Am I that dumb and stupid?; at least that is how you often feel as an intern while doing your utmost on activities at your work placement and getting zero in return. Internships are harsh times most of the time (1). Despite being lauded as great work experience opportunities (especially by vocational education institutes who gain in this way partnerships with organizations), it is not often that full and bright as a learning experience (unless you count disappointments, failures and repetitive trail behavior as a learning experience). Actually there are a lot failed internships (2). It would be fair to acknowledge that most work experience opportunities are not mounted as learning experiences. Simply because organizations are not equipped to offer them, their style of mentoring is not prepared to deliver it, and available settings and tasks are not geared to it. So, again, most of the time (yes, there are exceptions) learners have to cope with exhausting work conditions, thriving on rare cases with real encounters of illuminative job events and get a chance to pick up something valuable for their professional preparation.
This gloomy but nonetheless realistic account can be distilled from a study done in two countries with excellent systems of vocational education reviewing how health care student experienced their internships. It turned out that their concerns were not responded to; they had frequent feelings of failure; their suggestions and tips were ignored, and overall they had felt being unsuccessful and insecure.
So much for professional development. There must be something wrong in the kingdom of work placement. When asking students what’s the holdup they would probably say (according to the study): ’Give us (at least) some responsibility’. Especially not being given the proper responsibility for doing the tasks that they were ordered to do was the demotion par excellence. Not too much, not too less seems to be the dividing point in a good guidance perception agreed upon in the partnerships between vocational institutions and workplace offering organizations. They simply have too wide apart views on how to prosper learning. Giving responsibility is: freedom, i.e, space to make your own decisions (in teaching terminology: dare to try).
Susanna Tella, Nancy-Jane Smith, Pirjo Partanen & Hannele Turunen (2016) Work placements as learning environments for patient safety: Finnish and British preregistration nursing students’ important learning events, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 68:1, 51-69,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13636820.2015.1104715