“Where’s my coffee??”: When work-based learning is and is not “High-Impact”
Lindsay Linsky is an associate professor of middle grades education. She is also a member of the UNG HIPs Implementation Team.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of posts called HIPs Implementation about the ongoing USG-directed effort to document and promote HIPs at UNG.
High-Impact Practices (HIPs) center on deep learning. Students participating in HIPs are put in circumstances where they interact with faculty, peers, and leaders regarding substantive matters (NSSE Report, 2007). What’s more, to be a true HIP, those matters must also relate directly back to the content and objectives of the course. Unfortunately, though, that is not always the case, and the tasks that students complete are therefore not always as meaningful as they could be.
Work-based learning opportunities offer a good example of this issue. Internships and other on-site job-related experiences come in a variety of forms that may or may not be high-impact. As the title of this blog post implies, just because someone is participating in a “work-based learning” assignment does not mean they are learning anything related to the material. Perhaps an illustration will demonstrate the point…
Imagine a marketing professor requires an internship as part of a senior-level course and provides a list of local organizations that will host interns on Fridays. One of the students, Molly, secures an internship at a nearby firm, and she is excited to finally put what she’s learned so far into practice in a real-world setting. However, when she arrives the first day, she discovers that her only tasks are picking up dry cleaning, making photocopies, delivering office mail, and other grunt work. In this scenario, is she really learning anything related to a marketing class?
Ideal work-based learning opportunities provide real-world opportunities for students to grapple with the things they learn in class and put theory into practice. To continue the same scenario, imagine that Molly selects an internship at another firm that serves charities and other non-profit organizations. The firm recruits advanced marketing students to produce print and online materials for charities that cannot afford marketing services. In her new internship, Molly is able to utilize her skills in a meaningful and real-world way. She is also able to develop a portfolio of artifacts she can show future employers and gains an outstanding recommendation from the marketing firm.
Which internship is a better fit for Molly? Which helps Molly understand her selected field on a deeper level?
If you are thinking of including work-based elements in your classes, make sure to keep the following key items in mind:
- Students’ experiences should be directly related to the material in your course and the objectives you are trying to reach.
- The experiences should be extended over a significant period of time.
- It is important to establish a collaborative plan with the industry/organization partners containing clear goals and expectations for the internship.
- The student should have a point person or mentor within the organization to help them understand their roles and obligations.
- Keep in close contact with the student through weekly journals or other assignments to ensure the student is achieving the goals.
- Finally, the internship should culminate in a final paper, project, or work-based product that depicts their learning throughout the experience.