Service-Learning or Internship: A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of Experiential Learning Pedagogies

Miriam P. Leary, Lori A. Sherlock
2020 Education Research International  
Experiential learning pedagogies, including internship and service-learning experiences, are becoming increasingly popular in higher education. An internship engages students with hands-on experiences that enhance their learning or skills within their fields of study. In contrast, service-learning is a type of experiential education in which students participate in service, typically within the community, and reflect on their involvement to gain further understanding of the discipline as well
more » ... its relationship to societal needs. To date, no study has directly compared these teaching modalities. Therefore, the present study systematically evaluated a service-learning experience against an internship experience using a mixed-methods model with the primary outcome being student self-efficacy. Sixteen exercise physiology students (13 females) completed a community-based wellness internship with a subgroup (nine students, 7 females) allocated to a service-learning component of internship designed to improve self-efficacy. At the end of the semester, students completed a 15-item online self-efficacy and satisfaction survey. Three focus groups were conducted in which 3-4 participants responded to a series of nine questions that explored their experience. Overall responses to the self-efficacy and satisfaction survey were favorable for both groups, but the internship group was more likely to agree or strongly agree with statements of self-efficacy. Focus groups found that the internship experience reinforced classroom learning, but the ability to work with different populations and ability levels was mentioned only by the service-learning group. Themes from reflective assignments, such as engaging with community members and professional exploration, were evident only in the service-learning group responses. Therefore, the findings indicate that service-learning reflection assignments successfully connect the service experience to relevant course outcomes promoting student development but may not improve self-reported self-efficacy beyond that of a typical internship experience.
doi:10.1155/2020/1683270 fatcat:4pa3byhahfe33hny4cbbkf5bwa