Workplace Learning in Dual Higher Professional Education

Cindy L. Poortman, Marloes Reenalda*, Wim J. Nijhof, Loek F.M. Nieuwenhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Workplace learning is considered an effective strategy for the development of vocation, career and professional identity. Dual training programs, in which learning at a vocational school and learning at work in a company are combined, are seen as strong carriers for skill formation processes. In this study we explore workplace learning in dual training programs in Dutch higher professional education. To gain an understanding of these learning environments and processes, a qualitative multiple case study was conducted in seven sectors. The findings show substantial differences in learning environments between and within sectors. However, cooperation between school and practice is minimal in all of the cases. Although students develop personal and job-related competencies that are useful for daily work routines, they acquire hardly any profound theoretical knowledge at the workplace. School fails to direct workplace learning. Given the considerable share of workplace learning in dual training programs, and the demands to higher professional education graduates in terms of being able to solve complex problems and develop new knowledge during their career as reflective practitioners, it is important that these shortcomings are resolved. More promising alternatives for workplace learning environments and questions for further research to improve workplace learning in higher professional education are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-190
JournalVocations and learning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Workplace learning
  • Dual trainingprograms
  • Higher professional education
  • Learning environment
  • Case studies
  • Qualitative research


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