School of Education News

Internships op-ed from UW-Madison’s Hora published by Inside Higher Ed

September 27, 2019

An op-ed authored by UW-Madison’s Matthew Hora was recently published by Inside Higher Ed. 

The opinion piece was headlined, “Internships as a high-impact practice?”

Hora is an assistant professor of adult and higher education in the Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies, and is an affiliate with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He also is a research scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), and the director of UW-Madison’s Center for College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT), which is housed within WCER. 

Matthew Hora
In his op-ed, Hora looks at college internships and the current push across postsecondary institutions to adopt, scale, and sustain internship programs. According to the researcher, internships are viewed as high-impact practices (HIP) based on analyses of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) data, which show that such practices are significant predictors of student learning and engagement. 

However, Hora explains, the NSSE data does not holistically represent internship experiences. The survey asks students about their involvement in internships along with co-ops, field experiences, student teaching, and clinical placements in a single question, which Hora argues may lead to an exaggeration of the impact of internships by failing to differentiate among distinct types of experiential learning that may be included in a program. 

In addition to the type of program, he also notes that that effects of an internship can vary considerably depending on a student’s disciplinary and institutional affiliations, socioeconomic status, and the nature of the internship itself. 

In Hora’s research conducted at UW-Madison, he has found that internships can last from a few days to several months, job-site supervision can range from exemplary to nonexistent, students may earn nothing or more than $15 an hour, and workplace tasks may vary from making photocopies to assisting with an archaeological dig in the field. Thus, Hora insists on looking deeper than mere participation. 

Many campuses, however, are not prepared to offer and monitor safe, high-quality programs based on more qualitative data, writes Hora. As higher education institutions move towards more prominent internship programs and requirements, Hora shares some suggestions: Focus on institutional capacity first, create support systems for more equitable participation in internships, and embed problem-based learning into all academic programs and courses. 

Read Hora's op-ed here

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