Experiential Learning of Business Practicum Students

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015

16 Pages, Grade: 95.00

Free online reading


The goal of a practicum program is to provide graduating students the practical working
experience in an actual business setting. It is an opportunity for students to apply the theory, concept
and skills learned inside the classrooms. At the same time, it is an occasion to demonstrate their
generic skills in teamwork, communication and decision-making. The business practicum maybe paid
or unpaid learning experience. The success of any practicum program is in the curriculum designed
that meet the needs of business students and host training institution (HTI's). Although several
researches presented concern of industries, institutions and professional organization on practicum
program's lack of student training on the real business problems. Consequently, the industry also
played an important role in engaging students in professional learning (Zanko et al., 2010).
Students who were engaged in professional learning must practice their skills across different
business discipline. Professional learning took place through collaboration between the college and
the industry. In this manner, students learned earlier that the interaction of different business
discipline affects business decision. As a result, these collaborations build competence among
students (Currie, et al., 2005). However, collaboration was just half of the success in any practicum
program, the other half was the periodic assessment of student and the curriculum content. Through
the periodic assessment of student who went through the practicum program, the college could review
their current practicum practices. Later, the colleges could emphasis on the quality of contact hours
for practical work. Eventually, this would ensure a high quality business education program (Ubong
& Wokocha, 2011).
Observations on high quality business program claimed that different teaching tools were part
of the programs' curriculum. Among these teaching tools was the experiential learning, which
engaged students in a direct, personal encounter with the real business setting. Experiential learning
challenged students to make decision and not just merely think about the business situation and offers
solutions. A particular study strongly recommends a mandatory experiential program embedded in a
business curriculum (McCarthy & McCarthy, 2006).
A number of business schools claimed, based on their independent studies, that experiential
learning or practicum program was a popular way for their school to address student's career
preparation (Bay, 2006). Similarly, when matrices of management subjects were put into an array, it
revealed that practicum program facilitated connections among business courses, instruction and work
experience (Krbec, 2006). In this manner, the practicum program continuously exposed students to
career development and business skills (Kogan, et al., 2005).
Based on independent studies a number of business schools claimed that experiential learning
failed to demonstrate a great deal of competency business required (Desplaces, et al., 2006).
Meanwhile, another study suggested that the graduating students of current business program were

not prepared to handle the complex and unquantifiable business issues. The present business
pedagogy was identified as its cause and not the curriculum. The researcher went as far as to suggest
that business schools could learn from the nursing technique of integrating both theory and practice to
improve student learning. In this manner, business schools could offer students new assessment
approach to evaluate learning useful in their employment (Blaylock, at al., 2008). Likewise, criticism
was leveled at the traditional practicum program failure to transfer tacit knowledge (Starr & Correa,
Studies demonstrated that the success of the practicum program depended on the structured
program which integrated study and student assessment (Coiacetto, 2004), exposure to career
development and business skills (Kogan et al., 2005) and the host training institutions (HTI's) as
equal partners in training future business leaders (Lawrance, et al., 2007). These elements define a
successful practicum program.
In Brazil, their practicum program was called internship program. Brazil leads other Latin
American countries in the development of incubation ecosystem for entrepreneurs. An initial but
successful incubation program was started in 1998 by the Minas Gerais State Agency for Research,
which provided grant to the incubator along with internship assistance. Currently there were almost
400 successful incubation ecosystems all over the country (Chandra, 2007). Elsewhere, among small
businesses in Argentina have a high regards for business interns. Good interns could become valuable
working professionals for the company. The article further stated that a strong internship program
could help business grow. The technique to attract good interns was to provide students a hands-on
experience. In this manner, the business internship program would grow along with the business,
eventually; the internship program would become an integral part of the company (Loten, 2008).
Practicing the theory the theory of experiential learning (D. A. Kolb, 1984), the internship
program for business courses in Europe was designed to be goal driven. The best goal of a business
internship program was for each student intern to develop custom goal (Dobratz, et al., 2014). In
Germany the practice was to focus on production and quality management and practicum task were
implemented with strong cooperation with the business (Henriksen, 2011). Likewise, in Italy the
internship program in undergraduate business courses required students to go through an extensive
practicum experience (Fantino, Mori & Scalise, 2015). Practicum students in Italy are encouraged to
in teams while directly applying what they learned in business. The practicum program was designed
for emerging business leaders (Jamison, 2013).
Asian business schools included the practicum program in their curriculum because they
believed that the "experienced-based learning" (Wolfe & Byrne, 1975) enhanced the quality of their
program and improved business education. In I-Shou University Taiwan, students considered their
practicum program as a supports for their professional enhancement. Some business organization

