Even though the concept of experiential learning has been practically utilized by universities and colleges for over sixty years now, there is still much uncertainty as to what should represent a proper methodology for measuring its effectiveness. The issue had attained even a greater degree of acuteness throughout recent decades, when the academic practice of allowing students to attain experience-based professional skills was conceptualized within the procedural framework of in-sourced experiential training (internship), on one hand, and out-sourced experiential training (externship), on another. What adds to the problem is the fact the bulk of the research that has been conducted on the subject matter is of essentially utilitarian essence. That is while investigating the correlation between the concepts of internship and externship, most researchers referred to these concepts as ‘things in themselves, without taking into account the fact that both academic models are the subjects to currently dominant socio-political discourse. In our work, we will aim to fill this gap, while basing paper’s hypothesis on the presumption that, since the realities of living in a post-industrial society result in methodological approaches, regarding the academic practices of externship and internship, to remain in the state of constant transition, there can be no quantitative technique for measuring the extent of both practices’ effectiveness. Therefore, the application of the quantitative approach to researching the topic would be systemically inappropriate. Instead, while proceeding with a study, we will resort to the utilization of qualitative research methodology – namely, the review of relevant academic literature. During conducting a literature review, we will test the strengths and weaknesses of our proposed hypothesis. This hypothesis can be formulated as follows: even though the concepts of internship and externship were originally seen as equally applicable to students specializing in liberal sciences and to students specializing in technical sciences; nowadays, this is no longer the case. As of today, there is a clear tendency in Western countries for externs to consist predominantly of students who proceed with liberal studies, and for interns to consist predominantly of students who proceed with technical studies. Moreover, as we intend to show in our work, there is also a tendency for externship programs to appeal particularly to representatives of racial minorities, while internship programs appeal mostly to Caucasians. We suggest that this hypothesis should be considered a subject of further research if at least 50% of reviewed academic materials would be found as such that contain explicit/implicit proofs as to the full validity of a suggestion we have hypothesized upon.
Ever since Jack Mezirow had conceptualized the notion of transformational/experiential learning, the majority of educators remained convinced that the operational aspects of the internship were essentially the same as the operational aspects of externship. In its turn, this explains why methodological approaches to in-sourced and out-sourced experiential training have been commonly assumed as such that should be based upon recognition of the fact that students’ ability to succeed with experience-based studies is being correlative to teachers’ ability to choose in favor of a proper learning style. In his study Stimulating awareness of actual learning processes, Scott (2002) provides us with insight into the fact that externs and interns can be generally categorized as 1) Accommodators (students that adjust theoretical knowledge to empirically received knowledge), 2) Assimilators – students that adjust experienced-based knowledge to theoretical knowledge, obtained in the places of learning), 3) Divergers – (students that tend to mentally combine both types of knowledge into one inseparable compound), 4) Convergers – (students that can only feel comfortable with theoretically received knowledge for as long as they are being allowed to test it practically). Therefore, according to the author, the practical utilization of experience-based learning strategies, such as ‘action research, ‘action learning’, ‘casual analysis’ and ‘problem-solving, should never cease being observant of students’ epistemological capabilities. At the same time, Scott insists that all of these strategies should be based upon the assumption that theoretical knowledge is best memorized if it is being emotionally backed up: “The theory is more meaningful when there has been an event to attach it to” (2003, p. 7). The reason for this is simple – according to Scott, students’ exposal to what the author defines as ’emotional triggers’, stimulates the workings of their sense of rationale. In other words, Scott’s suggestions as to what should account for the effectiveness of internship and externship are being firmly based upon his rationale-based worldview.
In their study Learning by doing something else: Variation, relatedness, and the learning curve, Schilling et al. (2003) strived to define the relation between what they define as ‘learning curve’ (the rate with which people absorb experience-based knowledge), and the extent of such knowledge’s specialization. Authors were able to define the essence of the study’s inquiry with perfect exactness: “Is organizational learning maximized through specialization, or does some amount of variation improve the learning rate?” (2003, p. 39). After having conducted a series of qualitative experiments over the sample of 90 students, enrolled in internship/externship programs, authors concluded that the increased learning variation does affect ‘learning curve’ rather positively: “The findings indicate that groups working under conditions of related variation… learned at a significantly faster rate, on average, than did teams that either worked under conditions of specialization or unrelated variation” (2003, p. 52). The author regarded the empirical data, obtained during their study, as proof of the fact that the ultimate purpose of service-learning should be providing students with an opportunity to make practical use of their existential autonomy in the professional field of their choice.
