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What is a Practicum? – How to Compile the Background

Updated on December 10, 2012

Practical Work Experience

This is a presentation about how to complete a practicum in college and graduate school. However, in recent years, the term "practicum" has been used in elementary and secondary schools as well as music lessons, sports clubs, and all types of activities to denote the presenation of a student or a group's work in a course. I hope Hubbers will write about those types of presentations, too!

This is one section of a four-part HubMob Education weekly topic article about the practicum in higher education. The four parts include:

  1. What Is a Practicum? – How to Compile the Background
  2. Creating a Practicum – How to Develop a Program
  3. Using a Practicum – How to Implement a Program
  4. Evaluating a Practicum - How to Determine Its Effectiveness

 

Fire Center Practicum, College of Forestry and Conservation at University of Montana

Goals in 2009: expose ground for longleaf pine seedlings, preserve "duff" at base of trees, protect old-growth longleaf pine trees.
Goals in 2009: expose ground for longleaf pine seedlings, preserve "duff" at base of trees, protect old-growth longleaf pine trees.

Formal Definitions

A practicum (plural: practicums or practica) is a period of intensely focused practical application of classroom and textbook theories and case studies to the actual world of work. This includes observation and often, on-the-job training (OJT). The practicum is supervised by professionals at school and/or off campus and usually overseen by a specific course number and professor or panel of professors and instructors as well. A superviro may be called a preceptor, especially in field of medicine.

Entry first seen in the Miriam-Webster Dictionary in 1904: practicum – from the German “Praktikum”; from the Late Latin “practicum” as the neuter designation of “practicus”, meaning practical. Definition: a course of study designed especially for the preparation of teachers and clinicians that involves the supervised practical application of previously studied theory

Resource: practicum. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved February 01, 2009, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/practicum.

Mural Art Practicum - University of Minnesota - Peter Cuba

What Majors Require a Practicum?

What courses of study, or majors, require practica? Many career choices require a practicum to be completed during the educational process, often at the graduate school level, but sometimes during undergraduate training. We are also finding the term practicum in grades K-12 performance arts and other projects.

A practicum may be either a paid or unpaid work experience and just a few of the examples include the list below.

Sample Practicum Program and Course Titles

  • Psychology and other Social Sciences – Course Example: Sociology 600: Practicum for Integrating Research and Instruction
  • Education – Example: Practicum in Elementary School Principalship.
  • Environmental Science – Example: Audubon of Florida Climate Change Forum
  • History – Examples: “Nineteenth Century Ontario Newspapers”, “Exhibition of Children’s Book-binding”
  • Landscape Architecture – Example: “Brownfields Practicum" at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Department of Landscape Architecture
  • Law – Example: Real Estate Practicum: Western New England School of Law.
  • Public Health – Example: Field Practicum in Public Health and Environment in Kenya
  • Medicine – Example: Advanced Concepts in Public Health Nursing; Child Life Practicum at Children’s Hospital [note: supervised by a Certified Child Life Specialist or CCLS]

 

Homily Practicum (3 min.) - FathaFloyd on YouTube

Beginning a Practicum Experience

A student participating in a practicum is often called a practitioner. This person will accept an ongoing practicum program assignment or perhaps help to create one with the help of an advisor(s).

In designing a new practicum program, a topic and/or target population is selected and relevant background material is compiled. This provides evidence of the need for the activities included in practicum and a rationale for moving forward. 

The following material is taken from a mock up of a graduate program wrote a few years ago in the course of my academic responsibilities.

Behavioral Practicum Clip - Samantha Thornton and Kirby

Background

Bridging the Gap In Services to Ex-Offenders

© P. Inglish 2005

BACKGROUND

Over 33,000 adult parolees re-enter Illinois communities yearly (Blagojevich, Rod J., 2005). The Illinois Governor’s Statewide Community Safety & Reentry Working Group’s Executive Committee found in 2005 that parolees finished serving prison sentences for drug offenses comprised 42% of parolees; for property offenses commonly associated with drug involvement, 27%; for violent personal offenses, 21.7%; and for other offenses, 4.2%.

The average parolee has been previously incarcerated at least once, and faces difficult barriers to safe and productive re-entry into society. These barriers include substance abuse, mental health conditions (including Sever mental Disorders), lack of education and literacy (only 36% report a high school diploma or higher), and poor work readiness.

(AGENCY) has historically worked with these challenges, and with the help of this proposed Practicum, will serve a higherpercentage of ex-offenders with a wider range of effective services. Related to this effort, this paper contains the original proposal for a 30-hour repeatable Practicum in the field of Urban Ministry and Social Services, and a report of the completion and some results of the first 30-hour round of work. This Practicum will be served at (AGENCY), a leading community based organization (CBO) in (City) that lends assistance and support to ex-offenders

In the long term, this Practicum will enable (AGENCY) to more fully liaison with other 501( c )(3) corporations to provide vital and relevant services that will meet the personal and work-related needs of ex-offenders in the State of Illinois. It will establish, strengthen and document an ongoing network and directory of organizations and individuals that will help to provide ex-felons with a continuing program of services to obtain such necessities as legal state identification (ID), bus fare, other transportation options, and counseling for personal and workforce development goals.  

