Guide to the
Practicum in Educational Leadership
For Mentors and Students
Program in Educational Leadership
The Master of Education degree (M. Ed.)
in Educational Leadership at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) prepares
educators to become administrators who are able to create and maintain
effective schools. The program requires students to demonstrate competence
through course work, practical experiences, and portfolio assessment. In
their graduate program, students are exposed to a variety of instructional
methodologies including problem-based learning, case study methods, lecture/discussion,
cooperative learning, and practical experiences. As a culminating experience,
each student enrolls in the course entitled Practicum in Educational Leadership
that is taken during the final one or two semesters of the studentís program.
The term "practicum" is used synonomously with "internship" for the purposes of this guide. Many university programs in Educational Leadership use the term "internship", as do some other programs within the College of Education at FGCU. However, the program in Educational Leadership uses "practicum" to coincide with the state-approved title for this graduate course.
This booklet serves as a guide for the Practicum in Educational Leadership to: a) practicing administrators who are mentors, b) graduate students who are undertaking a practicum experience, and, c) practicum supervisors who are supervising professors or adjunct faculty. It briefly describes and/or defines:
1) the language associated with the Practicum in Educational Leadership;
2) the purposes of the Practicum in Educational Leadership;
3) the process of mentoring;
4) the prevention and solution of potential mentoring problems;
5) the requirements for reporting and evaluation progress; and
6) the forms and materials associated with the Practicum in Educational Leadership.
Purposes of the Practicum in Educational Leadership
The Language of the Practicum in Educational Leadership
The Mentoring Process
The faculty cooperates with school district superintendents, principals, and potential practicum students to identify administrators who serve as mentors. Mentors are informed about the program, their expected roles and responsibilities, and the benefits of mentoring. They file a Mentor Application in Educational Leadership (please click on this item for access to the form) to signify willingness to work with one or more practicum students. Mentors selected by the faculty are expected to serve in the program for at least one year. The benefits to mentors include full library privileges at FGCU, the assistance of the practicum student in carrying out building-level responsibilities, and may include an IPC voucher for graduate coursework at the university.
Mentors are responsible for working with the university supervisor and the practicum student to set up a series of activities that will be mutually beneficial to the student and to the mentor. In other words, the student will engage in shadowing and hands-on activities that will provide the student with valuable educational experiences, while at the same time providing some assistance to the mentor in performing tasks and accomplishing objectives. The mentor also will be responsible for evaluating the practicum student's accomplishments twice during the practicum experience: once in the middle and once at the end of the practicum experience. Mentors will use the Practicum in Educational Leadership Student Evaluation Form (click on this item for access to form).
Selecting Practicum Students
Only students who have completed at least 30 hours of course work (24 credit hours for students in the Modified Program) toward the degree may submit the Practicum in Educational Leadership Application (please click on this item for access to the form). It must be filed within the first two weeks of the semester prior to the semester when the practicum should begin. This form indicates intent to participate in a practicum experience during the following semester. It is recommended that the practicum experiences involve a full semester, either fall or spring, and at least part of the summer. In this way, students experience summer school and have an extended period of time to fulfill the time requirements of the practicum. Student requests are matched with administrators who have applied to serve as mentors during the following year.
Criteria have been identified for the selection of practicum students and include:
Administrative task topics for principals include, but are not limited
to, the following areas:
1. school improvement;
2. teacher observation and evaluation techniques;
3. establishment or revision of procedures;
4. budgeting/accounting procedures;
5. school-community communication;
6. school-community activities;
7. student supervision;
8. student leadership activities;
9. facility maintenance and repair;
10. quality improvement;
11. school curriculum development and assessment;
12. facility schedules;
13. staff and faculty training;
14. technology infusion;
15. school discipline;
16. business partnerships;
17. grant writing;
18. use of statistical data;
19. others as deemed appropriate by the mentor, student, and supervisor.
Course Requirements for Students:
Each practicum student should select a project (or projects) that assists school personnel in their efforts to improve schools and/or the delivery of services to those schools. Project criteria include the following:
In their projects, students may serve as chairpersons of committees or as administrative assistants. Example projects may include responsibility for: total quality education, school improvement, school and curriculum restructuring, community involvement, faculty training and development, school image, instructional evaluation system, restructuring schools, fund raising and/or grant writing, school-business alliances, or other agreed upon projects.
The project should be recommended by the mentor and approved by the Practicum in Educational Leadership supervisor on a contract form provided with the signatures of the Practicum in Educational Leadership student, mentor, and supervisor (See Appendix) along with a description of the approved project plan.
