Life Span Experience Through Practicum

Eighteen- to twenty-two-year-old students have spent the great majority of their lives attending school, an age-segregated experience. Often these educational years are also with individuals whose beliefs, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity are very similar to their own. Social and work experiences are within the realm of personal comfort; students’ choices do not usually move them to be involved in experiences that may evoke uncomfortable or nervous reactions. The purpose of the practicum requirement prior to internship is to build experience based upon the foundational knowledge of development taught in lower-level course work. In addition, the practicum experiences allow the opportunity for interactions outside the choices students may have made in the past. Alex-Assensoh and Ryan (2008) assert that the value of off- campus learning opportunities “inspire student interest in the larger world” (p. 34).

Over the course of the semester, students complete two six-week placements. The placement of students into practicum sites is made based on student input and instructor assessment of each student’s experiential and learning needs. Assessment of students’ interest, past personal and work experiences, and the needs and makeup of the practicum sites are taken into consideration when placing students. Seeking to diversify each student’s experience sometimes leads to what may appear to be odd placements. Providing the opportunity to work with a different age group, socio-economic status, culture, and the like can at the least stretch students boundaries of comfort, and at best open their hearts and minds to work with a population not previously considered.

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