Keynote Address: Professor Stephen Billett

Dr Stephen Billett is Professor of Adult and Vocational Education in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow.

After a career in garment manufacturing, he has worked as a vocational educator, educational administrator, teacher educator, professional development practitioner and policy developer in the Australian vocational education system and as a teacher and researcher at Griffith University. Since 1992, he has researched learning through and for work and has published widely in fields of learning of occupations, workplace learning, work and conceptual accounts of learning for vocational purposes.

His sole authored books include Learning through work: Strategies for effective practice (Allen and Unwin 2001); Work, change and workers (Springer 2006)Vocational Education (Springer 2011) and Mimetic learning at Work (2014) and Integrating Practice-based Learning in Higher Education Programs (Springer 2015). His edited books include Work, Subjectivity and Learning (Springer, 2006) Emerging Perspectives of Work and Learning (Sense 2008), Learning through practice (Springer 2010), Promoting professional learning (Springer 2011), Experiences of school transitions (Springer 2012), Promoting, assessing, recognizing and certifying Lifelong Learning (Springer 2014), Francophone conceptions of Learning through practice (Springer 2015), and Enhancing Teaching and Learning in the Dutch Vocational EducationSystem (Springer 2017).

He is the founding and Editor in Chief of Vocations and learning: Studies in vocational and professional education (Springer) and lead editor of the book series Professional and practice-based learning (Springer) the International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning (2014) with colleagues from Germany. He was a Fulbright Professional Scholar in 1999, awarded a 2009-2010 Australian Learning and Teaching Council National Teaching Fellowship that identified principles and practices to effectively integrate learning experiences in practice and academic settings. In June 2011, he commenced a four-year Australian Research Council Future Fellowship on learning through practice, which aims to develop a curriculum and pedagogy of practice. He has recently secured an Office of Learning and Teaching Development Grant examining students’ post-practicum experiences (2015-2018). In August 2013, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Jyvasksla University (Finland) for his contributions to educational science and elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia in 2015.


The task of preparing professionals for working life has perhaps never been more demanding and complex. The requirements for occupational practice are constantly changing, the circumstances of their enactment increasingly diverse, expectations by students, workplaces and governments are ever growing and lengthening working lives means that initial occupational preparation needs to equip graduates for ongoing development. The educational project faced by organisations such as ACAP is tough, demanding and perilous. So, the expectations of tertiary educational institutions is to secure a smooth transition to practice and graduates securing the capacities to develop further and sustain effective professional practice across working life. Here, it is proposed that these educational challenges prompt a careful consideration of what should guide and drive professional preparation programs, and also the kinds of educational practices that need to be employed to develop adaptable and responsive professionals for the 21st century.

Having made a case about the changing nature of occupational requirements, this presentation discusses how preparing graduates for this dynamic work environment might be best understood. It does this by distinguishing between the canonical knowledge of the occupation and the situated requirements of its enactment in particular circumstances of its practice, both of which are dynamic. It is proposed that experiences of and consideration of situational factors need to be accounted for alongside preparing students with the canonical knowledge of the occupation. That preparation, it is proposed, needs to include the provision of authentic practice-based experiences, and the adoption of pedagogic practices that can integrate and enrich educational experiences, through developing learner interdependence. Together, these educational provisions can be directed to promote the development of principled understandings and practices that are generative of adaptability in their enactment and the development of interdependence by students as nascent professionals. It is this combination of factors that may well position the provision of initial professional education as being best able to meet the contemporary challenges.

ACAP, NCPS, HSA and ATTC are colleges in the Navitas Professional Institute (NPI). NPI is a part of the Navitas Professional and English Programs (PEP) division of Navitas Limited.