Practicum Overview

What is a Practicum Project?

The goal of the practicum project is to provide students an opportunity to integrate and apply the public health knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to a real world public health problem. All professional masters’ students at the Harvard School of Public Health are required to complete a Practicum Project during their program of study, working as individuals or as members of a practicum team. Practicum projects are completed under the supervision and with the support of an HSPH faculty member, and with a Preceptor at the host organization. At the completion of the project, students are required to give an oral presentation and submit a written report. The practicum project is one means by which our faculty assesses student readiness to graduate and practice public health.

What is the Criteria for a Practicum Project

Individual or team projects are acceptable. Team projects should be designed for teams of no more than 3 students. A practicum project must meet the following criteria:

  • Addresses a problem that has significance to your organization
  • Requires the student(s) to demonstrate and apply graduate level skills and competencies to the type of problem or issue that they are likely to encounter in public health practice
  • Requires at least 120 hours of work from each student working on the project; the work schedule is based on a discussion of your organization’s needs and student availability
  • Has a specific, well-defined project that can be accomplished successfully within the time and with the skills and knowledge of the student or student team
  • Will be supervised by a preceptor at your organization who agrees to the responsibilities outlined below, and is acceptable to the course instructor
  • Will enhance the professional development of the student or student team

What is the Role of the Practicum Preceptor?

Your organization must designate a Preceptor who will provide guidance to the student or student team. The Preceptor is a critical element of the practicum project. We hope that the preceptor will not only supervise the project, but also mentor the student in his/her development as a public health professional.

The responsibilities of the Preceptor are to:

  • Orient the student or student team to the organization and the project
  • Develop a realistic project plan and work schedule with the student(s)
  • Be available on a regular basis to meet with and supervise the student(s)
  • Provide the guidance and support necessary for successful completion of the project, and on-going feedback about the performance of the student(s)
  • Arrange for the student(s) to obtain any resources needed to complete the project (e.g., work space, computer, administrative support)
  • Try to assist the students in their professional development (e.g., help them meet leaders of the organization and network, arrange for them to attend meetings during the placement, etc.)
  • Complete the mid-project and final evaluations of the student(s).

Approval Process for Practicum Placements

There are two steps in the practicum placement process:

  • Step 1: There is a “Proposal” step in which the student submits a draft of the work to the practice course instructor for review and approval prior to the start of the project.
  • Step 2: Once the Proposal has been approved, a “Practicum Project Agreement” must be signed by the student and the organizations preceptor and submitted to the course instructor within two weeks of the start of the project. (See Practicum Project Learning Agreement Form.)

Methods of Evaluation

Organizations are asked to provide feedback at two points during the practicum experience:

  • Organizations Mid-Point Practicum Evaluation: Brief evaluation of student(s) and practicum thus far (online form sent in March)
  • Organizations Final Evaluation: Final evaluation of student(s) work and of the practicum experience (online form sent in May)

Evaluation of the student’s practicum is determined by the practicum course instructor.
Materials generally required include:

  • Final written project report and oral presentation
    • Presentation: varies by department; may be between 5 – 20 minutes
    • Paper with an executive summary; maximum of 15 pages, excluding sources (this also varies by department)
  • Class participation
  • Preceptor feedback on the work completed by the student
  • Other assignments as determined by instructor (e.g., reflective memos, self-assessment)