My internship journey: Lessons learned, challenges and opportunities – anthony O’leary.

Participating in the Physical Education and Sport Science (PESS) Research Internship was an exciting and enriching experience. It provided me with the opportunity to work alongside a PESS faculty member, gaining valuable hands-on experience and insight into conducting qualitative research.

In this blog,  I will give an overview of my internship experience and explore the opportunities / challenges I faced along the way. The first step of the internship involved having a meeting with my mentor, learning about his research project, and collaboratively creating a plan of action document. This document set out both my own, and my mentors expectations for the 8 week internship and also included a detailed timeline, learning outcomes, assessment elements, and suggested activities.

As I had little experience in conducting qualitative research, this was proposed as the focus of my internship. Two of the main learning outcomes were to: (1) gain an understanding of the fundamentals of qualitative research procedures (2) explore paradigms and theoretical frameworks applied to teacher education research. These learning outcomes would be assessed on a biweekly basis through an informal presentation and discussion on the lessons learned. Some of the weekly activities included engaging with readings, videos, and podcasts around areas such as PETE frameworks, thematic analysis, and grounded theory. Additionally, I kept a weekly internship diary where I recorded all of activities undertaken and the take home learnings from each.

After gaining an understanding of some of the key features of qualitative research, I proceed to apply these skills to a research project that my mentor was involved with. The project was entitled ‘Learning in on-line environments to teach face-to-face in schools: Exploring preservice teachers’ learning and teaching effectiveness while on school placement’. It involved 55 randomly selected preservice teachers from a range of different subjects. My role was to help examine their lesson plans; units of learning; cooperating teacher observation forms and self-reflections on micro-teaching. I did this using qualitative research methods such as data transcription and reflexive thematic analysis. 

I found this study interesting as I had experienced a mix of online and face to face learning during my first year of the PME programme. Some of findings of this study showed that the PSTs demonstrated strong planning and preparation skills. They were seen as ‘technical teachers’, given that they possessed high content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and curriculum knowledge. However, it was also found that the PSTs were perhaps overly concerned with classroom management. This was understandable considering their lack of face-to-face practical teaching experiences.

There was some challenges I had to overcome to complete this internship. Firstly, both the content and context were challenging. I faced a steep learning curve initially which required me to get to grips with new research terminology, frameworks and methods. Secondly, it was difficult at times to juggle the workload of this internship alongside other commitments such as family and friends. However my mentor was always flexible with deadlines, provided guidance when needed, and motivated me to overcome these challenges.

An internship with PESS offers substantial benefits at both a professional and personal level. Throughout my experience, I not only honed my research skills but also gained valuable competencies such as time management, project management, attention to detail, and critical thinking. Undoubtedly, these skills will prove invaluable in my future career. Moreover, on a personal level, my PESS internship bolstered my confidence in my ability to engage in research and has potentially opened up a new career avenue. Therefore, I highly recommend that all students consider applying for a PESS internship opportunity


Anthony O’Leary is a 2nd year PME student in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, UL.  

Contact: Email:    @Anthony_OLeary1

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