Developing the Learning Contract

Internship Program
Kagin Commons, First Floor
651-696-6128
651-696-6628 (fax)

Academic-Year Hours
Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Summer Hours
Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Learning Contract is the main document that structures the relationship between you, the site, and Macalester College. It represents a description of learning objectives, specific strategies for achieving those objectives and methods for documenting their accomplishment to your faculty sponsor. In an internship, you will have a position/job description that outlines what you are expected to DO, Your Learning Contract represents what you want to LEARN.  In addition, this document identifies who the players are in the relationship and provides important details related to negotiated start/end dates, hours, credit, etc.

Click here to fill out the online Learning Contract/Internship Agreement

Finding a faculty sponsor

To earn credit, your internship must actively involve a faculty person who oversees the academic component and assigns a grade.  Factors to consider in finding a sponsor:

  • Identify a faculty person with a perspective or background that will help you learn as much as possible in this internship.
  • A sponsor does not have to be your academic advisor, although students using the internship for career exploration often seek this person’s support.
  • Credit earned will be in the department of the faculty sponsor.
  • Some departments will sponsor only students who have previously taken coursework in that academic area.
  • While faculty are generally quite supportive of internships, they are not required to serve in this capacity.  Respectfully ask for their support and do not demand it.  

The Process:

1.  Review the position/job description for your internship and consider what the host organization can offer you through this opportunity.
2.  Create a draft of learning objectives, strategies, and outcome measures.
3.  Share these with your faculty sponsor and get their input.
4.  Fill out the Online Learning Contract/Internship Agreement. Wait for the printable version to be emailed to you (within one business day.) Once you have a printable version, get signatures and buy-in from all parties.
5.  Bring the completed contract and other required forms to the Internship Program office for approval, prior to going to the Registrar.    

Tips on Completing the Learning Contract

Learning objectives

Internship goals or objectives usually describe what you intend to learn through your internship and you should develop three to five objectives that address the range of your interests.

Here are some examples:

  • Develop an awareness of the field of ________
  • Gain an understanding of how an organization works with _________
  • Learn or improve particular skills, expand knowledge of a specific field or process, and/or apply or test a particular body of knowledge.
  • Explore possible majors or career options and learn what one needs to be successful.
  • Learn about how a particular company, organization or industry works.

Learning tasks and strategies

Describe actions that will help you achieve your objectives. You may use more than one strategy for each objective.  

Some examples include:

  • Receive focused training to develop skills to do the work.  
  • Identify specific project(s) that will address the objectives.
  • Get your faculty sponsor to recommend relevant resource materials.
  • Attend staff meetings, seminars, conferences or professional meetings
  • Conduct informational interviews with professionals or experts about their work/careers.
  • Ask people to observe you at work and seek their feedback and suggestions.

Evaluation and learning outcomes

Describe how you will demonstrate to your faculty sponsor the progress made towards each objective, making sure these activities are appropriate, realistic, and measurable.

All Learning Contracts should include the following types of outcome measures:

  • Regular contact with faculty sponsor throughout the internship.
  • Ongoing journaling pertaining to your internship experience
  • Final summary reflection project on what you learned (from academic, professional, and personal perspectives) to be submitted to your professor.  This can involve:
    • a paper summarizing your journal entries
    • a portfolio of work accomplished
    • a poster presentation to be shared with the larger academic community or class
    • a formal discussion/presentation to be made to a class, group, etc.

How Internships are Graded

At the end of the internship, the faculty sponsor will award a grade or S/D/NC (depending on which you registered for - some departments only allow S/D/ NC) and credit based on how you demonstrate what has been learned during the experience.

Expectations for learning outcomes should correspond to the number of credits earned (i.e. more should be expected for a 4-credit than a 2-credit internship).

In assigning a grade, the faculty sponsor will consider:

  1. Feedback received from the internship site supervisor via mid-term and final evaluations;
  2. Ongoing communications with you over the course of the internship;
  3. The content of a site visit report, if one is done (the Internship Director makes about twenty site visits a term); and
  4. The student’s self evaluation completed and submitted at the end of the term;
  5. Learning outcome measures (assignments) as defined in your Learning Contract. At least one of these should involve a summary reflection of the personal, professional, and academic lessons learned over the course of the internship.