Institute on Education and the Economy


Work-Based Learning and Academic Skills
(Working Paper No. 15, September 1999)

Katherine L. Hughes, David T. Moore, & Thomas Bailey

Educators who support work-based learning as a program for secondary school students make a number of different claims for its utility. One such claim is that work-based experience will improve students' academic performance. To investigate this argument, we review existing studies of how work affects youths’ academic performance, and studies of the academic achievement of students in programs that include work-based learning. We then present empirical data from our research on five such programs, as well as draw on the observations of others who have studied student interns. We conclude that the evidence does not provide strong support for this popular assertion about work-based learning, but there are other, non-academic but equally important forms of learning that can come from work experience and that these forms give us good grounds for supporting work-based learning.

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