What is a Teaching Practicum?

When you enroll in a college education program, you can look forward to completing a teaching practicum during your junior or senior year.

Unlike a fieldwork experience, which usually limits what you can do and lets you simply observe licensed teachers, the practicum lets you take over that class. This ensures that you understand what teachers in your same field of study do and that you can handle the needs of students once you graduate.

There are a number of things you should know about a practicum, including the requirements for participating and how long it lasts.

How Long Does a Practicum Last?

A practicum for education students allows those students to work in a classroom with real students as a licensed teacher oversees their work.

The length of a practicum depends on the school itself. Many colleges require that senior education majors four weeks working in a local school during the fall, winter and spring sessions. Students have the option of going back to the same school for each session or working in different schools. Other colleges let students spend 12 weeks or more working in a local school over one entire semester during their senior years.

Requirements for Students

While colleges use teaching fieldwork as a way to get students more experience, most schools have requirements in place for students interested in signing up. Unless you meet those requirements, you’ll need to wait to do your fieldwork. You usually need to be at least a junior and have a grade point average of 2.75 to 3.0 or higher. Most colleges require that students complete their observation requirement as well. The observation requirement lets you spend up to 20 hours or more observing teachers in their own classrooms. Other requirements may include the successful passing of a background check, completion of upper level education classes and the submission of an application packet.

Types of Experiences

Though you might think that all of these programs are the same, you may have the chance to pick the type of teaching practicum that you want to do. While you can work for a local public school that has an affiliation with your college or university, you can also teach in one of the alternative schools in your city. Charter schools often have different rules than public schools do and provide educators with more flexibility. Some schools focus on a specific field of study like the performing arts or science, and you might do your practicum in a preparatory academy that prepares students for college.

Tip for First Timers

Tricia Bracher, a journalist for The Guardian, offers some tips for first timers. Bracher recommends networking with other teachers in the school, getting to the school early every day and using the lesson plans that the primary teacher left behind. Some college students want to show off their skills through creating their own lesson plans, ignoring the notes the teacher left and bringing in new activities. As that teacher will write a letter to the school about your performance, it’s best to follow the instructions and plans given to you.

A practicum is a type of fieldwork experience that many college programs require students complete during their later years. As an education major, your teaching practicum will usually last for around 12 weeks or more.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Master of Arts in Teaching Degree Programs