welcomed these developments to the point of enquiring about the practicum program (Fu & Pan,
2012). Similarly, the practicum in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore was part of their
curriculum, intended to produce graduates from the best student candidates of the program. The
program considers the student's practicum grades as an indicator of their work place performance
(Litvin & Maclaurin, 2005). Meanwhile, career centers in South Korea universities created a program
to meet the career needs of college students. It was designed in a way that practicum students called
paraprofessionals could work effectively thereby reducing the workload of professional staff (Yang,
Lee, & Ahn, 2012).
In the Philippines, a study at the University of San Jose Recoletos revealed that business
students rated their business practicum program as excellent. At the same time, the trainers who rated
students declared that the program developed the work attitude and values, job knowledge and
accomplishment of students. Moreover, students rarely commit errors, systematic and complete
output. The study concluded that the practicum was an effective program that put theory into practice
(Sy, 2010). Furthermore, the practicum program in the Philippines establishes the competencies
industry requires in employing graduates. Apparently, practicum plays an important role in preparing
students for employment (Castro, 2014).
In the University of Mindanao, following the minimum standard of Commission on Higher
education CHED CMO 36 series 2006, all business courses required the practicum subjects to all
graduating students. Practicum students were deployed in industries with businesses directly related to
the students' major program. Part of the requirement was the completion of the 250 hours of business
practicum. Enrolled students in the practicum program need to pass their supervisors' evaluation
attend required seminars; demonstrate the skills and competence expected from an intern.
This study is based on the theory of experiential learning which was initially mentioned by
John Dewey (Dewey & Dewey, 1915) termed as "learning by doing" this concept argued that
education depends on action. Meanwhile, (Wolfe & Byrne, 1975) used the term "experienced-based
learning" which connoted activities in professional organization that examined teaching methods. On
the other hand, (Vygotsky, 1978) advanced the "participatory learning approach" a term which
suggested that knowledge was actively constructed by learners. It supposed that students learned by
applying their knowledge to solve problems. Later (D. A. Kolb, 1984) advanced the theory of
experiential learning by presenting a cyclical model of learning consisting of four stages: concrete
experience (DO); reflective observation (OBSERVE); forming abstract concept (THINK); Testing
new situation (PLAN).
In the 1970's practicum was already recognized as an excellent program for experiential
learning but not without issues. The issues that confronted educators during those times were

academic supervision; academic credit; compensation of faculty in charge of the program (Sexton,
1976). Later in the 1980's issues on practicum as an experiential learning centered on the criticism
that most of the practicum program did not explore the long term development through proper
mentoring which eventually reflected on the student's career success (Daresh, 1987). During the
1990's there was a very popular interest on experiential learning. An extensive literature review on
learning outcome of practicum program, demonstrated that the program provided opportunities for
students to utilize a spectrum of knowledge and skills learned from the classroom (Toohey, 1996).
Research during this period started linking experiential learning as complementary to understanding
adult learning (Caffarella & Barnett, 1994). During the same period, studies on experiential learning
looked into the view of the industry with the practicum program (Breiter, et al., 1995), the
development of career and professionalism (Verner, 1993), methods in engaging learners with
experiential learning (Lee & Caffarella, 1994).
Presently, the practicum program was clearly embedded in business curriculum, recognized as
necessary part of experiential learning among students (McCarthy & McCarthy, 2006). Current
research on the role of practicum program in experiential learning of student reinforced the finding
during the previous periods. Practicum program was clearly recognized as an opportunity for students
to acquire new skills (Mooney & Edwards, 2001) and allowed students to transform from students to
professionals (Bay, 2006). However, current researches departed from the previous 1990s in terms of
investigating the effect of practicum program in relation to experiential learning. Current investigation
dwells on post evaluation of the program (Ralph, et al., 2009) and ethical issues on exploitation of
students as volunteer worker (Holmes, 2006).
This study aimed to determine the presence of experiential learning factors through the cycle
model of learning stage of DO, OBSERVE, THINK and PLAN (D. A. Kolb, 1984) in the business
administration practicum program. In the process, the study tried to determine if the current practicum
program was enabling the practicum students to apply learned theory and improved skills during their
practicum stint. In addition, the study established the presence of conducive working environment in
the practicum area for students to achieve experiential learning.
This study used the universal sampling method; all practicum students for the period of the
second semester school year 2013-2014 from the College of Business Administration Education
participated. There were 145 students who participated with 69 or 48 percent from the Marketing
Management program; 20 or 14 percent from Financial Management and 56 or 39 percent from the
Human Resource Management program. About 99 or 68 percent, more than half of students claimed

