Academic quality in internships: field supervisors' account on the value of theory in practice

Leif Karlsson

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    Internship should not just introduce the students to a future professional role, but is also obliged to live up to the requirements of the Swedish Higher Education Act (SFS 1992:1434) for scientific methods and scholarly activities as well as stimulate a critical and reflective attitude. In order for internships to reach higher education standard, not only must there be students, who through their theoretical studies have developed knowledge with a scientific foundation and an ability for criticism and reflection, but a practice is also required in which this knowledge and ability may be developed and utilized. With this point of departure, the supervisors and the context of which they are a part become of special interest to study and understand. The practice within which the students in the Health Promotion and Education Programme at Kristianstad University College perform their internships is distinguished by richly varied work tasks, ill-defined professional roles and a mixture of different training and competencies (Karlsson, 2005). The supervisors lack supervisory training and only a few have an education that corresponds to the Health Promotion and Education Programme. Interviews were carried out in 2006 with 14 supervisors concerning what they perceived is required in order for them to be able to perform their work tasks, not as supervisors but in general, that is, what knowledge they perceived their work to be based upon; and how they perceived the value and relevance of the core concepts of academic quality, scientific methods and scholarly activities, critical thinking and reflection, with respect to their practical activities. The results of the study show that the supervisors perceived the basic knowledge for their work and the relevance of academic knowledge and ability for their work quite differently. The five different patterns or categories that emerged: Undeveloped, anti-academic, administrative, renewing and tension-laden all give different prerequisites for the socialisation to and learning of a ‘new profession’ by the students. The study reveals the importance of the supervisors perceiving academic thinking to be important to their activities, but also the significance of a practice where such knowledge and ability may be exploited and developed. Internship jobs give very different prerequisites for the students’ learning, which shows the significance of supervisor training and of internship placements with incentives for more development-oriented learning.

    Sidor (från-till)32-42
    Antal sidor10
    TidskriftThe Journal of Cooperative Education and Internships
    StatusPublicerad - 2010

    Nationell ämneskategori

    • Pedagogik (50301)


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