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Undergraduate Practicum Guidelines

The Department of Psychology shares the mission of the University to "let knowledge serve the city." The practicum program in the Department of Psychology supports this mission by offering a range of opportunities for students to apply and test academic knowledge in real-world settings. Students interested in pursuing graduate studies are particularly encouraged to gain experience in applied settings, either through field research or practicum work. Although practicum sites vary considerably, those appropriate for psychology credit include some formal integration of psychological principles.

The department offers Practicum Workshops routinely throughout the school year.

In selecting the practicum site, students are encouraged to carefully consider their career goals and to work in consultation with their faculty advisor, as well as the faculty member who is sponsoring the practicum. Students should make use of the following guidelines in completing practicum work for academic credit. Students are also encouraged to make use of the Practicum Resource Book (located in the Department lobby).

Although specific learning objectives vary, depending on the student's interests and the setting, the goals of the practicum program are: 1) to apply psychological principles to real-world human problems; 2) to gain exposure to potential career paths; 3) to gain an understanding of ethical and social dimensions that arise in social service organizations. Undergraduate students enter the organizations at the apprentice level and thus are not expected to develop professional skills during the course of the practicum. Students may want to specify learning objectives, however, e.g., interviewing skills, group facilitation, introductory assessment skills.

Pre-requisites

Students must be at the junior level (minimum of 90 credits) to register for practicum credits. In addition, students must have completed at least 8 credits of upper division psychology coursework in areas of study related to the practicum, i.e., in the subspecialty of psychology most directly related to the practicum.

Selecting a Site

After identifying a general area of interest (e.g.. mental health, youth programs, social change organizations), the student meets with the faculty member who will be sponsoring the practicum to discuss potential sites. The practicum must include learning experiences that are predominately psychological in that they should include some systematic application of psychological theory or research to human problems. (This determination is made in consultation with the faculty sponsor.)

The practicum setting should be capable of providing a structured learning experience for students, including weekly supervision (30 minutes or more.) If weekly staff meetings are included as part of the supervision, the meetings should provide the opportunity for the student to receive feedback and to address concerns that arise in carrying out duties in the practicum setting. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule interviews at potential sites and to negotiate roles and responsibilities with the field supervisor in the course of selecting a site. The field supervisor should have a formal supervisory position in the organization or agency and recognized expertise in the setting.

Arranging credit

After selecting the site, the student formalizes the agreement with the field supervisor and the faculty sponsor. The faculty sponsor should have some familiarity with the field setting or with a subspecialty of psychology directly relevant to the practicum setting. The sponsor also provides the Practicum Proposal form that is completed with the student and serves as a contract. The form includes contact information, scope of duties of the practicum student, and the product to be submitted at the completion of the term. The form also includes information on the expertise of the field supervisor related to the practicum learning experience. In addition to the faculty sponsor and student, the field supervisor also signs the proposal.

The student may register for from one to five credit hours, with each credit equivalent to approximately 30 hours of fieldwork per term. (For a four-credit practicum, for example, 120 hours of field experience is required per term.) Library research, staff meetings, orientation sessions and outside activities related to the practicum may be included in the total hours. In addition, a by-arrangement form is completed for credit (PSY 409), with the pass/no pass grade option.

Criteria for field supervisor's evaluation of student

General criteria for evaluation of practicum include demonstrated: 1) responsibility to the agency and to clients in carrying out agreed upon duties; 2) openness to learning and applying principles and feedback gained in supervision; and 3) completing the required number of hours, as well as any agreed upon product. In addition, the field supervisor may evaluate the student according to specific learning objectives.

Basis for the final grade

The faculty sponsor solicits the final letter from the field supervisor and submits the final grade. The student must create a practicum log, including the scheduled hours completed each week. In addition to the log, the student maintains a practicum journal, with weekly entries focused on key issues that arise in the application of psychological principles in the field setting. The student may identify a key conflict or concern that arose during the week, for example, and how psychological principles (including ethical principles) might be applied in conceptualizing the conflict or concern. In addition to describing the dilemma, the journal entry may include personal reflections, for example how cultural background might influence responses to the dilemma.

After the initial meeting with the faculty sponsor to negotiate the practicum contract and credit, the student should meet with the sponsor once midway through the term and again the week prior to finals week. The journal (including weekly entries) should be submitted to the faculty advisor at least a week prior so that the student is able to receive feedback during these meetings.