The Internship Experience: Maintaining Academic Integrity in Experiential Learning Programs

Robert P. Engvall, Roger Williams University

Field experiences in certain disciplines, particularly in the "quasi-professional" disciplines of teacher education, nursing, and criminal justice, have long been a part of the academic experience. Student teaching for education majors is a required part of each prospective teacher's curriculum, just as "clinical" experience is a mandatory component of a prospective nurse's training. Internships in criminal justice in which students are exposed to different aspects of the legal system also play a critical role in the undergraduate educational experience.

An increased emphasis upon experiential learning continues unabated on college and university campuses. Today, these off-campus "experiential learning" programs are increasingly emphasized in greater numbers of academic disciplines. While it is difficult to argue conceptually with the notion of these internship experiences, it is also troublesome coming to terms with how to evaluate them meaningfully. However arduous it might be, it is vital that we ensure the quality of the experience, and maintain the academic nature and integrity of our larger academic programs. In an attempt to lend some assistance to those of us who struggle with the proper place of internships within our programs, and how we might best supervise these experiences, this article offers some level of guidance in the necessity in improving internship programs and of addressing some of the realities that accompany the advent of a greater emphasis on such programs.

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Updated 05/20/2006