The same can be said about Thompson’s (1950) article Internship training programs, in which the author had gone a great length while trying to substantiate his understanding of the very concept of internship as something that organically derives out one’s White psyche (the principle of individualistic self-autonomy), which partially explains rather a categorical sounding of many author’s statements: “There are no real disadvantages connected with internship training. Most of the difficulties encountered are the result of poor selection of participants” (1950, p. 400). According to the author, the objectives of in-sourced experiential training can be summarized as follows: 1) Acquiring skills as to how theoretical knowledge can be utilized in practice, 2) Obtaining knowledge as to the organizational structure of a place of future employment, 3) Providing students with an additional opportunity to make a right career-related choice, 4) Providing students with an opportunity to make a good impression on future employers. In the same article, Thompson also assesses the benefices of internship from the point of view of an employer: 1) Interns help future employers to deal with the shortage of workers, especially during the peak seasons, 2) By being provided with an opportunity to have interns working on a temporal basis, employers would be less likely to hire workers that do not quite suit for the job. Thus, Thompson article’s most outstanding characteristic appears to be the fact that, throughout its entirety, the author never ceases to suggest that choosing the right students for internship defines the extent of internship’s successfulness more than anything else does: “Only students who are qualified and who will benefit from internship training should be permitted to participate in such programs” (1950, p. 398). This can be explained by the fact that Thomson wrote his article in time before the concept of political correctness had attained official status in America – nowadays, educators are being forbidden to refer to some students as ‘wrong’ and others as ‘right’.
Given the fact that Glaser’s (1959) study Internship appointments of medical students, was conducted in the late fifties, it does not come as a particular surprise that its research methodology and its conclusions appear to be correlative with that of Thompson’s. According to Glaser, it is a matter of foremost importance to ensure that medical students, selected for an internship, do meet the criteria of professional adequacy. The author defines such criteria’s components as follows: 1) Information (Interns must understand what represent their goal, in regards to the chosen professional career), 2) Characteristics of the actor (Is the student being motivated enough? Is there is anything that would handicap student’s performance?), 3) Influences upon the actor (Students must be not be subjected to outside influences, which Glaser considers ‘harmful’, such as affiliation with Communist party). As far as students’ eligibility for a specialized internship is being concerned, the author adopts an essentially socio-Darwinist stance: “Students who consistently show the highest standing in the medical school’s examinations are far more likely than their classmates to choose and to receive specialized internships” (1959, p. 348). Thus, the ideas contained in Glaser’s study appear to be reflective of his deep-seated sense of Western mindedness. However, given the realities of post-industrial living, Glaser’s suggestions as to what should account for the effectiveness of an internship, cannot be thought of as representing an undeniable truth-value.
The reading of Merriam and Tseane’s (2008) qualitative study Transformational learning in Botswana: How culture shapes the process, substantiates the validity of our suggestion. In it, authors went about establishing the main premise for an inquiry by suggesting that the very concept of experiential training, as formulated by Mezirow, might not necessarily suit the needs of ethnically-diverse students: “Mezirow’s orientation toward autonomy uncritically reflected the values of the dominant culture in our society-masculine, white, and middle class-and that autonomy and independence were particularly Western values” (2008, p. 185). To test the soundness of their suggestion, Merriam and Tseane interviewed 12 individuals from Botswana’s capital Gaborone, whose lifestyle was affected by experiential learning that had taken place at some point in their lives. According to the obtained data, only one of 12 interviewed individuals had confirmed that the received experience-based knowledge was beneficial, within the context of confirming the validity of earlier obtained theoretical knowledge. Authors explain this by the fact that; whereas, the experiential training provided to Botswanians by Western educators is being concerned with rationale-based virtue of personal responsibility/autonomy, the interviewees did not hold this virtue in particularly high regard: “In contrast to a focus on the individual, many non-Western cultures emphasize the collective; the individual has little if any identity separate from the larger community” (2008, p. 191). Authors’ observations had led them to conclude that: “It is namely culture that shapes a transformational learning experience” (2008, p. 194). Even though the empirical part of Merriam and Tseane’s study had taken place in Botswana, the authors’ conclusions represent a particular interest for our research, simply because American society continues to grow increasingly multicultural.
