Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Aspiring School Leaders Reflect on the Internship

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Aspiring School Leaders Reflect on the Internship

Article excerpt

Abstract

Reflective journals are used as the assessment tool of the educational leadership program. The interns reflect on their experience, evaluate skills gained, and provide constructive feedback to improve future internship experience. Samples of the interns' reflections along with analyses of these comments are provided in the paper. Several strengths of the internship emerge and are outlined in the paper. The results provide programs that incorporate internship practices with knowledge of skills which interns value in their programs in order to modify their practices.

Introduction

In 1995, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) revealed new education administration standards. The new standards focus on creating leadership skills that foster a culture of effective teaching and learning in which the teachers are viewed as professionals. A most prominent feature of these new standards is the inclusion of a site-based internship experience in educational administrators' preparation programs.

The internship is an administrative and/or curricular experience providing the students with authentic practice in a school setting. This experience includes an extended four-month capstone school internship taken during the student's final semester maximizing the candidates' opportunities to practice and refine their skills and knowledge. Malone (2001) asserts that graduate programs in school administration must provide aspiring leaders with internship experiences that nurture and support their professional competencies. In the internship described in this paper, students are provided significant opportunities to synthesize and apply the knowledge learned through their program of study and practice the skills identified in the NCATE/ELCC standards through substantial, sustained, standards-based work in real settings. These experiences are planned and guided cooperatively by a university supervisor and a school-site mentor (National Policy Board 2002).

The participants of this study are educational leadership students who are going through the internship, which is the culminating experience for their masters' degree program. This paper reports on the internship experiences through the eyes of these interns. The interns are asked to evaluate their internships in a closing reflection at the end of the internship experiences. Their assessment of these experiences is introduced through analyses of their comments and a sample of their journal writing in this paper. The data guide the authors' practices and serve to improve the internship experience for their students. The authors share the interns' views of the strengths of their internship in the hope that other educational leadership programs will afford their interns experiences that build on such knowledge and improve practices of leadership training programs. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the use of students' reflective journals as a tool to improve college preparation programs.

Literature Review

Recent studies on school reform call for educators who are reflective professionals. Those professionals base their practices on their knowledge of the research and their mastery of best practices (Saleh & Holman 2004). Graduate programs need to offer internships experiences that connect theory to practice. Aspiring school leaders need to demonstrate that they can apply their knowledge in school settings (Flanary, 2001). They need to illustrate that they can solve problems in authentic settings (Sparks, 2001). These skills, the authors argue, demand reflective practices that allow educators to understand their own actions in light of their newly acquired knowledge and training in school settings.

The administrative internship plays a vital role in the psychological transformation of teachers into educational leaders (Fishbein & Osterman 2001). The authors contend that despite the agreed upon importance of the internship process, very little is known about it. …

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