that the sector they hold their practicum belongs to the manufacturing sector. The study used the
questionnaire to gather data from the respondents. The External Relations and Institutional Affairs
Office (ERIAO) in-charge of overseeing the university practicum program administered the
questionnaire to avoid biases that might arise if it is otherwise the college (Choi & Pak, 2005).
Personnel from ERIAO before administering the instrument explained the objective of the research
(Boynton, 2004). After the students accomplished the questionnaire, the personnel from ERIAO
retrieved and tally their response. Later, the tally sheet was furnished to the researchers for
interpretation and analysis.
Table 1. Number of Business Practicum Students Involved in the Study
Business Administration Program
Human Resource Management
Financial Management
Marketing Management
The exploratory factor analysis (EFA) allowed the study to determine the number of factors
needed to explain the correlations among the twenty indicators (Thompson, 2004) of the practicum
program of business administration. The factor indicators of the study were continuous. EFA was
used because the study only wanted to specify the significant number of latent variables or factors
(Hayton, et al., 2004). One important issue in the use of the exploratory factor analysis was the sample
size in which this study comply with the rule of 100 (Gorsuch & Hao, 1993) and the subject-to-
variable (STV) ratio of 20:1 (Hogarty, et al., 2005).
In order to identify indicators that fell part of a factor the following criteria were used in the
study. The goals of these criteria were to identify the indicators which contributed to meaningful
underlying factors and to remove indicators that do not measures to the underlying factors. Therefore,
the study established parameters: communality which indicated the variance was above 0.60; the
primary factor loading was above 0.60; meaningful indicator to each factor which was not redundant.
Practicum students in business administration generally rated their immersion to different host
training establishment as enabling (4.39). They claimed that their immersion in the HTE's highly
strengthened their self-esteem and self-respect (4.50); learn through actual observation (4.48);
increases intend work skills through hands on experience (4.46); determine the improvement learning
about the work (4.41); increase work habit (4.36); work well resulting to greater output (4.34); engage
in work operation of the industry (4.32) and manipulate the same equipment in future work (4.23).

Table 2. Factor loadings and communalities based on a principle components analysis with orthogonal
rotation for 20 items from the OJT assessment (N = 145)
hands on scheme
manipulate equipment
in the future
increase work habit
learn through observation
engage in the work
obtain an overall
idea of the work
determine learning
about the work
increase work creativity
work well to
greater output/productivity
hands on activities
learning desired skills
demonstration activities
direct hands-on
feedback on progress
independent working
conducive working
Note. Factor loadings < .6 are suppressed
Similarly, students generally rated their practicum experience as providing them with
experiential learning environment for greater productivity (4.48); confidence (4.45); independent
working occasion (4.40); clear orientation of nature of work (4.40); motivation approaches and
support (4.38); time for hands on activities (4.36); proper demonstration activities (4.35); feedback on

learning progress (4.33); direct hands on assistance (4.32) and up-to-date equipment needed in
learning desired skills (4.30).
Twenty questions relating to business administration industry immersion were factor analyzed
using principal component analysis with Varimax (orthogonal) rotation. The analysis yielded three
factors explaining a total of 69.39% of the variance for the entire set of variables. Factor 1 was labeled
concrete experience (DO); reasons student's perceived practicum facilitate their learning by the
following items: hands on scheme; manipulate equipment in the future; increase work habit; learn
through observation; engage in work; obtain an overall idea of work; increase work creativity. The
first factor explained 56.92 percent of the variance. The second factor derived was labeled reflective
observation (OBSERVE) of the host training institution to the practicum students: work well to
greater output; hands on activities; learning desired skills; motivation; demonstration activities; direct
hands on. The variance explained by this factor was 7.383 percent. The third factor derived was
labeled abstract concept (THINK) of the host training institution to the practicum students: feedback
on progress; independent working; confidence; conducive working environment. The variance
explained by the third factor is 5.086 percent. The KMO and Bartlett's test of Sphericity (2255; p = 0)
both indicate that the set of variables are least adequately related to factor analysis. Substantially the
factor analysis identified three clear pattern of response for the practicum students. These three factors
are independent of one another (i.e. they are not correlated).
Learning through experience is becoming popular pedagogical concept in college. Several
experts in learning, Dewy, Rogers, Piaget and Kolb expounded the theories that focus on "learning
through experience" (A. Y. Kolb & Kolb, 2005). It was the works of Dewey that advanced the
concept of problem solving and critical thinking rather than memorization (Lesh & Zawojewski,
2007). Rogers further reinforced experiential learning theories by claiming that learning occurs in a
continuum, which means evolving from meaningless to significant, a claim that people learn from
experience (Roberts, 2006). Piaget in his study on experiential learning stated the term schemes in
relation to knowledge and understanding. The result of his study depicted that practicum students'
experiential learning could takes place when content, incentive and interaction were all involved
(Illeris, 2007). Therefore, among the practicum students the key to their learning was their
involvement in the pedagogical approach (Lai, et al., 2007).
The next step of experiential learning, among practicum students were the reflective
observation, a process according to (A. Y. Kolb & Kolb, 2005) of knowledge construction involving
creative tension which was the basis of observation and reflection. Practicum students' reflective
observation involved more on resting or observing and did not intensely dwell on the problem but on
the process of observation (Corbett, 2005). Among practicum students it was the phase when they
started to weave their thoughts together to form abstract perception on their practicum experience.
This was a period necessary to organize their concrete experience from their practicum (Lai, et al.,