However, as the realities of today’s living indicate, even many American progressive educators do not quite realize the educational implications of multiculturalism. For example, even though in her article Preparing undergraduates for careers: An argument for the internship practicum, Bay (2006) had repeatedly suggested that it is quite inappropriate to impose strict academic criteria upon interns, there is still little difference can be found between her recommendations as to what increases the effectiveness of in-sourced learning, and recommendations contained in Thompson’s article, because they appear being firmly based upon the author’s clearly defined perceptional rationality. The most important of Bay’s conclusions can be summarized as follows: 1) Internship provides an opportunity for students to make rational choices about their future careers. Yet, the author emphasizes these choices as being of necessarily qualitative essence: “One of our best English majors was convinced that she wanted to be an editor… The internship experience allowed her to recognize that she was more interested in the production of the text” (2006, p. 137), 2) Internship is the tool of refining students’ sense of ethics: “The internship course can serve as a minicourse in workplace ethics and provide support for challenging unethical behaviors on the job” (2006, p. 137). It’s needless to mention, of course, that Bay does not bother to define what represents an ‘unethical behavior’ – according to the author, whatever rational mind perceives as unethical, should be considered as such. 3) Internship endows students with a sense of self-confidence: “One last benefit that the internship course offers is increased confidence” (2006, p. 139). Yet, it never occurred to the author that, due to specifics of their ethnocultural affiliation, some students simply cannot be instilled with an utterly individualistic sense of self-confidence.
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that rationalistic motives of self-autonomy and control only dominate internship-related discourse in America’s academia. The reading of Starr and Conley’s (2006) study Becoming a registered nurse: The nurse extern experience, leaves very doubtful as to the fact that this is also being the case with externships in the field of nursing. At the very beginning of their study, authors establish a hypothesis that it is namely the shortage of certified nurses in the eighties and nineties, which created preconditions for more and more America’s hospitals to go as far as providing nurse-externs with full-time employment opportunities: “Hospitals found those (externship) programs useful because they provided an immediate ‘extra set of hands’ while simultaneously serving as a successful recruitment strategy” (2006, p. 87). While developing their argument further, Starr and Conley concluded that student nurses specifically can take quick action (often contrary to rules and regulations), which should be considered as the foremost indication of their professional excellence. In its turn, this explains why throughout the study’s entirety, authors continuously imply that the introduction of more rules and regulations into the field of nursing impedes externs’ chances to acquaint themselves with the actual realities of working as nurses. Given the fact that student-nurses are being forbidden from giving patients intravenous shots, it results in the increase of anti-externship sentiment among registered nurses, who rely upon externs as helpers: “I (an extern) tried to explain (to a nurse) that we couldn’t administer IVs… nurse looked at me and said, ‘Well then what good are you to me?” (2006, p. 89). Thus, as was the case with the authors of previously analyzed articles/studies, Starr and Conley imply that, for a particular student to succeed with an externship in nursing, he or she must necessarily be sharing the values of rationale-based decisiveness and improvisational voluntarism.
This; however, does not imply that the practice of an externship in America’s academia is as much subjected to essentially Western ideals of existential individualism, as it is being the case with the practice of an internship. The field of nursing (and statistics, as it will be shown later), in this respect, stands out as an exception. In its turn, this explains why many externs, specializing in liberal sciences, consist of representatives of racial minorities the strict academic criteria do not apply to these sciences as much as it applies to technical sciences. For example, in the study Spanish and service-learning: Pedagogy and praxis, Weldon and Trautmann (2003) proclaim their full agreement with the idea that the purpose for Hispanic students (specialized in linguistics) to enroll in externship programs is simply to teach them how to appreciate diversity: “The purpose of an externship education is not merely to help people find their place in the existing society, but to empower people with the self-respect and understanding needed to form a new and more just social order” (2003, p. 575). According to this study, for 14 years the University of North Carolina-Asheville has been encouraging Hispanic students to sign up for externships within mostly non-academic environments: “Since 1996, students studying Spanish at UNCA have participated in a variety of placements for service-learning in Spanish. These placements include teaching English to Mexican restaurant workers, interning with the local Asheville Latin Americans for Advancement Society, interpreting for a town police department…” (2003, p. 576). Given the methodological context of this type of externship, it would be naïve to expect that the effectiveness of student-externs socializing with Mexican restaurant workers could be qualitatively measured – yet, the fact that these students are considered as having undergone an externship, automatically gains their academic credits.
