The use of experiential learning practices in higher education is one method to increase student engagement through active learning practices. One example of effective experiential practices is the incorporation of internships within programs of study. Internships provide career exploration opportunities, develop skills of employability, and improve students’ ability to connect and apply their academic coursework in real-world work environments. Exercise science and kinesiology are degrees that supported careers in the health, fitness, and wellness industries but have recently become the foundational degrees for students interested in careers in allied health. Internships are an effective practice to provide opportunities for career exploration within exercise science and kinesiology degree programs. Additionally, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education released updated 2020 standards, requiring an internship component to maintain or receive accreditation, however, no additional guidelines were provided. The problem addressed by this study is the lack of guidelines for what internship model is most effective for undergraduate exercise science students. The purpose was to explore recently graduated exercise science students’ beliefs regarding their participation in a structured three-stage sequential internship program. The theoretical framework of Experiential Learning Theory was used as the foundation to demonstrate the connection between classroom learning and experience. Eleven semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed using a basic qualitative research design via coded thematic analysis, revealing six major themes and eight subthemes. The results of this study indicated that this internship model, as part of an exercise science degree program, provided built-in career exploration, improved students’ career decision-making abilities, formed pre-professional identity, increased feelings of personal, academic, and career self-efficacy, and enhanced career and academic motivation. Additionally, it was revealed that internships develop skills of employability, including effective communication, discipline-specific knowledge, adaptability, and problem-solving skills, via hands-on learning, which improved students’ ability to connect the classroom to real-world application and increased feelings of preparedness to transition to professional practice or further academic studies. Key internship model components were also identified including the perceived value of completing multiple internships, and the role of internship supervisors and coordinators as part of an effective internship program was identified. Kinesiology and exercise science program stakeholders will use the findings of this study to enrich their current internship programs or as a resource for implementing a new internship component to their curriculum, as it is now an accreditation requirement.

Author: Kelsey Taylor

Published in: World Congress on Education (WCE-2023)

  • Date of Conference: 26-28 June, 2023
  • DOI: 10.20533/WCE.2023.0004
  • ISBN: 978-1-913572-59-4
  • Conference Location: Residence and Conference Centre, Toronto, Canada