervisor interviews and 360 reflections from students, guided reflections at the beginning, mid-point, and end of their WIL placements. The student interviews provide insight into their perceptions of their writing experiences and learning in the workplace contexts; in the supervisor interviews, supervisors describe their attempts to mentor writers within internships and other work-integrated learning contexts. Interviewing supervisors has also helped the team understand the real writing needs of employers and how WIL has been beneficial to students. The 360 reflections allow the students to look for recursive moments of learning, connect workplace and classroom learning, and bring workplace learning back into their coursework. This data collection is allowing the team to develop a more robust picture of what and where transfer is happening. And preliminary analysis is helping to confirm what the field of writing studies already knows about transfer:  students can transfer writing knowledge to concurrent and subsequent contexts when curricula support that goal.

This research team, like others, has faced challenges with communication across languages, contexts, and time zones; participant drop-out due to natural attrition coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic; and managing such a large data set. One member of the team commented that research is just messy, requiring researchers to adjust and adapt as the project evolves; she noted that, as teachers, we remind our students of this messiness, but we sometimes forget that reality when we shift our focus to our own research. Despite the challenges, the team recognizes the broad implications of their research. One of those implications is that WIL may help writing programs reconceptualize writing majors and the writing pedagogies used in internships or other co-curricular learning contexts. The research is also helping the team think about the threshold concepts of writing for professional contexts, and how new pedagogies might better prepare students to understand and navigate these threshold concepts. This team’s research findings are likely to influence how colleges prepare students for workplace writing and the study of writing transfer and work-integrated learning.

We’ll showcase the team’s publications on the Center’s website as they become available.

Julia Bleakney is director of The Writing Center in the Center for Writing Excellence and assistant professor of English at Elon University. She is co-leading the 2019-2021 research seminar on Writing Beyond the University: Fostering Writers’ Lifelong Learning and Agency.

How to cite this post:

Bleakney, Julia. 2021, April 6. “Writing Transfer and Work Integrated Learning: A Productive Alignment” [Blog Post]. Retrieved from