Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Research Student: Gisela Oliveira

Photo of Gisela Oliveira

Transfer of Learning between Higher Education and the Workplace

Submission Date: December 2015

My research aims to investigate transfer of learning between Higher Education and the workplace by looking at students’ transitions between University and their one year work-placement.

Transfer of learning can be broadly defined as the ability to apply previous learning in future and diversified settings. However, this research argues that students’ transitions are more complex than a direct application of knowledge and proposes to develop an alternative framework to look at this transition by focusing on student´s transfer of knowledge, not only technical, but also practical and relational and on student´s identity development and social interactions in the placement.

The study will draw on data collected from interviews and observation of three instrumental cases, each of them following an undergraduate student from the University of Leeds during his/hers one year work-placement. Some secondary data, such as the participant´s weekly placement reflections and documents provided by the employers will also be analysed. Within each of the three cases the research aim is to look at students’ transfer processes not just from Higher Education to the workplace, but also from the workplace back to University.


I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Training Management and Educational Administration, both awarded by the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Coimbra, Portugal. For both degrees I wrote a thesis, for the first the focus was on reproductive rights in Higher Education (Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Higher Education Studies, Adapting and Validating the Sexuality Questionnaire) and for the second on self-regulation and learning transfer (Self-Regulation and Transfer of Learning: A study with trainees from Youth Education and Training Courses)

I started working as a research assistant for the Psycopedagogy Research at University of Coimbra but my previous work before starting the PhD was as a training coordinator and training and investment project manager at Indice ICT and Management, in Portugal. Among other things my role required me to design applications for public funding of training and investment projects and their management once approved. It also required the development of pedagogical methodologies for training projects and individual training projects for trainees.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

Since I finished my degree (2007) I knew that I wanted to continue studying, however I also found it important for me to get some work experience in different settings before fully committing to a PhD. In 2009 I enrolled in a Master´s degree as a test-dive on my ability to do research and as soon as I submitted my thesis I enrolled in my current PhD.  

What makes me passionate about my subject?

It was during my work at Indice that I realized how much transfer of learning is an important topic for education and training. It was there also that I realized how much it is taken for granted in training designs and training projects. This spark of interest made it my Master´s Thesis topic and a growing understanding on how much there is to know about how people learn and apply what they learn in different settings and areas of life made me want to pursue it in a PhD.  Three years into my studies into reading and thinking about learning transfer I still find it a challenging and interesting topic.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I desire to pursue an academic career, probably looking for post-doc positions and the opportunity to teach in Higher Education and research topics that I find challenging. At the time I would pursue any research on learning in Higher Education, learning transfer, employability and/or professional identity development. 

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