Guide to the
Practicum in Educational Leadership

For Mentors and Students

Program in Educational Leadership

      The Master of Education degree (M. Ed.) in Educational Leadership at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) prepares educators to become administrators who are able to create and maintain effective schools. The program requires students to demonstrate competence through course work, practical experiences, and portfolio assessment. In their graduate program, students are exposed to a variety of instructional methodologies including problem-based learning, case study methods, lecture/discussion, cooperative learning, and practical experiences. As a culminating experience, each student enrolls in the course entitled Practicum in Educational Leadership that is taken during the final one or two semesters of the studentís program.
      The term "practicum" is used synonomously with "internship" for the purposes of this guide. Many university programs in Educational Leadership use the term "internship", as do some other programs within the College of Education at FGCU. However, the program in Educational Leadership uses "practicum" to coincide with the state-approved title for this graduate course.
    This booklet serves as a guide for the Practicum in Educational Leadership to: a) practicing administrators who are mentors, b) graduate students who are undertaking a practicum experience, and, c) practicum supervisors who are supervising professors or adjunct faculty. It briefly describes and/or defines:

1) the language associated with the Practicum in Educational Leadership;
2) the purposes of the Practicum in Educational Leadership;
3) the process of mentoring;
4) the prevention and solution of potential mentoring problems;
5) the requirements for reporting and evaluation progress; and
6) the forms and materials associated with the Practicum in Educational Leadership.

Purposes of the Practicum in Educational Leadership

    The Practicum in Educational Leadership provides "real-life" activities that allow students to apply theory and knowledge of subject matter content and to assess and reflect on the interaction of theory and practice. A second purpose is to provide a service to the host school and district by providing administrative candidates who have the potential to function in a leadership position and who have classroom experience applying theory and research in school administration. The final purpose is to assess the Practicum in Educational Leadership studentís ability to perform effectively the responsibilities associated with school leadership.

The Language of the Practicum in Educational Leadership

    The words mentor, practicum student, and practicum supervisor are used throughout this guide. The mentor, the building-level administrator or the district administrator, has responsibility to serve as a role model, teacher, guide, and evaluator for a person developing in the profession. District mentors would be used in those cases where the student may have had the opportunity to experience building-level responsibilities in another situation. A graduate practicum student, observes, converses, and works with the mentor on administrative processes and procedures at the building or district level. Practicum students also receive instruction, guidance, and evaluation of their progress from the mentor. Practicum supervisors assist by providing direct field supervision and guidance to the mentor and practicum student.
    Mentoring is defined as a relationship between a mentor and practicum student that allows the student to learn how to perform effectively the administrative and leadership functions and responsibilities of the building-level administrator. The Practicum in Educational Leadership is based on field experiences involving a building-level mentor, a practicum student and a practicum supervisor and/or practicum coordinator. Mentors will be principals, but the student may be assigned some shadowing and work experiences with assistant principals as well. Indeed, this should occur as most newly assigned building-level administrators begin as assistant principals. On rare occasions, a mentor may be a central office professional working in staff development or curriculum areas.
    For students who are not seeking Level I administrator certification, arrangements will be made on an individual basis for a practicum experience in their particular career field.

The Mentoring Process

    This section describes how mentors and practicum students are selected. It outlines requirements for the students. It also outlines requirements for the Practicum in Educational Leadership experience, provides examples of the broad range of possible practicum experiences, and identifies the procedures for completing the Practicum in Educational Leadership.

Selecting Mentors
    The faculty cooperates with school district superintendents, principals, and potential practicum students to identify administrators who serve as mentors. Mentors are informed about the program, their expected roles and responsibilities, and the benefits of mentoring. They file a Mentor Application in Educational Leadership (please click on this item for access to the form) to signify willingness to work with one or more practicum students. Mentors selected by the faculty are expected to serve in the program for at least one year. The benefits to mentors include full library privileges at FGCU, the assistance of the practicum student in carrying out building-level responsibilities, and may include an IPC voucher for graduate coursework at the university.
    Mentors are responsible for working with the university supervisor and the practicum student to set up a series of activities that will be mutually beneficial to the student and to the mentor. In other words, the student will engage in shadowing and hands-on activities that will provide the student with valuable educational experiences, while at the same time providing some assistance to the mentor in performing tasks and accomplishing objectives. The mentor also will be responsible for evaluating the practicum student's accomplishments twice during the practicum experience: once in the middle and once at the end of the practicum experience. Mentors will use the Practicum in Educational Leadership Student Evaluation Form (click on this item for access to form).

