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Title:Student internship experiences and learning opportunities: a mixed methods study
Author(s):Zehr, Sarah Marie
Director of Research:Delaney, Jennifer A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Delaney, Jennifer A.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Trent, William T.; Greene, Jennifer C.; Jankowski, Natasha A.
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Experiential learning
career development
mixed methods
Abstract:In 2000, Coco (2000) reported that an estimated 75% of undergraduate students had some internship experience when they graduated, and the figure is likely higher today. With the vast majority of students participating in some form of internship, the academy needs to understand what students are experiencing and learning as a result. Companies also benefit from a better understanding of what students experience and learn through internships. This study employed mixed methods to explore student experiences in internships, including a survey with both closed- and open-ended questions and semi-structured interviews. The data indicated that internship experiences share a number of characteristics on the surface, but deeper investigation revealed subtle differences that impacted learning outcomes. Inherent student characteristics such as gender, domestic status, and income level can also impact aspects of the internship experience. Five main findings resulted from the study. In general, the workplace represents a conducive learning environment for students to participate in and learn from work tasks. Social interaction played a critical role in learning outcomes, and work environments where students felt comfortable seeking assistance from their supervisor and coworkers resulted in increased learning opportunities. The learning environment at startup companies provides a different set of learning opportunities compared to more traditional established companies; however, this was not the case with the learning environment at all established companies as some shared several characteristics with startups. Students who interned at startups worked on larger projects as opposed to being assigned a series of discrete tasks, which was more common at established companies. Finally, even internship experiences within the same company are unique and depend to some extent on the student, the supervisor, and the team of coworkers. This study contributed to the scholarly literature on internships by providing insight about the types and characteristics of tasks that student perform in internships and the skills and knowledge they gain as a result.
Issue Date:2016-04-04
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Sarah M. Zehr
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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