The points raised earlier fully apply to Beebe and de Costa’s (1993) study Teaching beyond the classroom: The Santa Clara University Eastside project community service and the Spanish classroom, in which authors provide us with insight into the actual quality of Hispanic externs practicing their language skills with Mexican immigrants while being supervised by Hispanic teachers. According to the authors, the ultimate purpose of Santa Clara University sending out students on the mission of ‘celebrating diversity is to serve the needs of the Hispanic community: “Students meet the practical needs of underserved Hispanic populations as they pursue the opportunity to practice their classroom language skills in an environment which nurtures a type of learning that cannot be provided within the traditional classroom” (1993, p. 884). Predictably enough, Beebe and Costa’s study contains an extensive number of sophistically sounding but essentially meaningless terms, such as ’empowerment through participation, ‘transition-decision making’, ‘interactional positiveness’ etc. Yet, despite the actual size of this study, it does not contain even a single clue as to how the quality of externs’ performance should be measured, except for the fact that authors imply that externship’s effectiveness has something to do with: “Concrete and well-defined experiences for the student participant at the placement site…” (1993, p. 884). Given the study’s context, it appears that the intensity of externs’ ‘concrete and well-defined experiences’ can be interpreted in just any way imaginable.
When compared to two earlier reviewed studies, the study Latinos and literacy: An upper-division Spanish course with service learning by Plann (2002), appears to be more objective, as in the study’s thesis author had recognized a simple fact that there is simply no appropriate methodology in existence to measure the extent of service-learning quality, especially when the practice of an externship is being concerned: “Lack of consensus on a definition of service hand with a dearth of models for classes that incorporate it” (2002, p. 330). This, however, did not prevent Planned from sticking to essentially the same point of view that the ultimate reason for Hispanic students from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) to participate in externship programs, is to make this world a better place to live, as opposed to gaining experience-based knowledge, relevant to their studies. According to the author, Hispanic students’ enrollment into externship programs: 1) Provides students with the awareness of social problems, 2) Enables students to acquaint themselves with different segments of society, 3) Helps students to break socially constructed racial barriers. It is interesting to note that, according to Plan, none of the Hispanic students that are being invited to participate in externship by UCLA, specializes in technical disciplines: “Many who enroll are Spanish or Chicana/o Studies majors, but other departments, including Anthropology, English, Latin American Studies, Linguistics, Psychology, and Sociology, are represented as well” (2002, p. 332). As it comes out of the study’s context, there can be only one semi-objective criterion to evaluate the effectiveness of these students’ externship – their ability to indulge in lengthy monologues on the dangers of racism, as the ultimate result of having participated in externship programs.
In her article Sustainable service-learning programs, Cushman (2003) articulated several different concerns as to what now represents the mechanism for measuring the effectiveness of externship-based and internship-based learning, which resonate with the ones that we have risen earlier. According to the author, the main problem with today’s experience-based training is the fact that educators, in charge of evaluating such training’s outcome, often realize that the methodological approaches, they are expected to utilize, appear essentially irrational, and: “Without a well-defined methodology, service-learning professors have difficulties representing to others their systematic inquiries” (2003, p. 47). As the author had rightly pointed out, one of the reasons why teachers often experience a particularly hard time, while assessing the effectiveness of experience-based learning, on the part of their students, is that the very nature of educators’ work hardly allows them much of an opportunity to spend time with students in the ‘field’, especially when the practice of an externship is being concerned: “The professors in these courses rarely, if ever, go on-site with their students to research, leaving these kinds of courses to prey to a host of problems that can compromise the accountability of the program” (2003, p. 44). This also explains why many outside-campus employers often appear skeptical as to whether the externs that are being sent to them might come in any use, whatsoever: “I fear that some service-learning initiatives still replicate a hit-it-and-quit-it relation with communities” (2003, p. 41). Cushman concludes her article by suggesting that it is only when service-learning practices are being systemically organized, that educators will find themselves in the position of expecting these practices to yield positive results.
