Field Practicum

The field practicum is the formative development practice experience for MDP students. It provides students with the opportunity to apply inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural problem solving skills outside the classroom in international contexts with local communities, experienced practitioners and teams, representing diverse organizations and institutions, to address important development challenges.

Pittman Photo MDP

Components of the MDP Field Practicum (click for more information):

 

Field Practicum Learning Objectives

Through the practicum students will gain direct experience in some of the following areas:

  • Understanding the interconnectedness of diverse sectors such as education, agriculture, environment, health, nutrition, energy, infrastructure, water, gender, and community development.  Applying interdisciplinary approaches to address these cross-cutting issues;
  • Integrating knowledge on cross-sectoral issues, local insights and community participation into field training projects and activities;
  • Participation in a particular activity in the project cycle: from program conceptualization, design, implementation to monitoring and evaluation;
  • Collaborating and building relationships with practitioners including government officials, NGOs, communities, donors and project personnel.  Working in teams, oftentimes cross-cultural and interdisciplinary in composition;
  • Communicating effectively and facilitating meetings with stakeholders utilizing methods such as Action Research, Participatory Rural Appraisal, collaborative planning meetings, visualization and feedback workshops. Students will come to understand the importance and means of cultivating respectful communication with communities and support agencies;
  • Identifying promising strategies for policy interventions to advance sustainable development (at the local, national and/ or regional level);
  • Applying techniques of self-reflection and inter-personal skills and dynamics to be cognizant of personal attitudes, perceptions and biases.

 

Criteria for the Field Practicum

The field practicum should meet the following criteria:

  • Involve work with a host institution and associated communities on a defined set of practical activities with specific deliverables;
  • Integrate multiple development sectors by crossing more than one of the foundational disciplines of the MDP;
  • Involve working with at least one local community or other development constituency;
  • Present the preliminary results to the community and other stakeholders who take part in the field practicum;
  • Spend a minimum duration of 10 weeks in the country or region where the field practicum is to be carried out.

 

Field Practicum Requirements

  • Pre-planning and research for field practicum and related logistics, such as obtaining appropriate visas and immunizations related to region or country of practice;
  • Implementation of project according to approved proposal, including documentation of modifications made during the field practicum;
  • Regular notes and journaling of events, observations and reflections during the field practicum;
  • Presentation of results to local community members and other stakeholders who took part in the field practicum;
  • A written or other agreed upon deliverable relating to the plan, which will serve as the MDP Master’s project to be presented and defended during the final semester.

 

Field Practicum Report

Depending on their initial project proposal and information gathered during the field practicum, each student is expected to produce one or more of the following deliverables:

  • Project evaluation or consultancy report
  • Extension materials for communities or other development constituencies
  • Funding proposal capitalizing on the results of the field practicum
  • Peer reviewed journal article
  • Curriculum and materials for a practitioner training course
  • Other formats as agreed on by the students supervisory committee, for example, a monitoring and evaluation plan

The post-field process of analysis will be carried out during the Conservation and Development Practicum course (3 credits) in the Fall semester, following the field practicum. In this course students will prepare the first complete draft of their final field practicum reports.

 

Supervision of Students in the Field

While overall supervision will typically be the responsibility of the student’s advisory committee, students should ideally be supported by a combination of local practitioners, community members and local faculty members. Regular communication between the lead supervisor and each student will be important, even essential, for the student’s safety and security as well as for his/her overall learning experience. Fluid communication will also be essential with the host organization during the planning and realization of the field practicum.

 

Safety and Health of Students in the Field

Site placements for student field training should be in locations that have been identified as reasonably safe and secure by local partners and government officials.  National and local authorities and Embassies of the student’s country of citizenship (if present) as well as country of home institution should be made aware of the students’ presence in the site, the objectives of the field practicum, and should support efforts to ensure that the student is safe and has access to assistance in case of emergency.  Health services must be available within the community, and students will be required to obtain international health insurance.

Students will take part in an orientation session on how to mitigate diverse risks during the Field Practicum. It is very strongly suggested that students be accompanied at all times by a fellow student or assistant during field work and to carry a list of important contacts and phone numbers to solicit support while abroad (in the host country and in Florida).

Unforeseen circumstances preventing the student from carrying out or completing the Field Practicum 

In cases where unforeseen problems beyond the student’s control make it impossible to carry out the field practicum or result in only a partial completion of the of the work envisaged, the student’s supervisory committee and the MDP director will evaluate the situation on a case-by-case basis and decide on appropriate measures.

 

Student Evaluations

Student work during the field practicum may be assessed on the basis of feedback from local practitioners, completion of specific tasks, and project outputs including the final report. If students leave the program for personal, medical or security reasons, without completing at least [60%] of the expected time, they will be required to complete a similar field training program before graduating from the MDP. Students will be required to provide host institutions and collaborators with reports detailing the results of the study and important implications of the findings. A first report should be provided to indicate preliminary results while in country.

 

Counterpart Evaluations

Local counterparts may also be requested to provide an evaluation of the work carried out by the student (or group of students) to ensure that the field practicum experience is continually improved and updated. When possible, community members may also be requested to reflect on the work of the MDP students, and how their field-practicum might have been improved.

Apart from informing the adaptive redesign of individual field practicum projects, the evaluations will also serve as a valuable resource to other MDP partner universities that are in the process of creating or restructuring the field component of their programs. Students will understand that they represent UF and the MDP Program while abroad, and the highest standards of professionalism and responsibility should be pursued.

 

Additional Resources:

  • Browse through final practicum reports housed in the UF Institutional Repository: MDP Collection