Are all internships beneficial learning experiences? An exploratory study

Holyoak, Lynda orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4694-5128 (2013) Are all internships beneficial learning experiences? An exploratory study. Education + Training, 55 (6). ISSN 0040-0912

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Purpose - Internships are becoming a more common feature of the career paths of young people, however there has been little consideration of how people learn on internships.

Design/methodology/approach - This study analyses the experiences of interns and their supervisors on a research internship programme, using communities of practice as a theoretical framework. Six interns and six supervisors were interviewed approximately six to eight months after the internships were completed.

Findings - Four cases derived from the interviews illustrate extreme types of experience in the internships: optimal conditions for development, intern non-development, supervisor frustration and mutual dissatisfaction.

Research limitations/implications - Although the research is exploratory and limited to the experience of a small group of interns and their supervisors in one setting, it suggests that characteristics of the intern (such as motivation to learn) and the supervisor (e.g. willingness to provide support) can reduce or enhance the learning and development that is achieved during internships.

Originality/value - This paper questions implicit assumptions that internships are always positive and valuable learning experiences.

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