Practicum experiences serve several purposes. They help you relate course content to real-life settings and situations, thereby strengthening and deepening your learning. They give you the opportunity to explore teaching as a profession before committing to a teaching career. They help you develop a network of professional contacts while you gain experience to get ready for student teaching. Finally, they help us evaluate your professionalism and potential as a future teacher.
A minimum of 100 hours of practicum experience in school classrooms is required prior to student teaching. You can complete these hours by taking courses in the Teacher Education Program. Every teacher education course includes a 20-hour practicum with assignments related to the course content. Practicum forms are kept on file in the Education Department and included in your Pre-Student Teaching Portfolio.
Most of your practicum hours should be in the subject area and grade level you want to teach. But you should also use practicums to explore other grade levels and aspects of schooling, including special education, classes for English Language Learners, and related subjects in the school curriculum.
You will arrange your own practicum during the first two weeks of the term. Your practicum will typically be in school classes in your certification area, but this may vary depending on course requirements. Students who are taking education studies courses for reasons other than teacher certification may do a practicum in a non-school setting with the instructor’s prior approval.
Finding a Site
Most students complete the practicum in an elementary or secondary school—public, private, or charter—in the vicinity of Lawrence. View a map of local schools and look for details about specific schools and teachers on the Appleton Area School District website. Look for teachers in your subject area who have classes that are compatible with your schedule. You may do your practicum in more than one school or with more than one teacher, if you would like the opportunity to compare and contrast. (Note: If you want to do a practicum outside of Appleton, you must first consult with the course professor because school districts vary in their policies for placing practicum students.)
Make initial contact with the school secretary (in person or by e-mail), who will promise to pass your name along to the appropriate department. Follow up the next day with an e-mail to the department head or teachers you are interested in observing. If you do not hear back within a day or two, call the teacher (or continue your search elsewhere). If you leave a message, speak slowly and clearly (in a quiet place); leave your name (spell it) and number (repeat it), and let them know that you are inquiring about a practicum for a 10-week course that is already underway.
It's essential to set up your practicum quickly to get off to a good start and to complete the required hours within the 10-week term. Every education class has some students who have already done a practicum, so ask your classmates for contacts or advice.
You will be given the following items at the start of the course:
- Principal Letter: This letter identifies you as a student enrolled in an education course at Lawrence; it should be given to the school secretary, who may also ask you to sign a school form (confidentiality agreement) to do a practicum at that school.
- Teacher Letter and Practicum Signature Form: This letter asks permission for you to do a practicum in the teacher’s classes, explains what is expected, and includes a form for the teacher to sign to give approval. A separate form must be submitted for each teacher with whom you are doing a practicum. (You can print additional letters and forms from the "Forms" page on this website.)
Practicum Signature Forms are due to the course professor by the end of Week 2 of the term.
Planning Your Time
Plan to spend about 3 hours per week at the practicum site to complete your 20 practicum hours by Week 10 of the term. If you complete more than 20 hours, the additional hours will count toward the pre-student teaching requirement but will not reduce the practicum hours required in future courses.
We recommend taking one practicum course at a time. If you take two, you will need to check with the course professors to see whether the same practicum site can be used to complete assignments for both courses, and you will need to accumulate a total of 40 practicum hours by the end of term.
Getting to the Practicum Site
Transportation to the practicum site and back is often a concern for Lawrence students. Many choose to do the practicum at a school within walking distance of campus. Others ride a bicycle, take the bus, or ride with another student who has a car (you'll need to coordinate your schedule of visits). Ask at the information desk in the Warch Campus Center about the possibility of buying, renting, or borrowing a bike. For local bus routes and schedules, check the Valley Transit website.
Making the Most of Your Practicum Experience
In a practicum, you are a "participant-observer" in the class. That means you should observe when the teacher is delivering instruction and circulate at other times to help students or groups with class activities. Occasionally, you'll want to step back to jot some notes about what is happening; after class, you can write more detailed notes for use in course assignments. Show interest by offering to help the teacher prepare or copy instructional materials, organize the room, hand out supplies, check or record student work, or clean up after class. As you assist the teacher or students, ask a question or two about their work to gain insight into their thinking; you might even jot some quotations for a future paper.
As you gain experience, ask if you can lead an activity, teach part of a lesson, or plan and teach a lesson of your own. Try your hand at writing quizzes, creating a rubric, or giving feedback on student papers. You and the teacher can look at the Practicum Self-Assessment form for more ideas about what to do. Choose tasks depending on the type of class, the teacher's preferences, and your level of experience.
If the teacher does not invite your involvement, then show initiative by offering to help in any way you can and explaining that you would like to gain some practical experience to prepare for student teaching. If you just sit in the back of the room, you will not learn as much, and there will be little for the teacher to comment on in the practicum evaluation.
When you do a practicum, you represent Lawrence's Teacher Education Program, so you must be professional at all times. Dress like a teacher. Arrive on time, and call or e-mail in advance if you will be absent. Be positive and respectful in your interaction with teachers and students. Show interest, willingness to help, and eagerness to learn. Be inquisitive, but reserve critical remarks for course papers or discussions. Respect the confidentiality of student information, and shorten names (Mr. S, Susie, "Juan") to preserve anonymity. Be sure to thank the teacher for welcoming you into his or her classroom. The teacher will be asked to rate your performance, and the positive impression you make will help you and future students in the Teacher Education Program.
If you create problems for the teacher or students, you will be removed from the practicum site, which may leave you short of the hours required for the course and for admission to student teaching. This is rarely a problem, as most Lawrence students are dedicated, responsible, and professional.
To get course credit for a practicum, you must submit the following by Week 10 of the term:
- Practicum Evaluation Form: This form certifies the number of hours completed, includes ratings of your performance, and is signed by the teacher. You must submit a separate form from each teacher with whom you did a practicum, and the hours should add up to the number required for the course. (If you used one practicum site for two courses, put both course titles and the total hours on one form, and then submit a copy to each course professor.)
- Practicum Self-Assessment: This form includes a log of your visits, information about what you did during the practicum, and reflections on what you gained from the experience. Submit a separate form for each practicum site. (You can print additional forms from the "Forms" page on this website.)
Both of these forms are kept on file in the Education Department and included in your Pre-Student Teaching Portfolio. We evaluate your potential as a future teacher based largely on the dedication, enthusiasm, and professionalism you have shown in your practicum experiences, so you'll want to do your best to make a good impression.