Work integrated learning as a tool for therapeutic recreation students in the first year of their undergraduate degree
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Therapeutic recreation is one field within leisure practice. Exposure to Therapeutic Recreation (TR) or Leisure studies as a future career, for most commencing undergraduate students is limited in Australia. At Western Sydney University, nested within a Health Science degree is a specialisation or ‘key program’ in Therapeutic Recreation. Some students default into the course as it has ‘health science’ in the title — with the intention of transferring during the course or completing postgraduate studies in ‘their first field’ such as physiotherapy, nursing, podiatry and other health sciences at a later date. This case study will identify and discuss the benefits of Work Integrated Learning [WIL] in the first year of the Therapeutic Recreation (TR) degree for student retention, satisfaction, career development and how the work placement in the first year of their degree assists to develop a student's career trajectory. Whilst meeting the learning outcomes for the Professional Pathways in Health Science unit, an unexpected result has been multiple students changing their career allegiances to the leisure sciences, as well as many entering paid employment and/or seeking further volunteer opportunities as a result of the placement. Academic audiences would benefit from this case study by considering the timing of work placements and the scaffolding of knowledge and skills throughout degree courses, particularly in specialist professional fields. Across most allied health and other professional degrees, work placements are typically scaffolded into the curriculum toward the end of their degrees and therefore fail to gain authentic exposure to the various fields of practice and contexts in which the health and leisure professional may work in the initial stages of their degree.