Cushman article’s ideas are being largely shared by Luft and Vidoni (2000), who is their study Educator externships: How classroom teachers can acquire business and industry experience, have theorized on what should constitute the foremost principles of a successful externship, for as long as educators themselves are being concerned. According to authors, what especially contributes to impeding teachers’ ability to properly evaluate the effectiveness of service-learning, on the part of students, is that only a few out of these teachers had a chance to familiarize themselves with the concept of experiential training, as ‘thing in itself”: “More than 80 percent of classroom teachers have never worked outside a school building (BellSouth Foundation 1999)” (2000, p. 81). During their study, Luft and Vidoni had interviewed 23 university educators, which were at the time enrolled in an externship program called “Occupational Development in Business and Industry”. According to the obtained qualitative data, two-thirds of the interviewees have indicated that, after having participated in the program, their proficiency in evaluating students’ internship/externship-based performance had increased significantly.
In his article Kolb’s experiential learning theory: A framework for assessing person-job interaction, Sims (1983) came up with several suggestions as to what should account for a proper methodological framework, which could be utilized for evaluating the effectiveness of experience-based learning. These suggestions are based on the author’s recognition of the fact that externs/interns’ performance should be accessed through the lenses of what represents a professional environment at every particular site: “Consider the job as a learning environment that may facilitate, inhibit, of competence, satisfaction, or impede individual feelings or value placed on work” (1983, p. 503). Therefore, according to Sims, before a particular educator moves on to evaluate the outcome of experiential learning, he or she must first evaluate the working environment, while utilizing the author’s methodological approach, consisting of 4 points: 1) Affective orientation (does experiential training on a site allow students to develop interpersonal skills?) 2) Perceptual orientation (does experiential training on a site prompt students to reflect upon an obtained practical knowledge?) 3) Symbolic orientation (does experiential training on a site help students to increase the extent of their intellectual flexibility?) 4) Behavioral orientation (does experiential training on a site endow students with the sense of self-autonomy?). Sims concluded his article by suggesting that, while evaluating the effectiveness of internship/externship, teachers should always keep in mind that students’ semi-professional performance never ceases to be subjected to the continuous interplay between the factors of job demand, performance competence, and learning competence.
In his article A model of work-based learning, Raelin (1997) was able to bring Sim’s conclusion to a completely new level, by suggesting that no proper methodology can be worked out for measuring the effectiveness of experience-based learning unless the understanding of the human psyche’s epistemological workings is being incorporated into such methodology: “Although there is now a rich source of knowledge to help us understand how work-based learning occurs and may be facilitated, we need a model which might integrate the many traditions underlying its construction” (1997, p. 564). According to Raelin, there are two types of knowledge: explicit and tacit. In the realm of theory, explicit knowledge actualizes itself as conceptualization, and in the realm of practice – as reflection. In its turn, tacit knowledge actualizes itself as experimentation and experience, respectively. Therefore, Raelin concludes that it is utterly inappropriate to discuss experience-based knowledge outside of practice, and vice versa. The experience-based learning theory, proposed by the author, treats tacit and explicit types of knowledge as such that derive out of each other in rather an organic manner: “Our work-based learning model deliberately merges theory with practice and acknowledges the intersection of explicit and tacit forms of knowing” (1997, p. 574). Yet, it is highly unlikely for goal-oriented representatives of governmental institutions and commercial organizations that cooperate with universities, within the context of providing students with internship opportunities, to be even aware of Raelin theory’s existence, and to say the least – to be utilizing it in practice.
