Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Jaime R. Lester

Committee Member

Barbara R. Jones

Committee Member

Philip A. Reed


The purpose of this study is to describe how allied health preceptor-led clinical internship improves or expands community college student learning. There is a significant gap of information in the literature related to the importance of this clinical internship experience for the learning, socialization, and professional development of allied health students in general and community college students in particular. The absence of relevant data for these internships as a situated learning experience is evident in the literature review. The majority of the allied health work force is prepared by community colleges. Therefore, community college leaders need data to make data-driven decisions about community college allied health programs to insure students meet learning goals established by professional accrediting agencies, employers, and other stakeholders in the most efficient and comprehensive way possible.

Harris, Jones, and Lang (2006) observed, “Allied Health is like a 1,000 piece puzzle. It is assumed that all the pieces will go together, but it's challenging finding sufficient information on the big picture” (slide 9). Student learning during the clinical experience is studied from the perspectives of the student, clinical coordinator, and preceptors and the essence of student learning during the clinical internship is defined. The results of this nested case study provide important, initial conclusions regarding how students construct learning in a clinical learning experience. The data generated three themes, which informed the research questions: (1) allied health clinical education improved and expanded learning in community college students; (2) the cognitive apprenticeship framework supported student construction of learning; and (3) community college student learning, as a result of clinical experiences, is time and place bound and the locus of student learning is geographically determined based on learning domains.

Based on the results of the study, there are several conclusions: First, in spite of a lack of reference to pedagogy, the traditional apprenticeship is firmly entrenched in instructional strategies employed by clinical preceptors to promote student learning. Cognitive apprenticeship, as an instructional method, is the result of data collection for this study and not as a commonly employed instructional strategy. However, the results suggest cognitive apprenticeship may provide a mechanism for development of cognitive and metacognitive processes in students during their clinical learning experience. Last, the results of this study indicate the use of technology may break the barriers of time and place and expand cognitive and metacognitive processes in students.


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