Moving into communities of practice: experiences of psychology students in their internship

Mette Elmose*, Rie Troelsen, Nina Rottmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Internships that are carried out as part of an education program are a way of preparing students for their professional entry. Internships can be seen as an introduction to communities of practice (CoP) that students are to act in. The aim of the present study is to investigate the experience of psychology master students in Denmark during their internship and how this experience may reflect their moving into a community of practice. Eighty-seven psychology master students described a total of 495 experienced challenges in the beginning and at the end of their ten-month part-time internship as part of a reflective teaching task. Content analysis identified ten themes. CoP theory and its three common process denominators community, practice and identity were used as theoretical lens. The “Practice” domain included the themes Skills to solve concrete tasks, task delineations and directives, and relational competencies. “Practice community” encompassed Interns’ position for participation, Internship supervisor as a community gatekeeper, Community stressors, and Disagreement in the professional community; and “identity” included experiences related to professional identity, personal impact of work, and personal characteristics. Psychological professionalism emerged as an overarching concept across these domains. Future studies and educational planning should focus on supporting students in handling not only challenges related to concrete work practice and interaction in the community of practitioners, but also identity and the idea of learning as personal transformation as part of moving into practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Psychology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12. May 2023


  • communities of practice
  • internship
  • psychology students


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