As practice shows, externship/internship-providing organizations rarely take into account academic recommendations as to how they should proceed with choosing in favor of the right candidates. The reading of Knouse and Fontefont’s (2008) article Benefits of the business college internship: A research review, substantiates the validity of such our suggestion. In it, authors had reviewed a substantial amount of literature, in regards to the subject matter, while coming to the following set of conclusions as to what off-campus employers perceive as the preliminary criteria for successful internship: 1) The extent of their expectations’ realism (employers often decide on the beneficence of a potential intern by simply assessing him/her visually), 2) The qualitative subtleties of their previous experiences with interns (employers tend to hire those students that are not being visually/intellectually affiliated with those that had proven themselves bad workers in the past), 3) The availability/non-availability of a possibility for employers to proceed with mentoring interns in a way they consider appropriate (employers regard interns as future employees, and as such – subjected to the code of corporal ethics). Thus, as it appears from Knouse and Fontefont’s article, it is namely employers who enjoy an upper hand, while contributing to the formulation of internship-based policies. In the field of experience-based training, practice dominates over theory.
In his article Interns: One way to succeed with recruitment goals, McDowell (2008) provides us with a factual account of how Goodyear Corporation went about recruiting interns. According to the author, the reason why Goodyear experienced a particular need in providing student-interns with an opportunity to work for the Company, was strictly utilitarian: “The rapid growth, combined with a highly competitive utility demand for certified operations and maintenance personnel, required Goodyear to seek alternatives to traditional recruitment methods” (2008, p. 63). By 2008, Goodyear’s managers have realized that hiring non-certified interns, specialized in technical sciences, relevant to Company’s technological and commercial activities, was still better than hiring fully certified professionals, who specialize in ‘celebration of diversity: “As recruitment efforts hit full stride, we realized we were seeking an endangered species – experienced, certified operations staff with degrees in chemistry” (2008, p. 64). However, after having hired 28 undergraduates, and after having provided them with a plenty of experiential training, Goodyear’s officials had realized that they made a right decision. Aer having graduated, all 28 former interns continued to work for the Company. In ithes turn, this allowed Goodyear to formulate a new principle for hiring: “Hire for attitude, train for skills” (2008, p. 65). It is needless to mention, of course, that the quality of interns’ ‘attitude’ accounted for the extent of their quick-mindedness (rate of their IQ) and their endowment with the sense of self-autonomy.
In his article Future engineer talks about entern Experience, Anderson (2010) had interviewed Nick Mitra – a student from Northeastern University (specializing in chemistry), who currently participates in Northeastern’s Experiential Learning program: “We spend six months out of the year taking classes and then the next six months working full-time as interns in our major” (2010, p. 14). According to Mitra, the greatest advantage that his participation in the internship program had provided him with, is the fact that, while on the site, Mitra was able to familiarize himself thoroughly with a variety of organizational and technical aspects of his future job, which had never been taught to him at university: “When you graduate you are already familiar with the work you’ll be doing so that will help you be a better engineer when you get a real job” (2010, p. 14). As it appears from the article, Mitra was able to succeed with his internship rather spectacularly. This partially explains why Mitra’s advice to future externs has nothing to do with him encouraging students to seek an ‘empowerment’, but simply to dress neatly, while on the site: “Figure out what the dress code is because you don’t want to look like a slob” (2010, p. 14). McDowell concludes his article by suggesting that as time goes by, the demand for interns in commercial and scientific organizations will increase.
The practical implications of two previously reviewed articles stand in striking contrast to the practical implications (or rather the absence of thereof), contained in Williams and Dickinson’s (2000) study Teaching real-life OR to MSc students, where authors discuss the particulars of various externship programs, as applied to operative researchers. As it appears from the study’s very name, authors thought of the process of instilling operative researchers with experientially obtained knowledge within the context of teaching them about ‘real-life’. The study does not contain a clear definition as to what authors mean by ‘real-life’. However, Williams and Dickinson contextually imply ‘real-life’ is: “… a ‘mess’, where neither the formulation nor its solution can be taken as read but must be argued as a matter of opinion” (2000, p. 1441). After having investigated the subject matter thoroughly (e.g. how experiential training should help operative researches to execute their professional duties in the field), authors had come to essentially self-evident conclusion that: “The nature of the ‘messiness of the real projects in which we are involved determines how our OR practice proceed” (2000, p. 1447). The study’s apparent weakness consists in the fact that, despite authors’ continuous referrals to the notion of ‘messiness’, they never provided readers with the insight on what should account for measuring the degree of such messiness’ actual severity. This cannot be easily explained, especially given the fact that the very concept of operative research has to do with the application of mathematical modeling and statistical analysis.
