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The Washington Center Leads Conversation on the Academic Quality of Internship Experiences at AAC&U Annual Conference

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- To better define the impact of an internship experience, The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars is advancing an integrative learning framework to measure student growth and learning. The Washington Center presented this model in partnership with the nation's leading higher education expert in student engagement, George Kuh, at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on January 23, 2014.

Internships are among a small set of 'high-impact practices' that research suggests are highly correlated with student academic engagement, desired learning outcomes and persistence toward degree. But to achieve these gains, the experience must be done well. Thursday's panel featured The Washington Center's Academic Internship Program as an exemplar of connecting work with learning.

"Internships promise opportunities for students to demonstrate they can transfer and use what they have learned in the classroom to the workplace but internships can vary in terms of their quality," said George Kuh, Chancellor's Professor Emeritus and Director Emeritus, Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research.

"Students benefit most when the internship is structured so that students are required to systematically reflect on and integrate what they are doing with other experiences, on and off the campus. No organization does this better than The Washington Center," continued Kuh.

A centerpiece of The Washington Center's effort is an adaptation of the Integrative Learning Rubric developed by AAC&U as a part of its Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) project.  The rubric charts progress and learning outcomes in each of the following areas:

  • Connections to Experience: Connects relevant experience and academic learning
  • Connections to Discipline: Sees (makes) connections across disciplines, perspectives
  • Transfer: Adapts and applies skills, abilities, theories or methodologies gained in one situation to new situations
  • Integrated Communication: Makes strategic and meaningful communication choices across multiple contexts and purposes (professional, academic and civic)
  • Reflection and Self-Assessment: Demonstrates a developing sense of self as a learner, building on prior experiences to respond to new and challenging contexts (may be evident in self-assessment, reflective or creative work)

"For nearly 40 years, The Washington Center has worked with students and their universities one-on-one to prepare, support and guide them through the internship experience," said Mike Smith, President of The Washington Center. "An academic framework has been at the core of our programs since the beginning and now we have a framework to ensure the internship is rooted in learning and influences their future career."

"When we started working with the Integrative Learning VALUE Rubric, we recognized immediately its power for measuring the transformational learning that an internship experience can spark," said Dr. Alan Grose, Senior Director of Academic Affairs for The Washington Center. "We are particularly pleased to be adapting an assessment framework that is also being used on so many campuses across the nation."

The Washington Center began assessing the learning demonstrated in student portfolios in spring of 2013. With a baseline measure of student integrative learning in place, The Washington Center is now identifying targeted ways to help students draw deeper and more meaningful connections between their work in their internship and their academic studies.

The University of Iowa joined TWC during the session and shared their Guided Reflection on Work (GROW) initiative as an example of how universities might similarly connect on-campus work to the learning process.

About The Washington Center

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States and other countries by providing selected students challenging opportunities to work and learn in Washington, D.C., for academic credit. The largest program of its kind, The Washington Center has more than 50,000 alumni who have become leaders in numerous professions and nations around the world. It was established in 1975. For more information visit: www.twc.edu.

SOURCE The Washington Center

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