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(How) Do work placements work? Scrutinizing the quantitative evidence for a theory-driven future research agenda

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posted on 05.10.2018, 13:12 authored by Ilke Inceoglu, Eva SelenkoEva Selenko, Almuth McDowall, Svenja Schlachter
While supervised work placements are increasingly popular in higher education, evidence regarding their effects on career outcomes remain somewhat sparse and atheoretical. The aim of this systematic literature review is to evaluate the effectiveness of placements for career outcomes and to identify any underpinning core psychological processes and to offer a theoretically grounded framework for future research. Drawing on transition theory (Schlossberg, 1981) and career construction theory (Savickas, 1997), we argue that supervised work experiences are central transition experiences that enable social learning processes and trigger changes in a person's identity development as a professional, thereby increasing career resources and employability which in turn affect future career outcomes positively. We screened 2394 systematically selected abstracts across several databases and disciplines. Only quantitative studies that either offered a control-group or a longitudinal design were included, resulting in an in-depth review of 40 studies, applying a rigorous evaluation protocol. Placement participation elicits an overall positive (but small) effect on career outcomes: Graduates who completed a work placement found employment more quickly. Work placements also changed students' perceptions of self-efficacy, their knowledge, skills, and attitudes. We suggest that these changes could be seen as indicative of the proposed social learning processes and identity changes that positively affect career resources. Our review points to several gaps in the literature, and building on existing career theories, we develop a theoretical model and offer new avenues for future research to integrate the heterogenic field of placement research and inform career research in other areas.


This project was supported by a Research Stimulation and Impact Fund awarded to Eva Selenko by the University of Sheffield Management School.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business

Published in

Journal of Vocational Behavior




Part B


317 - 337


INCEOGLU, I. ... et al, 2019. (How) Do work placements work? Scrutinizing the quantitative evidence for a theory-driven future research agenda. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 110(Pt B), pp. 317-337.


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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Elsevier under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.