The Community Internship course is a 10CP elective, WIL shell service-learning course, operating from Learning Futures.

Carol Joy Patrick

Carol Joy Patrick, Griffith University,
cj.patrick@griffith.edu.au

The Community Internship course is a 10CP elective, WIL shell service-learning course, operating from Learning Futures. Any student can enrol if they have successfully completed eight courses/subjects.

Students undertake 50-hour internship at not-for-profit organisations and are supported by non-discipline specific Academic Advisors who deliver lectures, workshops and offer pastoral support. This course aims to support students gain a deeper understanding of their personal values and professional growth while enhancing their employability.

Working with disadvantaged and marginalised communities, perceptions of human rights, citizenship and equality are challenged and students are often transformed by the experience, leading to increased civic responsibility.

More at the Community Internship website

Full details of 'Enhanced community engagement and employability through the Community Internship'

Disciplines included in the WIL activity

All disciplines are eligible

Model of WIL activity

Industry/community based placement

Brief description of WIL activity

The Community Internship course is a 10CP elective, WIL shell service-learning course, operating from Learning Futures. Any student can enrol if they have successfully completed eight courses/subjects. Students undertake 50-hour internship at not-for-profit organisations and are supported by non-discipline specific Academic Advisors who deliver lectures, workshops and offer pastoral support. This course aims to support students gain a deeper understanding of their personal values and professional growth while enhancing their employability. Working with disadvantaged and marginalised communities, perceptions of human rights, citizenship and equality are challenged and students are often transformed by the experience, leading to increased civic responsibility.

Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation

The Community Internship course has been in operation since January 2012 (Semester 1) and is being delivered for the 18th time in Trimester 1, 2018.

Who benefits from the WIL activity (include all relevant stakeholders)?

The course provides direct benefits to three parties:

  • Students participate in valuable work experience that develops personal and professional skills contributing to their employability and enhancing their social responsibility.
  • Community organisations have access to students offering new perspectives and demonstrating up-to-date academic capabilities. Organisations also receive important support reducing high work pressure.
  • Griffith University engages and supports communities which create opportunities for collaboration and idea sharing between the involved parties. Furthermore, student engagement is facilitated to help support community needs.

The wider community benefits through the strengthening of students’ sense of civic engagement and efficacy, and raised awareness of community needs.

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

The Community Internship is a distinctive, transformative learning experience combining the aims of enhancing students’ employability, and their awareness as socially responsible citizens. Embedded within a robust WIL framework, it provides students with coherent learning experiences as interns in not-for-profit organisations that deal with a range of social issues such as poverty, disability, and environmental protection. Students are often transformed by this experience as evidenced by research conducted on the Final Reports of one cohort (n=29) (2015/16) where 76% of students included a statement emphasising how the internship changed them in some way (e.g. attitudes, professional direction, skill development and/or understanding of the world and their role within it). Partner data (2017) highlights the mutual benefit: “Everything I have experienced is perfect and great and how lucky are we to meet the students and have the students touching the residents’ lives and the residents touching the students’ lives, it works both ways.”

How adaptable is the WIL activity to other disciplines, sectors, teaching practices etc?

The Community Internship is designed to suit a broad range of disciplines, as it is offered as a free-choice elective across the University; it caters for all disciplines. In any given trimester over 250 unique internships, all addressing areas of community need, are available in up to 175 community organisations, catering for a range of discipline areas for students with wide interests and capabilities. While students do not need to select internships with direct application to their discipline studies, the course design requires them to identify the transferable skills they develop which will support their professional enactment of their discipline studies.

How sustainable is the WIL activity beyond its immediate implementation?

Since 2012 the course has supported over 2300 students while providing over 120,000 hours of volunteering to almost 400 community organisations. The heart of this course are the learning processes which include supportive guidance, that create a culture of safety enabling secure guided self-exploration to achieve personal transformations that positively impact community. The design relies on ongoing evaluation embedded within the course, purposeful feedback procedures as well as:

  • Clearly defined operational policies and procedures
  • Set academic staff-student ratios to ensure efficiency and sufficient support
  • Accessibility to all students
  • An administration team to manage initial placements and marketing to students.

How is the success of the WIL activity evaluated?

The Community Internship course is regularly evaluated. Each instance of feedback is designed or utilised to determine the program’s success achieving the goals of each stakeholder. The evaluation tools include:

  • an external advisory group,
  • stakeholder surveys,
  • stakeholder interviews,
  • stakeholder focus groups and;
  • bench-marking through consultation with national and international experts.

Evaluation mechanisms have also been embedded into the course design to ensure continual feedback and improvement. In recognition of its success the course has received an AAUT Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2016) and an AAUT Award for Programs that Enhance Learning (2017).

What are the wider impacts of the WL activity beyond completion?

As students are not necessarily final year the Internship aims to facilitate a depth of personal and professional learning providing wider impacts beyond completion, like strengthening employability and citizenship. Statistics, based on a 2013 study, indicated 60% of students continue to volunteer. Partners’ also reported positive improvements in students’ functioning across key capabilities (2015): personal confidence (greater self-confidence 80%); interpersonal and group skills (improved team work 73%, improved communication skills 81%); cognitive (judgment and decision making capacity 71%, ability to use academic knowledge in professional environment 66%); Nearly 60% of either “some” or “most” students continue to volunteer in their organisation, beyond the internship. Strengthened employability is recognised by both students and community partners, with 81% of the latter indicating they would be willing to employ their interns.

How does the WIL activity approach the preparation, implementation and reflection phases of WIL?

1) Preparation

Students are intentionally positioned as responsible partners in their learning. They are supported to self-assess suitability for positions according to

  • challenge level,
  • autonomy
  • communication skills.

This is facilitated through; online support, information sessions and one-on-one consultations.

2) Implementation

Students undertake 50-hour internship at a community organisation.

3) Reflection:

Students are supported with just-in-time scaffolds: structured (Lectures and Workshops), self-directed (Modules), and reflective practice (Reflective Writing) tasks. Students engage with stage-appropriate integrative theoretical frameworks, with the aim of enhancing their capacity for critical reflection (of both self and society), and thus better placed to transform their experience into learning.

What are the learning outcomes of the WIL activity and how do they link to graduate attributes?

The learning objectives are:

  1.  Demonstrate understanding of social, cultural or environmental challenges addressed by the internship organisation
  2.  Critically appraise the contributions made by the student in the role to the work of the internship organisation
  3.  Critically appraise the personal and professional skills and values in the context of the role in the internship organisation.

In their academic assessments, students self assess how they are meeting the learning objectives and how they link to the Griffith Graduate Attributes. This process has been embedded as structured reflection within the course design to support student awareness and understanding of the course outcomes.

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

The future plans for the Community Internship focus on amplifying its transformational impact on the students and the extended community. Steps towards this goal are already taking place with the main focus on accessibility of the course. The course has already moved from being a free-choice elective to become a core course, listed or employability elective in 70 different degree programs. The strategy is to encourage other degree programs to do the same. Additionally, the current development of a Global Internship course will increase the reach and impact of this course to international communities.

Some of our education students find mentoring small children very rewarding

Some of our education students find mentoring small children very rewarding

Some of our students prefer to do an overseas internship to learn about other cultures

Some of our students prefer to do an overseas internship to learn about other cultures