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Practicum and Experiential Learning Requirement

What is Practicum?

The practicum is a substantive, full quarter (four academic credits) Experiential Education requirement typically completed during a SESP undergraduate student’s junior year (inclusive of the summer before/after). The Practicum has two distinct but equally important components:

  1. Internship: Students work full-time, 30 hours/week to gain hands-on work experience at an organization of their choosing. The internship can be paid or un-paid, and the work modality can be in-person, remote, or hybrid – depending on the student’s and host organization’s preferences. Students can find internships in any geographic location.
  2. Seminar: The Practicum Seminar is a small (10-15 student) discussion-based course that meets once/week concurrently with a student’s practicum internship. The primary learning objective of the seminar is to provide a place for the student to integrate the theories/concepts they have learned in the classroom with the practice of work at their internship sites. The seminar gives students the opportunity to reflect upon their work experience through weekly reading and writing assignments that help connect the work experience with their overall learning and development goals. The seminar also allows students to meet with other interns to compare and learn from their different work experiences.

Students will receive a grade for Practicum (full quarter 4 credits) that is based on their completion of the Seminar course requirements in addition to completion of their internship work.

What are Some Examples of Practicum Experiences?

The range of organizations where students complete their practicum is as varied as the student population itself. It should be noted that a student’s SESP concentration does not dictate any particular type of practicum experience or host organization. In fact, students should consider the Practicum an opportunity to explore an alternative career path to one they may want to explore based on their long-term career goals or past/future internship experiences. Below is a brief list of organizations that have repeatedly hosted our students over the course of the last few years:

  • APS & Associates
  • City of Chicago
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • Evanston Township High School
  • GSI Family Office
  • GTCR
  • Holistic Consulting
  • Northwestern Athletics
  • Museums: Shed, Field, Science & Industry
  • PierceGray
  • Pro Sports Experience
  • Shore Capital Partners
  • Tier 1 Performance
  • West Monroe Partners
  • YMCA

Study Abroad with Practicum

SESP students who are interested can fulfill their Experiential Education/Practicum requirement as well as their Global Engagement requirement through several different internship abroad opportunities offered through Northwestern’s Global Learning Office.

Practicum abroad is currently available in the Fall quarter in Milan, Italy; Dublin, Ireland or Sydney, Australia, and in the Winter quarter in Sydney Australia.

NOTE: Additional application is required for Practicum Abroad opportunities, students must work with their advisor and plan ahead.

Information for potential Hosts/Employers

Would your organization like to host a Practicum Student?

Students are looking for practicum opportunities every quarter (fall, winter, spring, and summer). Some advantages to hosting a Practicum student include:

Students can offer a new and “fresh” perspective on combating the challenges faced by the organization.

  • Interns are able to devote consistent and significant time to a project(s).
  • An organization/department may have expanded capacity to take on new projects or look more deeply into current projects.
  • Companies can develop a rewarding mentoring relationship with a motivated, curious, intelligent and conscientious student.
  • Organizations find talent. While there is no expectation that practicum students will be hired on post-practicum, many have continued contributing to the organization by working part-time during school or full-time over the summer/after graduation.

What are the requirements for hosting a Practicum student?

  • The projects/responsibilities should be substantive. They should be appropriate for a quarter long, 30 hours/week experience.
  • Students must be available to attend the required academic seminar (meets once/week in evenings).
  • The dates of the practicum experience must align closely with Northwestern’s quarter start/end dates.
  • The student may intern either in-person or remotely, as long as they are given proper supervision and the experience is interactive.
  • The student’s supervisor should have a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of relevant experience. The supervisor should provide the student with adequate training to begin and be regularly available to answer questions/offer advice. They should meet with the student for at least one hour/week (often ad hoc).
  • A representative of the organization (preferably the student’s supervisor) will go over and complete the SESP practicum contract with the student, outlining relevant information, such as goals, responsibilities, dates, expectations before the experience begins. A midterm and final evaluation will be completed by the supervisor, which provides the student and school with feedback about the student’s performance and opportunities for the student to learn and improve.

Teaching Practicums

Secondary Teaching students complete two experiences.

Senior Year (Fall Quarter)

Practicum/Field Studies
Duration: 100 hours of work in a classroom assisting a cooperating teacher.

This practicum requires a minimum of 10 hours per week for the duration of the quarter in which a student observes and assists in a school and concurrent registration in the seminar and methods course. To arrange a placement for the Practicum/Field Studies experience, all juniors must attend an information session in October and an interview with the placement office.

Senior year (Winter Quarter)

Student Teaching
Duration: One-quarter of full-time internship work as a student teacher.

Student Teaching provides developmental training in teaching methodologies through an intensive, 10-week clinical experience and teaching under the supervision of master teachers in the teacher training schools. Student teachers have increasingly sophisticated teaching responsibilities and, finally, primary responsibility for teaching a group or a class. Prerequisites are successful completion of the Practicum/Field Studies teaching experience (TEACH ED 378 or 379), a C- or better in methods (TEACH_ED 354-359), a passing score on the ICTS content area test, successful completion of the first digital portfolio checkpoint and consent of the Director of Undergraduate Teaching.