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This paper discusses four articles that examine the application of internships and service-learning. These articles each attest to the positive value of internships in college. However, for three out of four articles, the internships are optional, and each study is different in the execution and timing of the internships.
Implementing and Assessing Internships
A hypothesis is not clearly stated in this article, but it discusses the challenges of preparing graduates for the workforce. The purpose seems to be that collaborated assessments result in strong internship experiences, allowing the students to gain real-world practice (Implementing and Assessing Internships, 2012, p. 66).
The study design is quasi-experimental and used unobtrusive measures. The variables were not controlled; rather, the subjects were chosen because they had participated in internships in the educational field. The researchers were unobtrusive by reviewing the work produced by students in the educational program after they had submitted it and graduated (Implementing and Assessing Internships, 2012, p.74).
The article does not share the age, sex, or ethnicity of the participants. However, the participants are senior-level student who have chosen majors in education attending the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, the University of New Hampshire, and Marietta College (Implementing and Assessing Internships, 2012).
The researchers evaluated the success of the internships based on the "letter grades or a pass/fail rating" that was assessed by the internship coordinator (Implementing and Assessing Internships, 2012, p. 75). Some of the dimensions assessed included "their ability to work independently, explore and analyze problems, communicate effectively, and generate solutions to key issues or problems" (Implementing and Assessing Internships, 2012, p. 75). Because this was done ex-post facto, the researchers were not in control of the variables, so they were unable to test varying levels of the variables.
As is expected, successful completion of the student-teacher internship resulted in passing grades, increase in confidence, and future connections in the workforce. These internships broaden the students' skills by allowing them to apply what they have learned, while merging the gap between the continual evaluations provided in the school setting and the less structured workplace environment (Implementing and Assessing Internships, 2012, p. 65).
Internships are the norm for students enrolled in education majors. With the internship being held at the end of the student's program, it is a cumulating experience in which students display their ability to perform the knowledge gained in the classroom. Students are actively involved in the creation of their portfolios, which are generally compiled during the final year of the program and include artifacts reflecting the student's skills and abilities.
Vocation as Discovery: The Contribution of Internship Experience
McKinney and Drovdahl (2007) addressed the hypothesis that "college graduates learn from their internship experiences and discover a clearer sense of their vocational calls" (pp.51-52). Not everyone is intended to be a clergyman, even if they are devoutly religious.
McKinney & Drovdahl (2007) used structured interviews. The interview questions sought responses to experiences, perceptions, and the overall nature of the internship.
The researchers did not specify the participants in the 2003 interviews, but the 2006 interviewees consisted of 18 young adults in their mid-20s, nine males and nine females (McKinney & Drovdahl, 2007, p. 54).
Because the interview questions were mostly open-ended, McKinney & Drovdahl (2007) applied "Glaser and Strauss' constant comparative method, themes were noted and consistently comparedâ€¦to standardize and refine" (p. 56) the information gathered during the interviews.
The study resulted in 60% answered the call for ministry, with 15% still unsure and 25% not pursuing ministry (McKinney & Drovdahl, 2007, p. 51). Students were actively involved in ministry programs, and they were able test whether they want to continue in that profession.
Having never received such a call to go forth and teach, I am amazed that young people in today's society are able to recognize a calling. Having the chance to experience many of the requirements for the profession prior to entering the educational program is an asset.
Creative Powerful Learning Environments beyond the Classroom
The hypothesis tested in this study is that students who participated in service learning opportunities before dedicating 2-6 years of education to a field of study tend to cement their program choices in their college career and tend to fair better in the job market after graduation (Steffes, 2004, p. 46).
The study was quasi-experimental in that it did not create the environment and variables to be studied. Chemistry students were actively engaged in service learning and research (Steffes, 2004, p. 48). Methods included interviews with the current and past participants to rate the initial and long-term perceived value of early service learning, and unobtrusive observation of student participation and grades was used to support the statements with data (Steffes, 2004).
The study involves the observation of first-year students at the University of Maryland, and it is does not state that it limited the participants, so it likely includes both genders and various ethnicities (Steffes, 2004, p. 48). The age is limited to roughly 18-19 year olds because they comprise the majority of the college freshmen, but it does not exclude other age groups. Service Learning is not a required course, so by nature, the observations will be limited to students who are generally more concerned about finding the correct field of study.
The study involved students who chose to participate in an elective course designed to enhance classroom learning with real-life experiences. In addition to reviewing grades and participation, the researchers also contacted current and past students who participated in the service learning program and inquired as to their reactions via interviews (Steffes, 2004).
Service learning courses "help students consider how well they fit into particular organizations" (Steffes, 2004). Students have reported success in finding employment after graduation and increased confidence in their choice of career. Because colleges and students are seeing the positive results of early internships, colleges have increased non-required internship opportunities for students who are interested in participating, but more colleges "have begun to require an internship to help students expand their learning experiences" (Steffes, 2004, p. 48).
This article helped reinforce my idea of hands-on internships earlier in the student's college career. Students are encouraged to participate in these courses to essentially test-drive their career choice, especially if their program will take numerous years to complete. For example, if a student is in the pre-med program, service-learning opportunities offer the student the chance to work in the field, usually hands-on, to gain real experience. If that student learns that the health field is not where they want to spend the next thirty years, but he really enjoyed the work of an engineer, he is able to change his college major.
Fully interdisciplinary experiences in one's own neighborhood increases students' knowledge of and association to the community, allowing them to analyze and appreciate the richness of their surroundings while making connections to the various courses they have taken or will encounter while attending college.
This study was performed as a case study within an elective college course. The professor designed this class from scratch, providing the structure to test his hypothesis. The subjects voluntarily enrolled in the interdisciplinary course as an elective.
Twenty-one students varied in age, gender, ethnicity, and majors. These students voluntarily enrolled in Urban Connections and were interested in engaging their classroom learning to the real world.
The physical data collected would be in the form of student work and applications that resulted in a grade. The most important information gathered in this case study/course is reflected in the subsequent actions of the students following the course. At the end of the case study/course, "two students bought memberships to the art museum, several purchased theater tickets, one applied to become a tutor for the Upward Bound program, and several planned to apply for internships and jobs related to their majors" (Dardig, 2004).
At the end of the trial course, students evaluated the course, giving the professor positive feedback about their experiences. Students were introduced to various businesses that offer internships and employment and to an array of subjects with which students might have been unfamiliar, thereby stimulating the students into making educational connections.
I found that I agreed with this professor that college classroom education can be limited to book learning, leaving students unable to make connections between required courses. It is important for students to take what they have learned and be able to apply it to what they encounter in the real world, especially in one's own neighborhood. An elective class like this would be a helpful for those who are struggling to declare a major or to decide on a career.
These articles show that educators are seeing the value of internships for college students, regardless of field of study. What differs in my research question is a matter of when the internship is applied. Most colleges have internships as the culmination of their learning rather than as an exploration of possibilities. Jeanne Steffes' article about freshman year service learning opportunities and J.C. Dardig's article about an elective interdisciplinary course connecting knowledge are along the lines of what I would like to see be required for as a part of the core curriculum. Once the students have ample experiences, sometimes in various fields, they are more prepared to declare a major and continue with confidence in their decisions. My research would focus on proving the importance of initial internships during the freshman year of college to allow students the chance to explore career options before declaring a major.