The program established by this Practicum will help to bring hope into the lives of ex-felons with long-term career planning and support services provided through Individualized Service Plans (ISPs) to include evaluation, testing, training, referrals, counseling, life coaching, and other services from partner CBOs. The program will be supported through community partnerships among various interested 501( c )(3) corporations that include legal agencies, churches, social service agencies, governmental offices, schools, health clinics, and others. This Practicum will establish the basis for a printed directory of services available to ex-offenders on a statewide basis.

The practitioner will serve 30 hours in order to establish ongoing contacts for working relationships among various non-profit corporations and individuals targeted by this Practicum and (AGENCY), and setting them down in a Reentry Service Directory for ex-offenders.

This process will begin with telephone calls to agency leaders to establish rapport and to gain organizational buy-in and interest in a liaison network to aid (AGENCY), and to make appointments for meetings with these leaders. Telephone calls will be followed up with meetings in order to secure Memoranda of Understanding to set in writing and establish or strengthen a variety of working partnerships long term. A directory of organizations with their addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers; their contact person(s) for helping (AGENCY) and a list of specific services willing to be provided by each organization will be started by this first practitioner. An Internet based database and directory may be possible in the future. All steps will be discussed in full below.

AGENCY BACKGROUND

(Names and Titles) of (AGENCY) is an appointed member of the Illinois Governor’s Statewide Community Safety & Reentry Working Group’s Executive Committee. They is also the founder of the (smaller local agency), an activist group founded during the 1970s. Their groups have been committed to serving ex-offenders for successful community reentry decades and want to expand their territory.

Established in 1966, (AGENCY) is a non-profit, grass roots, self-help organization dedicated to providing services for inmates from the State of Illinois Correctional Facilities. Historically, (AGENCY) has been a leader in obtaining State ID, birth certificate, high school transcripts, Social Security card, and Voter’s Registration for this population. Successful partnerships with other CBOs provide financial support toward office overhead, a Job Locator Program, and a Job Training Program. (AGENCY) recently registered 100 voters in a single year, all of whom received some form of required identification, instructional counseling and /or other services.

At this time, additional partners are needed to expand the services described above.

(AGENCY & Contact Name)

(Contact information)

 Mission Statement

(Agency) is a community based organization of concerned residents, professionals, offenders, and ex-offenders that use their gifts and talents to assist those leaving the Illinois prison system. The organization helps these ex-offenders to find their way though the difficult process of re-adapting to community life. (AGENCY) empowers community members to work towards the prevention of crime and violence and the sentencing of individuals into the criminal justice system.

Services Offered  

  • Birth Certificates (local and out of state)
  • Counseling and spiritual guidance
  • Court, probation and legal advocacy services
  • Family Re-integration
  • Group counseling
  • Information and referral to other services
  • Mentoring
  • Pen-pal and emergency phone calls from inmates
  • School Transcripts through the Board of Education
  • Screening, testing, and referrals to job training centers
  • Social Security Cards
  • State ID Cards
  • Transportation
  • Visits to inmates for spiritual guidance and counseling
  • Voter Registration  

The President’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative (PRI), via the US Departments of Labor, Justice and Housing, presented a PRI Panel Presentation in Philadelphia PA in 2005 (US Departments of Labor, Justice and Housing. Prisoner Reentry Initiative (PRI): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders: The Challenges and Solutions. July 12, 2005). In this presentation, the panel indicated the following services as best practices that could be offered by faith-based organizations, such as (AGENCY): 

  • Mentoring, Case Management
  • Outpatient Residential Model
  • Transitional Housing, Recovery Residences, Long-Term Housing
  • Transportation
  • Education, Work Readiness and other Life Skills Training
  • Employment
  • Health & Wellness
  • Counseling and Follow-Up, Support Groups
  • Childcare 

Faith-based activities were presented among the Best Practices supported by Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by the same panel. (AGENCY) provides the majority of recommended services, and with a proposed Bridge of Cooperation, (AGENCY) can offer all of them directly or via or partner referral.

Next Steps

The next steps in the process are offered in: Creating a Practicum – How to Develop a Program.

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    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      As a former education administrator, I am impressed and appreciate your detailed and informative hub. great work !

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Hi Twin TL - For some careers it could be. However, for student teachers in some areas, a student serves a 1 or 2 week Practicum of observation and a few dutres, and then a few weeks later, some months of Student Teaching. it depends on the career field.

    • profile image

      Twin XL 

      9 years ago

      Isn't this basically just a fancy name for an internship?

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