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
No one likes to be told what to do, or say, or believe. Of course not. Still, we are being ordered, coerced, or persuaded all the time. Be it sneaky or overt, concealed or blunt, convincing or forced. Main reason for our dislike is that it is confronting, and ultimately implying that “we must change our lives” (1). But what if we do not want to adjust, or follow imperatives stated for us? What if the required changes conflict with our beliefs and orientation? In education, and other helping professions, this creates a huge dilemma. A mentor, a teacher in interaction with a student, would like to point out certain learning needs, specific learning problems but this takes effect only when acknowledged by the mentee, the learner. One interesting aspect of this huge (helping) dilemma is the part that deals with the interaction between helper and the one being helped. Are they both accepting, acknowledging each other point of view? Are they creating space for bridging between another? In interactions between an advice giver and a mentee there can/will be inequality in power and position. Therefore, a bridging relationship calls for cognitive justice (2); that is, recognition of integrity in knowledge creation which starts by creating space to allow for expression of views. You cannot “force to know”.
A matter of concern would be the case when bridging faults, when the space in-between is too wide. Then the twain will never meet. An illuminative study in counseling helps to clarify this concern. It looked into the position and role of a counselor interacting with Black Pentecostal clients. These clients belong to a faith group with strong convictions and emotional ways of interaction. The study points to the importance of creating space by 1) counsellor awareness of personal cultural identity, 2) counsellor awareness of the client’s cultural identity, 3) setting up a working alliance, and 4) recognizing social justice as the foundation for practice.
Still this does not illuminate how space making would work. May be it is simply (although it never really is) to be invitational in interaction (3). Inviting to: express, clarify, show, maintain …, there are a myriad of ways to engage in interaction that allow for making a space that invites. The core of it would be: not telling what to do, say or believe but listening to what the other says, does or thinks, … in order to…
Sandra Dixon & Nancy Arthur; (2015). Creating Space to Engage Black Pentecostal Clients in Multicultural Counselling Practices Published online: 19 December 2014 by Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014. Published in: Int J Adv Counselling (2015) 37:93–104; DOI 10.1007/s10447-014-9228-x