Practicum Portfolio and Final Program Learning Portfolio
A Practicum Portfolio is required or may be combined with the student's Learning Portfolio. The practicum portfolio will be turned into the university advisor at the end of the practicum. It will include a listing of dates worked, the hours each day, and what was done each day; the evaluations by the mentor; journal entries (these can be a copy of the WebBoard entries); and artifacts that support journal entries. This portfolio is to be pllaced in a notebook with a spine title for shelving.
As a final program assessment in the Educational Leadership program, each student will submit a Learning Portfolio, and they will present it to a panel of faculty. Students may wish to combine their Practicum Portfolio and their Learning Portfolio into one. In this case, a separate journal of practicum activities will need to be completed along with a listing of the skill areas accomplished during the practicum that is related to artifacts included in the Learning Portfolio.
The Learning Portfolio is organized around the accomplishment of Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards and FGCU Program Outcomes in Educational Leadership. The ISLLC Standards have recently been developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers in collaboration with the National Policy Board on Educational Administration (NPBEA) to help strengthen preparation programs in school leadership (Van Meter & Murphy, 1997). In addition to the ISLLC Standards, students will be expected to demonstrate competence in the universityís program competencies for Educational Leadership that combines the Florida State Principal Competencies and the NPBEA competencies. For a list of the ISLLC Standards and FGCU Program Competencies in Educational Leadership, please see the Guide to Portfilio Contents or the separate listing of these items on the Educational Leadership Program Webpage.
Summary of Implementation Steps for Mentor/Practicum Student Working Relationships
2. The practicum supervisor meets with practicum students and mentors.
3. The practicum supervisor reviews with practicum students their expected roles and responsibilities.
4. The practicum supervisor reviews with mentors their expected roles and responsibilities.
5. The mentors and practicum students develop details of the plan for the practicum project and identify tasks to be achieved for the completion for the Practicum in Educational Leadership contract.
6. The practicum supervisor reviews the practicum contract.
7. The proposed contract is approved by the practicum supervisor, mentor, and student.
8. The approved contract copies are forwarded to the mentor and practicum student.
9. The mentor introduces the practicum student to school personnel.
10. The practicum student shadows principal (mentor) and/or assistant principal(s) to become familiar with the scope of the principalís work.
11. The practicum student writes weekly postings to the course WebBoard to share experiences with other practicum students. Occasionally, students will meet on campus with other members of practicum student cohort group to share experiences, progress, and cases.
12. The practicum student begins work on specific project (or projects) and begins to assume responsibility for tasks delegated by the mentor.
13. The practicum student and mentor reflect on the day-to-day administrative activities.
14. As the mentorís confidence in the practicum studentís abilities and skills increases, greater responsibilities are assumed.
15. The mentor completes Practicum Evaluation Reports (or click here to submit form through the Internet)which are shared with the practicum student, and the practicum supervisor.
16. The mentor assures that all contract commitments are met, and schedules an exit interview with the practicum student and the Faculty Supervisor.
17. The mentor, practicum supervisor and/or the university coordinator meet to discuss strategies for improving the mentoring experience.
18. The student completes the Practicum Portfolio or combines it with the Learning Portfolio.
Preventing and Resolving Problems
This section of the handbook provides suggestions on ways to avoid problems
and suggests solutions to the most common problems that occur during the
Practicum in Educational Leadership experience.
Mentors May Be Too Protective and Controlling
Mentors must realize that future administrators learn from mistakes
and that mentoring is a learning experience for practicum/internship students.
Students must be allowed to take risks, make mistakes, take responsibility
for errors, and learn from their mistakes. Mentors can assist students
by giving them responsibilities, allowing them occasionally to be unsuccessful,
and providing feedback. When a practicum/internship student receives feedback,
it should be analyzed and acted upon.
Mentors May Take Advantage of Practicum/Internship Students
Mentors who frequently need assistance may exploit practicum/internship
students and the mentoring process. Sometimes this takes the form of assigning
students to meaningless tasks or duties for long periods of time, or allowing
students to be "thrown into" a situation. They may not be ready for the
experience and may not have some chance of achieving success. Mentors can
avoid these mistakes by constantly reviewing the purposes for the Practicum
in Educational Leadership and checking to see if the assigned activities
fulfill the purposes of the Practicum in Educational Leadership.
