International Co-operative Education Placements: Experiences of Canadian College Students
Hardacre, Elaine Anne
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A number of international research studies have explored the benefits and challenges for post-secondary students who have experienced an international co-operative education assignment (e.g., Bentley & Broons, 1998; Coll & Chapman, 2000; Coll, Pinyonatthagarn & Pramoolsook, 2003; Ward & Laslett, 2004; Wong & Coll, 2001). A small number of studies in this field have suggested that a well organized program includes pre-departure planning, focused orientation programs, and opportunities for reflection (Bentley & Broons, 1998; Ward & Laslett, 2004). Mentoring relationships have also been shown to support the success of workplace opportunities (Collins, 1993; Thuynsma, 1997; Van Gyn & Ricks, 1998). However, the results of the research that highlight the development of various traits during the international experience do not distinguish between pre-placement and post-placement student characteristics that contributed to the students’ success in the international experiences. Therefore more research is required. The purpose of this study was to understand and report on specific factors that contribute to successful international co-operative education experiences from the perspective of college students and the program co-ordinator. The students and co-ordinator were all associated with a work integrated learning opportunity in an international business college program that requires students to complete an international co-operative experience. Three fundamental questions I set out to answer were: (a) What role does the pre-placement program play in students’ success in the international co-operative experience? (b) What characteristics of students and workplace supervisors as perceived by the students contribute to successful international co-operative education experiences? (c) What role, if any, does mentoring by a workplace supervisor play in students’ successful international co-operative education experience? The study findings emphasized the importance of understanding the characteristics that support a successful experience and discuss the implementation of goals for program design and delivery. The findings within the first theme focused on What Helped Students Succeed in the International Placement, the second theme highlighted What Impeded Students’ Success in the International Placement and the final theme outlined Goals Achieved. Most of the categories within the themes were anticipated in the research questions but what was surprising was there was little data on mentoring.