Selecting Practicum Students
Only students who have completed at least 30 hours of course work (24 credit hours for students in the Modified Program) toward the degree may submit the Practicum in Educational Leadership Application (please click on this item for access to the form). It must be filed within the first two weeks of the semester prior to the semester when the practicum should begin. This form indicates intent to participate in a practicum experience during the following semester. It is recommended that the practicum experiences involve a full semester, either fall or spring, and at least part of the summer. In this way, students experience summer school and have an extended period of time to fulfill the time requirements of the practicum. Student requests are matched with administrators who have applied to serve as mentors during the following year.

    Criteria have been identified for the selection of practicum students and include:

Guidelines and Responsibilities of the Faculty in Educational Leadership
        The Educational Leadership faculty is responsible for supervising and coordinating the building-level administrative practicum program for graduate students. Criteria used for selection of the field-based site include:         The Faculty in Educational Leadership is responsible for: As practicum supervisors work and visit with the mentors and graduate students during the Practicum in Educational Leadership experience, several identified tasks are required. These tasks include: Practicum Contract Requirements
Practicum in Educational Leadership is problem-based and links research, theory, and practice in studying the range of problems that students will encounter when they become administrators. The Practicum in Educational Leadership experience has two major requirements: 1) each practicum student is to become familiar with a variety of administrative task areas and be able to demonstrate competence in at least 12 of the areas, and 2) each practicum student is to select at least one major project or several smaller projects that meet designated criteria.

Administrative task topics for principals include, but are not limited to, the following areas:
1. school improvement;
2. teacher observation and evaluation techniques;
3. establishment or revision of procedures;
4. budgeting/accounting procedures;
5. school-community communication;
6. school-community activities;
7. student supervision;
8. student leadership activities;
9. facility maintenance and repair;
10. quality improvement;
11. school curriculum development and assessment;
12. facility schedules;
13. staff and faculty training;
14. technology infusion;
15. school discipline;
16. business partnerships;
17. grant writing;
18. use of statistical data;
19. others as deemed appropriate by the mentor, student, and supervisor.

Course Requirements for Students:

Learning administrative skills is strengthened when students are exposed to the realities of managerial work, namely, getting results with and through others. Practicum students should assume leadership roles, "shoulder the responsibility," and feel the pressure of the need to act and to live with the consequences of their actions. Practicum students must be placed in situations where they are expected to accomplish results through others within a set of time constraints. Another important aspect of the Practicum in Educational Leadership is that the student should experience a substantial degree of self-directed learning. Such autonomy helps practicum students to reason through and discover what they need to know in relationship to each problem and their own skills and abilities.

Project Requirements
Each practicum student should select a project (or projects) that assists school personnel in their efforts to improve schools and/or the delivery of services to those schools. Project criteria include the following:

In their projects, students may serve as chairpersons of committees or as administrative assistants. Example projects may include responsibility for: total quality education, school improvement, school and curriculum restructuring, community involvement, faculty training and development, school image, instructional evaluation system, restructuring schools, fund raising and/or grant writing, school-business alliances, or other agreed upon projects.
The project should be recommended by the mentor and approved by the Practicum in Educational Leadership supervisor on a contract form provided with the signatures of the Practicum in Educational Leadership student, mentor, and supervisor (See Appendix) along with a description of the approved project plan.