Mentor/Practicum/Internship Student Personal Relationships
Frequently the mentor and practicum/internship student become close friends. Working together may lead to the development of a familiar, personal relationship. The problem that sometimes arises is maintaining objectivity in assessing the Administrative Practicum studentís competencies. The mentor may fail to see the studentís "shortcomings". The process of evaluating the Practicum in Educational Leadership studentís progress should be kept as objective and as free from bias as possible. But, the mentor may want to check his/her perceptions of the racticum student with those of other professionals who have the opportunity to observe or work with the student. Periodic meetings with the university practicum coordinator and or practicum supervisor can assist here.
If the mentor/student relationship results in a personality conflict,
the mentor or the student should consult with the practicum supervisor
to resolve the situation. Frequently such conflicts can be traced to the
lack of share understandings and the lack of appropriate time to communicate.
Effective Administrators May Lack the Time for Mentoring
Sometimes the best administrators have a difficult time performing effectively
as mentors. These administrators may be busy with their roles and responsibilities
or they may not know how to implement the mentoring process. Mentors can
avoid this problem if they carefully review their existing workload. Supervisors
expect mentors to discontinue their involvement with the program if they
believe they are no longer effective in working with the practicum student.
The practicum supervisor will visit periodically with the mentor to review
the quality of the p student/mentor experience.
Limiting Practicum/internship Studentís Perspectives
Each mentor has developed one or more styles or strategies for dealing
with administrative tasks and leadership responsibilities. The practicum
student may come to view the mentorís approaches as the correct and only
successful ways to accomplish specific tasks. The mentor continually needs
to expose the student to alternative strategies and to other administrators
whose styles may be different from the studentís own. The emphasis should
be on helping the practicum student understand the order and the criteria
using different options available for achieving success in different situations.
Some practicum/internship students find it difficult to assume responsibility
for their work. Mentors, in a spirit of assistance, may provide students
too much help. Mentors can prevent this from occurring by explaining to
the practicum student the importance of making independent and informed
decisions. The mentors also can encourage students to take risks with the
assurance that the mentor will stand behind the student who occasionally
Practicum/internship Student Dissatisfaction
Practicum/internship students vary in the skills, confidence, and level
of experience they bring to the mentoring process. Some students may demand
more from the mentoring process. Some students may demand more from the
mentor than mentor either wants or is able to give to the student. Mentors
can avoid this problem by explaining their expectations for the amount
of time, levels of responsibility, and involvement in administrative activities
the practicum student can expect. If the studentís expectations during
this discussion are not met, then another mentor will be found to work
with the student or the studentís expectations will be adjusted to fit
the practicum experience with the assistance of the practicum supervisor.
Expecting Practicum/Internship Student Perfection to Match the Mentor as "Hero"
Some mentors, because of their skills, experience, and training are
expert or master administrators. They almost always do the "the right thing."
Some practicum/internship students view these mentors as outstanding and
beyond making mistakes. The studentsí responses to such imagery may be
to devalue themselves and their own performance. Mentors can prevent this
to some extent by sharing their own frustrations, failures, and information
on their performance. They also can help the practicum student view the
contributions of others as leading to success in the school.
Mentorís Low Expectations for Practicum Student Performance
Because practicum/internship students are learning, the mentorsí standards
for their performance may be low. The student may use the excuse of "I
am only an practicum/internship student" to allow performance to slip.
Mentors should expect practicum/internship students to avoid using their
status as an excuse for not attempting to do their best all of the time.
The mentor may want to remind the practicum student of the criteria for
evaluation should the student lower his/her own performance expectations.
The mentor may wish to copy the evaluation instrument and let the practicum
student review it or conduct a self-assessment of progress.
Speaking for the Mentor
When the mentor and practicum/internship student work closely together,
some teachers or staff in the school may conclude that talking with practicum/internship
student is like talking to the mentor. The practicum student may be viewed
as speaking for the mentor. Others may view the practicum student as a
"rubber stamp" or "one of them" and unable to think or act independently
of others. Mentors should caution both practicum/internship students and
their staff members that the student has a responsibility to perform effectively
in specific role areas. The mentor should advise the practicum student
to develop a personalized style of leadership and to concentrate on adapting
rather than adopting the mentorís particular strategies.
Cross-Gender Mentoring Relationships
The benefits of men and women working together as professional personnel to gain different leadership perspectives is recognized. The numbers of male mentors usually exceeds that of female mentors. Frequently it is necessary, therefore, for cross-gender mentor/student experiences. Sometimes these relationships become suspect to the school and community publics. The mentor and practicum/internship student can prevent this from occurring by: 1) limiting their activities to the standard administrative tasks performed during regular school hours, 2) ensuring that the relationship is strictly professional, and 3) avoiding "situations" which might lead others to conclude that the professional relationship extends to a personal one.
Students should see their advisor if they
have any questions about the contents of this document.
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