It appears that, within the context of providing OR students with experiential training, the qualitative subtleties of their experience-based knowledge, obtained in the field, depend on educators’ ability to clearly define training’s measurable objectives. In their study Sampling the OR world: The Strathclyde ‘apprenticeship’ scheme, Bennett and MacFarlane (1992) were able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that, despite the OR being concerned with the ‘messiness’ of a real-life, students from Strathclyde University, specializing in OR, were still able to considerably improve their professionally-related practical skills by participating in what authors refer to as an ‘apprenticeship’ programs: “The ‘apprenticeship’ scheme was a response to the limitations of the summer project as students’ sole external experience. The basic idea was for students to spend a short period, about halfway through the course, working within established OR group” (1992, p. 936). Authors explain their decision in favor of adopting the ‘apprenticeship’ format in the following manner: “The expectation was that students would be able to contribute to real OR at the level of partially skilled ‘apprentices’- hence the term” (1992, p. 936). After the end of their ‘apprenticeship’ in an off-campus professional environment, 90 out of 94 participating students have reported on a considerable improvement of their practical skills, with 85 students being offered a job by organizations and companies that provided these students with an ‘apprenticeship’. Authors concluded their study by suggesting that the key to a successful externship/internship is more practice and less theory, as it is namely students’ placement in a ‘real-world environment, which reveals their professional worth more than anything else does.
Apart from Bennett & MacFarlane and Starr & Conley’s studies, in which authors promoted an idea that externs’ performance can be objectively evaluated, we were able to locate another one that contains a similar thesis – namely, Community-based projects in applied statistics: Using service-learning to enhance student understanding, by Root and Thorme (2001). In this study, the authors provide us with a better understanding of how student-externs, specializing in statistics, can prove their professional adequacy, while simultaneously contributing to society’s well-being. The study’s theoretical premise is based upon Root and Thorne’s insistence that: “Community service is a natural venue for active learning. Students must engage the material at a much more profound level than in textbook reading and exercises” (2001, p. 327). Yet, despite the authors’ rather vague initial description of how experience-based learning benefits students, throughout the study, Root and Thorne were able to substantiate such suggestion factually. The bulk of the study deals with a qualitative evaluation of the outcome of a group of students (10) from Lafayette College being assigned as externs to a local community center, to provide center managers with statistical services. Within a matter of a week, students were able to help managers to make necessary adjustments to maintain the center’s financial sustainability: “The group studied the use of a swimming pool at a community center… The report was purely descriptive and its conclusions apparent, but even so this modest quantification helped the community center justify its aquatic program and maintain funding to keep the pool open” (2001, p. 328). Thus, the authors’ conclusion that: “It seems fair to assert that the students made a lasting contribution to the center’s ongoing work” (2001, p. 329) does not sound utterly unsubstantiated, unlike what is the case with earlier reviewed articles about Hispanic externs being given an experiential training on appreciation of diversity.
As we have hypothesized in this study’s introductory part, the realities of post-industrial living in Western countries create objective preconditions for the concepts of internship and externship to slowly drift apart, in the methodological sense of this word – that is; whereas, the concept of an internship is being increasingly resorted to by universities and colleges, associated with teaching technical disciplines, the concept of externship appears being preferred by universities and colleges, associated with teaching liberal sciences. The reason for this can be logically deduced upon – the concept of internship implies a greater degree of staff members’ responsibility, on behalf of interns under their supervision; whereas, the concept of the externship is being much more liberal, in this respect. Out of twenty reviewed academic studies and articles, only three (by Starr & Conley, Bennett & MacFarlane and Root & Thorme) contain contextual proofs as to the fact that, just as it is being the case with the effectiveness of an internship, the effectiveness of an externship can be objectively measured. Thus, our earlier suggestion that the hypothesis of this research study should be made a subject of further investigation appears fully substantiated.
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