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High Impact Practices Spotlight Series: Internships and Field Experiences

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

By Tiffany MacLennan, Maple League Research Fellow and Strategist and Tanisha Campbell, Maple League Student Fellow, Knowledge Mobilization & Community Engagement

In today’s High Impact Practice Spotlight Series, we look at internships and field experiences. These experiential learning activities create opportunities for students to apply their classroom knowledge to real-life settings while simultaneously developing new knowledge and skills. In this spotlight series, we see how internships can be combined with other HIPs while creating courses; we get a glimpse of what field experience looks like at two of the Maple League Universities, and; we are given insight on one university’s comprehensive co-op program.

Dr. Robert Lapp – Mount Allison University

Two HIPs have combined to change my approach to a large, 180-student “Arts credit” class. Internships—in this case Teaching Internships—create an opportunity to collaborate with students on syllabus and assignment design. In 2013, my Teaching Intern helped me re-design my large “Literature, Arts, and Humanities” class, convincing me to turn it into a Writing-Intensive course. He suggested a “device-free” classroom: while the course itself was mounted on Moodle, we dropped the daily PowerPoints in exchange for students putting away phones and tablets, all with a view to mindfully listening to each other. After an opening breathing exercise, each class was structured around two writing opportunities: the first, in response to a “Daily Thought-Starter” to stimulate conversation around the day’s theme, the second in response to a focus-passage from the day’s readings. In each case we all wrote (with pen and paper) for five minutes, followed by ten minutes’ discussion. Student TAs took notes on these lively conversations, later included in Classnotes published to Moodle. On the way out of class each student handed in their writings for the day, worth 1.5% of their final grade (24 classes x 1.5 = 36%). Following class each day, the Intern and I plus four TAs each took one sixth of the writings (30 students), quickly assessing them out of 1.5 with the simple rubric of 0.5 for “being there,” 0.5 for basic engagement, 0.5 for quality engagement. The vast majority of students earned the full 36% of their grade this way, due, I believe, to the informal format, the promise of authentic discussion, the lack of distractions, and fair reward for engagement. Two other outcomes: authentic jobs for TAs and exceptionally high attendance (students who missed a class could make up the 1.5% by attending any university event and writing a page of reflections linking the event to course themes). These HIPs have completely changed my approach to teaching large classes.

Dr. Andrew MacDougall – St. Francis Xavier University

In the environmental sciences the outdoors is our lab, and thus field learning is critical to education in these sciences. CLEN 304, Regional Weather and Climate, teaches students about weather and climate at the local scale. The course is centred around three multi-week projects combining lectures, readings and a field project.

The photo above shows three CLEN 304 students working on their final project to measure the wind profile at Crystal Cliffs. (From the left, Daniel Aitken, Dr. Andrew MacDougall, Mitchell Brown, and Brandon Carter. Photo credit Daniel Wesley.)

Michelle Larson – Acadia University

Acadia Co-op students in programs spanning the Arts, Sciences, Business and Community Development have the opportunity to work with employers in their chosen field of study to gain relevant hands-on learning as part of their degree requirements. As part of Acadia’s nationally accredited Co-op program, students typically complete three to four 4-month Co-op work terms with different employers in varied work environments with diverse responsibilities. The exploration of and ability to test-drive careers helps students direct future educational and career choices based on first-hand knowledge. Substantial technical and transferable skill development occurs as students apply knowledge gained in the classroom to real-life situations. With reflective practice at Co-op’s core, students transform experience into learning, and increase awareness of their knowledge, abilities and self. Having tackled new, challenging experiences and succeeded in those endeavors, students routinely comment on a significant increase in confidence in both themselves and their futures. Through Co-op, students build their professional network, develop mentors, gain references and often are offered full-time employment following graduation by past Co-op employers.

Dr. Heather Lawford – Bishop’s University

One of the first things we learn in practicing knowledge mobilization is the importance of building strong relationships where all the stakeholders can find benefit. This is at the core of our practice in creating practicum experiences for our students. Practicums are designed through ongoing discussions with partnering organizations and the students. For each placement, we strive to strike a balance between supporting the student’s short and long term goals, offering the partnering organization a tangible and useful product, and incorporation of the theory and tools that students engage with in their coursework.

The HIP Visibility Project is a part of a larger HIP project conducted by Research Fellow and Strategist Tiffany MacLennan. The goal of the HIP project is to make HIPs more accessible for both faculty and students. For more information about the HIP project or would like to participate, please contact Tiffany at

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