2007). In this study, the reflective observation was manifested through motivation (Kiili, 2005),
desired skills (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004), productivity (Hawk & Shah, 2007), and hands-on
(Abdulwahed & Nagy, 2009).
One good indicator of reflective observation was the learner's level of motivation among
practicum students. Supported in the result of this study is the proposition of Kiili, (2005), that a good
experiential learning keeps the learner motivated and engaged. The practicum student under study
demonstrated that they were active participant in their learning process. Moreover, the practicum
student's motivation came from awareness of their collaborative involvement. It was clear, at this
stage, the practicum student gathered information from their experience and observation and proceed
to reflective observation (Hemetsberger & Reinhardt, 2006). Furthermore, (Abdulwahed & Nagy,
2009) the result noted an increase in practicum students' level of motivation and interest during
hands-on experience, where practicum students have to perform the actual work with monitoring from
their supervisors.
Building the practicum student's skills was one of the major objectives of the UM's
practicum course. One of the clear manifestation practicum students demonstrated was their learning
desire was reflective observation. Concrete experience came from sensory cortex. However, reflective
observation involved integrative cortex which was the development of specific skills (A. Y. Kolb &
Kolb, 2009). Several observations demonstrated that during reflective observation practicum students
quickly developed skills (Kiili, 2005).
The third cycle of experiential learning was the abstract concept. This is the process of
creating logical experience within the practicum experience. This phase was the understanding of the
variance between observed practicum experience and learned work behavior (A. Y. Kolb & Kolb,
2005). In this study, practicum students' abstract concept was identified with the following indicators:
feedback (Kayes, et al., 2005); independent work (Holmes, 2006) and confidence (Bergin et al.,
The results further demonstrated that practicum students preferred working with groups, listen
with peers and receive feedbacks (Kayes et al., 2005). The result conformed to successful experiential
learning models which showed that students could improve their learning when they receive feedback
and reassurance on their performance (Gosen & Washbush, 2004). A similar research presented the
key components of learning confirmed that both discursive and active feedbacks which were mapped
provided individual the abstract concept in experiential learning (Conole, et al., 2004).
Supported in the result of this study was the popular claim that experiential learning
principles applied to independent work experience among learners (Holmes, 2006). Independent
working involved action learning which especially portrays the feeling of control over the problem
and an independent work and learning environment (Johnson & Spicer, 2006). A distinct

characteristic of independent working lies on practicum students who processed information
introspectively emphasizing on concepts of concrete experience (Hussein & Nyseth, 2005).
A practicum student who lacked confidence always fears failure. Fear was an obstacle for
students to learn, although fear was a natural response to unknown. However, practicum students in
the third factor, abstract thinking, demonstrated confidence and used their failure as a building block
of their future learning success (Bergin et al., 2004). In a similar study, practicum students whose
learning anxiety were reduced, gained the feeling of confidence proceed to perform better (A. Y. Kolb
& Kolb, 2009). However, this research revealed that the business practicum program fell short in
completing the learning cycle. It lacked the last phase; active experimentation. This phase was
described as practicum students revising or improving their learning experience by trying out what
they learned (A. Y. Kolb & Kolb, 2009).
Business practicum students revealed that their practicum experience enabled and provided
the experiential learning they needed in their future professional work. There were only three phases
that came out in the experiential learning cycle of students: concrete experience (DO); reflective
observation (OBSERVE) and abstract concept (THINK). The practicum program lacked the testing
new situation (PLAN), to complete the phase.
Coordinators must complete the experiential learning before and at the end period of the
practicum course by undertaking the following: consider the learning that occurred before the start of
the practicum by requiring students to submit a practicum plan (Smith & Lev
Ari, 2005).
Coordinators' may require student to submit the plan ahead of their concrete experience (DO) which
means before their deployment. At the end period, the practicum coordinators may require students to
submit a career plan (Sargent & Domberger, 2007). In addition, to strengthen the experiential
learning, coordinators may promote simulation exercises (Gosen & Washbush, 2004). A clear
manifestation of linkages among the four cycles, students must be able to reflect on their practicum
experience (McCarthy & McCarthy, 2006). Lastly, coordinators must be able to promote explicit
learning experience of students through planning and directing (Eraut, 2004).

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Embedding professionally relevant learning in the business curriculum through industry
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Experiential Learning of Business Practicum Students
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experiential, learning, business, practicum, students
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Vicente Salvador Montaño (Author)Anabelle Lopez (Author), 2015, Experiential Learning of Business Practicum Students, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/338145


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