Practicum Portfolio and Final Program Learning Portfolio
     A Practicum Portfolio is required or may be combined with the student's Learning Portfolio.  The practicum portfolio will be turned into the university advisor at the end of the practicum. It will include a listing of dates worked, the hours each day, and what was done each day; the evaluations by the mentor; journal entries (these can be a copy of the WebBoard entries); and artifacts that support journal entries. This portfolio is to be pllaced in a notebook with a spine title for shelving.
    As a final program assessment in the Educational Leadership program, each student will submit a Learning Portfolio, and they will present it to a panel of faculty. Students may wish to combine their Practicum Portfolio and their Learning Portfolio into one. In this case, a separate journal of practicum activities will need to be completed along with a listing of the skill areas accomplished during the practicum that is related to artifacts included in the Learning Portfolio.
     The Learning Portfolio is organized around the accomplishment of Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards and FGCU Program Outcomes in Educational Leadership. The ISLLC Standards have recently been developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers in collaboration with the National Policy Board on Educational Administration (NPBEA) to help strengthen preparation programs in school leadership (Van Meter & Murphy, 1997). In addition to the ISLLC Standards, students will be expected to demonstrate competence in the universityís program competencies for Educational Leadership that combines the Florida State Principal Competencies and the NPBEA competencies. For a list of the ISLLC Standards and FGCU Program Competencies in Educational Leadership, please see the Guide to Portfilio Contents or the separate listing of these items on the Educational Leadership Program Webpage.

Summary of Implementation Steps for Mentor/Practicum Student Working Relationships

  1. The faculty members identify the mentors and select the Practicum in Educational Leadership site for each practicum student.

2. The practicum supervisor meets with practicum students and mentors.

3. The practicum supervisor reviews with practicum students their expected roles and responsibilities.

4. The practicum supervisor reviews with mentors their expected roles and responsibilities.

5. The mentors and practicum students develop details of the plan for the practicum project and identify tasks to be achieved for the completion for the Practicum in Educational Leadership contract.

6. The practicum supervisor reviews the practicum contract.

7. The proposed contract is approved by the practicum supervisor, mentor, and student.

8. The approved contract copies are forwarded to the mentor and practicum student.

9. The mentor introduces the practicum student to school personnel.

10. The practicum student shadows principal (mentor) and/or assistant principal(s) to become familiar with the scope of the principalís work.

11. The practicum student writes weekly postings to the course WebBoard to share experiences with other practicum students. Occasionally, students will meet on campus with other members of practicum student cohort group to share experiences, progress, and cases.

12. The practicum student begins work on specific project (or projects) and begins to assume responsibility for tasks delegated by the mentor.

13. The practicum student and mentor reflect on the day-to-day administrative activities.

14. As the mentorís confidence in the practicum studentís abilities and skills increases, greater responsibilities are assumed.

15. The mentor completes Practicum Evaluation Reports (or click here to submit form through the Internet)which are shared with the practicum student, and the practicum supervisor.

16. The mentor assures that all contract commitments are met, and schedules an exit interview with the practicum student and the Faculty Supervisor.

17. The mentor, practicum supervisor and/or the university coordinator meet to discuss strategies for improving the mentoring experience.

18. The student completes the Practicum Portfolio or combines it with the Learning Portfolio.

The Practicum in Educational Leadership is completed when the mentor, practicum/internship student, and the practicum/internship supervisor assure that the terms of the contract have been completed.


Preventing and Resolving Problems

This section of the handbook provides suggestions on ways to avoid problems and suggests solutions to the most common problems that occur during the Practicum in Educational Leadership experience.

Mentors May Be Too Protective and Controlling

Mentors must realize that future administrators learn from mistakes and that mentoring is a learning experience for practicum/internship students. Students must be allowed to take risks, make mistakes, take responsibility for errors, and learn from their mistakes. Mentors can assist students by giving them responsibilities, allowing them occasionally to be unsuccessful, and providing feedback. When a practicum/internship student receives feedback, it should be analyzed and acted upon.

Mentors May Take Advantage of Practicum/Internship Students

Mentors who frequently need assistance may exploit practicum/internship students and the mentoring process. Sometimes this takes the form of assigning students to meaningless tasks or duties for long periods of time, or allowing students to be "thrown into" a situation. They may not be ready for the experience and may not have some chance of achieving success. Mentors can avoid these mistakes by constantly reviewing the purposes for the Practicum in Educational Leadership and checking to see if the assigned activities fulfill the purposes of the Practicum in Educational Leadership.

Mentor/Practicum/Internship Student Personal Relationships

Frequently the mentor and practicum/internship student become close friends. Working together may lead to the development of a familiar, personal relationship. The problem that sometimes arises is maintaining objectivity in assessing the Administrative Practicum studentís competencies. The mentor may fail to see the studentís "shortcomings". The process of evaluating the Practicum in Educational Leadership studentís progress should be kept as objective and as free from bias as possible. But, the mentor may want to check his/her perceptions of the racticum student with those of other professionals who have the opportunity to observe or work with the student. Periodic meetings with the university practicum coordinator and or practicum  supervisor can assist here.

