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Intern Learning Experience

The Intern Learning Experience

Note: In our guidance we consider the terms “intern” and “apprentice” interchangeable.

Learning Contracts #

AJP standards allow farms to hire interns and to exchange learning for lower wages than would be paid to a regular employee although no lower than the legal minimum wage per hour. The farm must agree to an individual learning contract with each intern that details what the intern expects to learn. At regular intervals through the season, the farmers or supervisor must check in with the intern to make sure the desired learning is taking place. This gives the farmer the chance to evaluate the intern’s progress and the intern the chance to evaluate the learning experience. If a farm cannot provide instruction in a particular area, the farm can pay for the intern to take a workshop or attend a conference where instruction in that skill is available.

The Learning Experience #

An essential aspect of an internship is the learning experience. Interns should write their own learning contract, stating what their learning goals are for the season. A learning contract is simply an explicit agreement in writing between a teacher and a student about a program of learning that can encompass skills and attitudes as well as knowledge. The process of preparing such a contract can help both the mentor and the intern clarify their intentions and expectations. Learning contracts are especially appropriate for adult learners because they honor and promote the adult’s independence and initiative. Learning contracts are intended to be morally, not legally binding; their purpose is educational rather than legal. The farmers should review these goals with the interns periodically to make sure the intern is actually learning what they set out to learn. The review should be mutual – the farmer evaluating the learner’s progress and the learner evaluating the farmer’s teaching.

A learning contract should contain the following elements:

  1. Names of mentor and intern
  2. Specific learning objectives
  3. Time frame or evaluation schedule: when and how often the mentor and intern will meet to discuss the intern’s progress and possibly revise the contract.
  4. Evidence of learning: how the intern will show his or her learning, e.g., demonstrate a skill, write a report, keep a journal.
  5. Evaluation criteria: how learning will be measured, e.g., knowledge-based criteria such as comprehensiveness, depth, clarity or usefulness; skill-based criteria such as precision, speed, comfort; and who will evaluate the learning. Self-evaluation by the intern is perfectly appropriate.
  6. Signatures of mentor and intern with date

Learning contract examples #

See also further resources on internships