We aim to understand and promote adults’ learning and development in professional practice

Our research in this program covers broad fields of initial and continuing, professional and vocational education.

The program also promotes learning and development in ways that address issues of equity and access that benefit individuals, workplaces and communities nationally and internationally.

Professor Stephen Billett and Professor Sarojni Choy lead the program.

Support our research

Donations help drive our findings

About Professional and Practice-Based Learning

Professor Billett introduces GIER’s PPBL Program, which focuses on adults’ learning and development through and across working life.  In this introductory video he alludes to the range of research being undertaken within this Program; see the list of projects below.

Research projects

This Queensland government Education funded Horizon project seeks to identify how the standing and status of vocational education and the occupations it serves can be enhanced to be a more attractive post-school option for young Queenslanders. The project aims is to identify approaches to inform the community, families and students’ decision-making about post-school pathways so that vocational education and the occupations it serves are understood as worthwhile and viable post-school options.

Supported by the Federal Government’s Office of Learning and Teaching, this national project seeks to maximise learning outcomes from university students’ work experiences. The project identifies how post-practicum educational interventions can more effectively secure learning outcomes associated with graduate employability.

Professor Billett discusses the focus of this national research project that aims to enhance the provision of continuing education and training (CET) through Singapore’s polytechnics. It does this through interviews aiming to understand further how working age Singaporeans can engage in effective CET. This project seeks to inform how Singapore’s educational institutions can respond to the educational challenge of the country’s ageing working population.

Like many other countries, Singapore is seeking to enhance learning within and innovative practices occurring in its small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) to support their viability and advancement. This study seeks to understand how learning and innovation occur through every day work activities in Singaporean SMEs so that these activities can be supported and made more effective. The findings suggest that the most effective factors in promoting learning and innovation are those that are positioned locally within these workplaces. The sponsorship of owners and supervisors, and interactions with other workers appear central to learning and innovation at work.

This UNESCO research project seeks to address the problem of how to introduce and sustain work-based learning programs for young people in the Arab Region. The countries involved include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine and Tunisia all of whom are experiencing high levels of unemployment. This project seeks to identify the factors that shape young people’s participation in work-based learning programs and offer advances in how those programs can be engaged with by workplaces and central agencies. The prospect is that work-based learning programs can address the employability of young people. This research identifies how arrangements can be improved to support vocational education provisions for young people.

Dr Steven Hodge has been funded by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research to investigate the sorts of innovation that students who are in work-placement contribute to their hosts’ organisations. His research suggests that their potential to innovate is under-rated and under investigated.

Skills development for realising the workforce competence reserve

This study appraises how best to optimise the learning and competence potential of groups of adults at risk of marginalisation in contemporary labour markets in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Australia. The study explores the complex relationships among:

  • adult skills, characteristics and attitudes as measured by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies OECD 2012
  • adult participation in formal and informal learning activities
  • adult participation in the labour market.

The study identifies characteristics of best practice in adult education within enterprises and public sector initiatives. The potential of newer technology to enhance and make available learning experiences to adults is a focus of the project. Project lead: Professor Stephen Billett.

Understanding and improving pilot learning and development

This project aims to identify gaps in research on pilot training through closely observed investigation into how individuals learn in complex team environments. The study tracks airline pilots as they progress through their careers, focusing on:

  • new pilots entering an airline
  • first officers seeking promotion to captain
  • pilots’ experiences during flight simulation.

With support from the ARC Linkage Program, research outcomes will create innovations in pilot training, with applicability to other complex work settings. Project members: Associate Professor Timothy Mavin and Professor Stephen Billett.

Future-proofing the Vocational Education and Training workforce

This project aims to identify elements supporting VET practitioners’ ongoing learning associated with industry competence and educational capacities. There is no current model or method to track or accurately regulate continuing professional development for this sector and those existing are ad-hoc and considered insufficient. Project members: Dr Mark Tyler and Dr Darryl Dymock.


Stephen Billett presents current research being undertaken by the PPBL group at UNESCO (Paris)

On the 13th of September 2017, Professor Stephen Billett presented a talk at UNESCO in Paris about the current research on: i) learning through work; ii) integrating work experiences into educational programs; iii) standing and status of vocational education and iv) sustaining older workers employability, being conducted at Griffith through the Professional and Practice-based Learning Program, with GIER. The invitation was extended by Borhene Chakroun who is Head of the Youth, Language and Skills Development section, picture here with Hélène Guiol also from YLS. Borhene has recently invited Stephen to lead a study of work-based education in the Arab region.


GIER members leads a highly successful virtual conference for UNESCO on enhancing the image of technical, vocational education and training

Scheduled to coincide with World Youth Skills Day 2018, UNESCO-UNEVOC, organised a virtual conference on the image of technical, vocational education and training (TVET).

This six day virtual conference (16th -23rd July) was attended by 346 participants from 82 countries and moderated by Professor Stephen Billett from GIER.

The conference provided the opportunity for participants from these countries to share perspectives and information about the image of vocational education and to offer suggestions on how the image of vocational education could be enhanced in their countries, and elsewhere, to make it more attractive to young people.

The discussions followed and built upon a series of five topics presented progressively by the moderator over the six day period whose role was also to prompt and progress the discussion across the six days.

The virtual conference was judged to be highly successful by its organisers. Wauter de Regt from UNESCO-UNEVOC in Bonn stated “… it is the highest ever attendance for a virtual conference since they commenced in 2011, and considering that the average participation rates has have been about 180 participants from 60 countries, this virtual conference far exceeded those numbers.”

Stephen Billett is now preparing both a summary and synthesis report for UNESCO-UNEVOC on the contributions made in the conference and how these can inform policy and practice through UNESCO with its strong focus on the education of young people across the globe.

The topic of this virtual is aligned with the Education Horizon project - the Standing and Status of Vocational education and occupation it serves - that is being undertaken by GIER members Stephen, Sarojni Choy, Steven Hodge and Deniese Cox, and with assistance from Leah Lee.

More information

If you’d like to know more about our research, get in touch