Terminology and Work Experience Parameters

Included in this section:

  • A discussion around variations in the current practices of ASE ER programs work experiences and why this variation is (probably) a good thing!
  • Suggestions for common language within ASE ER


In order to begin a dialogue on work experience practices within BC’s ASE ER programs, it would be helpful to develop some common standards as a reference, for example, by clarifying the language used within the B.C. field. Terminology differs between institutions within the province, as well as across the country and throughout the larger field. There has been some recent research, some specific to B.C., which informs and enlightens this conversation. This section includes a discussion of language used and makes a recommendation for language specific to ASE ER programs in order to improve articulation, foster a shared understanding and provide a baseline from which to enhance the knowledge-base around guiding practices for WEP activities within BC ASE ER programs.

The range of activities described as constituting “work experience” varies widely in BC’s ASE ER programs. Some of these activities include class-based work, research projects, job shadowing, community exploration, and work trials. This range of activities aligns with practice in the field in other areas of North America.  “Work experience can include such sporadic brief activities such as job shadowing, informational interviews, and workplace tours; more intensive activities of various durations such as workplace mentoring; and other more protracted experiences including volunteer work, service learning, on-the-job training, internships, and paid employment. Each of these activities contributes to the career development, career choice and career success of individuals with disabilities (Benz & Lindstrom, 1977, as cited in Luecking, 2009, p. 11)” [1]. The amount of support provided also ranges, from fully supported full-time to fully independent (i.e., no PSE personnel remaining on site). These differences in delivery models, language, etc. present challenges in articulation discussions and in “facilitating student mobility and recognizing student’s achievements/credits.” [2] For example, when a student’s transcript says they have completed work experiences, there currently is no way of knowing what this actually means.

According to publications on the subject of Experiential Education (EE) by the British Columbia Council on Admission and Transfer (BCCAT) “in many instances, diverse forms of EE were not designed, delivered, assessed, or accredited within any commonly accepted framework.” [3] This observation from the BCCAT report on EE could be said to apply to the work experience components of BC’s ASE programs. Within BC’s ASE ER programs, there does not appear to be a cohesive or shared understanding or application of terminology related to experiential education in general, to the language used to describe “work experience” activities, or to the requirements of work-integrated learning activities.  A shared understanding of terminology and requirements would aid in providing clarity in discussions of practice and in articulation activities. In a brief and informal survey of BC’s 15 ASE employment readiness programs indicated that the terms “work experience”, “practicum”, “internships”, were most commonly used. A sample of terminology used in other areas of Canada (in programs similar to BC’s ASE ER programs) include job practice, internships, and job experiences to name a few. Additionally, a wide range of activities, such as career exploration exercises (research, focused field trips, employer interviews, etc.), job shadowing, etc. were reported as a satisfactory way of fulfilling various work experience requirements.

In the U.S., according to the Think College website (which has links to each of the inclusive PSE programs in the United States) most post-secondary institutions use the term “internships”. There is some variation in the use of this term in post-secondary settings. According to Richard Luecking, in his book The Way to Work: How to Facilitate Work Experiences for Youth in Transition”, the term “internship” is a specific type of work experience with the purpose of providing “intensive career/job preparation; prelude to a career choice; in-depth exposure to a job and workplace.” [4] However, an examination of the descriptions of the internships at many of the US post-secondary programs do not fit this description, but rather seem more in line with Luecking’s description of “work sampling”. In fact, there are no specific requirements or specifications related to these “internships,” just a requirement stating “participating in internships or work-based training” is one potential method of fulfilling program mandates.

  1. Luecking, R. G. (2009). Work-Based Learning and Work Experiences as Indispensable Educational Tools. In The way to work: How to facilitate work experiences for youth in transition (p. 11). Brookes Publishing Company Inc.
  2. Lowndes, D. (2018, May). Adult Special Education (ASE) Program-Specific Transfer Guide. Retrieved from British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfer: http://www.bccat.ca/pubs/aseguide2018
  3. Johnston, N., & Sator, A. J. (2017, March). Experiential education. Retrieved October 3 2017, from bccat.ca: www.bccat.ca/pubs/expeducation.pdf
  4. Luecking, R. G. (2009). The way to work: How to facilitate work experiences for youth in transition, p. 31. Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company Inc.


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Structured Work Experience Placement Handbook Copyright © 2021 by Nicola Soles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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