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