If the mentor/student relationship results in a personality conflict, the mentor or the student should consult with the practicum supervisor to resolve the situation. Frequently such conflicts can be traced to the lack of share understandings and the lack of appropriate time to communicate.

Effective Administrators May Lack the Time for Mentoring

Sometimes the best administrators have a difficult time performing effectively as mentors. These administrators may be busy with their roles and responsibilities or they may not know how to implement the mentoring process. Mentors can avoid this problem if they carefully review their existing workload. Supervisors expect mentors to discontinue their involvement with the program if they believe they are no longer effective in working with the practicum student. The practicum supervisor will visit periodically with the mentor to review the quality of the p student/mentor experience.

Limiting Practicum/internship Studentís Perspectives

Each mentor has developed one or more styles or strategies for dealing with administrative tasks and leadership responsibilities. The practicum student may come to view the mentorís approaches as the correct and only successful ways to accomplish specific tasks. The mentor continually needs to expose the student to alternative strategies and to other administrators whose styles may be different from the studentís own. The emphasis should be on helping the practicum student understand the order and the criteria using different options available for achieving success in different situations.

Mentor Dependency

Some practicum/internship students find it difficult to assume responsibility for their work. Mentors, in a spirit of assistance, may provide students too much help. Mentors can prevent this from occurring by explaining to the practicum student the importance of making independent and informed decisions. The mentors also can encourage students to take risks with the assurance that the mentor will stand behind the student who occasionally makes mistakes.

Practicum/internship Student Dissatisfaction

Practicum/internship students vary in the skills, confidence, and level of experience they bring to the mentoring process. Some students may demand more from the mentoring process. Some students may demand more from the mentor than mentor either wants or is able to give to the student. Mentors can avoid this problem by explaining their expectations for the amount of time, levels of responsibility, and involvement in administrative activities the practicum student can expect. If the studentís expectations during this discussion are not met, then another mentor will be found to work with the student or the studentís expectations will be adjusted to fit the practicum experience with the assistance of the practicum supervisor.

Expecting Practicum/Internship Student Perfection to Match the Mentor as "Hero"

Some mentors, because of their skills, experience, and training are expert or master administrators. They almost always do the "the right thing." Some practicum/internship students view these mentors as outstanding and beyond making mistakes. The studentsí responses to such imagery may be to devalue themselves and their own performance. Mentors can prevent this to some extent by sharing their own frustrations, failures, and information on their performance. They also can help the practicum student view the contributions of others as leading to success in the school.

Mentorís Low Expectations for Practicum Student Performance

Because practicum/internship students are learning, the mentorsí standards for their performance may be low. The student may use the excuse of "I am only an practicum/internship student" to allow performance to slip. Mentors should expect practicum/internship students to avoid using their status as an excuse for not attempting to do their best all of the time. The mentor may want to remind the practicum student of the criteria for evaluation should the student lower his/her own performance expectations. The mentor may wish to copy the evaluation instrument and let the practicum student review it or conduct a self-assessment of progress.

Speaking for the Mentor

When the mentor and practicum/internship student work closely together, some teachers or staff in the school may conclude that talking with practicum/internship student is like talking to the mentor. The practicum student may be viewed as speaking for the mentor. Others may view the practicum student as a "rubber stamp" or "one of them" and unable to think or act independently of others. Mentors should caution both practicum/internship students and their staff members that the student has a responsibility to perform effectively in specific role areas. The mentor should advise the practicum student to develop a personalized style of leadership and to concentrate on adapting rather than adopting the mentorís particular strategies.

Cross-Gender Mentoring Relationships

The benefits of men and women working together as professional personnel to gain different leadership perspectives is recognized. The numbers of male mentors usually exceeds that of female mentors. Frequently it is necessary, therefore, for cross-gender mentor/student experiences. Sometimes these relationships become suspect to the school and community publics. The mentor and practicum/internship student can prevent this from occurring by: 1) limiting their activities to the standard administrative tasks performed during regular school hours, 2) ensuring that the relationship is strictly professional, and 3) avoiding "situations" which might lead others to conclude that the professional relationship extends to a personal one.

 Students should see their advisor if they have any questions about the contents of this document.

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