Practicum and Independent Study

The School of Health Studies offers its fourth-year students the opportunity to enhance their educational experience and explore additional learning opportunities through its practicum and independent study courses.

Practicum

The practicum course in the School of Health Studies allows students to put into practice their knowledge of health and health care by working with a community partner. The Experiential Learning and Placement Coordinator works with students to find a placement that fits best with their interests and goals.

A variety of practicum placements are available for students to enhance their learning and gain practical experience. Students interested in these placements must apply through procedure outlined below. Please note that placements are subject to availability and not all opportunities are offered each year.

Placements may be available in the areas of senior exercise and lifestyle, physical activity and rehabilitation, health policy, health promotion, health equity, nutrition, and mental health and wellness, or other areas as appropriate.

Purpose/Objective

The intent of the practicum opportunity is for students to develop hands-on experience working on health-related issues. The practicum is not an opportunity to shadow a health care professional to see if you “like the job”. Usually, there are projects or specific roles that the student will accomplish for the organization.

Examples of past placements include:

  • St. Joseph’s Health Care and Parkwood Hospital
  • London Health Sciences Centre
  • Regional Health Units (please note that the Middlesex-London Health Unit does not currently accept undergraduate placement students)
  • School boards
  • Non-profit organizations
    • Horton Street Seniors' Centre (at the Boys & Girls Club)
    • Alzheimer Society
    • Hutton House
    • Heart & Stroke Foundation
  • Private health providers (physiotherapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists)
  • Research Centres
  • Retirement and Long-Term Care Homes

Core Expectations

The practicum starts with the commencement of classes (in early September or January depending on the course) and continues through to the end of the respective term (December or April). This represents 11-12 practicum weeks with an average of 6-8 hours per week onsite at the organization. Please note that the nature of those hours can vary substantially depending on the needs of the organization.

Students can expect variability within placements. Examples of placements include:

  • Practicum placements that have regular, weekly hours at the placement location
  • Practicum placements that offer responsibilities where a physical presence at the organization is occasional (e.g., students may be asked to analyze a database)
  • Pre-existing volunteer positions that are turned into practicum placement opportunities

Students will submit for assessment:

  • Learning Contract (developed in collaboration with the practicum supervisor)
  • Reflection assignments
  • Final report

Requirement: Registered in Honors Specialization; cumulative average of 75%+

Application Deadlines and Details

Application Deadlines

  • Term 1: Application Deadline: Spring 2020 (TBA)
  • Term 2: Application Deadline: Fall 2020 (TBA)

Application Details

Applications are required. All properly completed applications will be considered as part of this competitive process. Not all who apply will be accepted. The applicant will receive communication about the acceptance or rejection via their Western email account. Placements are subject to change from term to term based on the needs of the organizations.

Students interested in only one (or a few) placement(s) may not be afforded an experience. They must remain flexible to find the best fit during the matching process which will be conducted collaboratively by the student, supervisor, and the placement coordinator based on the student's interests and goals and the organization's needs.

Students are encouraged to be open to learning in all areas as these opportunities are valuable for personal growth, theory integration, development of skills, communication and employability.

Prerequisites

The prerequisites for a practicum in the School of Health Studies are:

  • Registration in fourth year Honors Specialization in a School of Health Studies module with 75% cumulative average or above

Submitting an Application

To submit an application, complete the steps below:

  • Complete the online application
  • Email PDF resume to Experiential Learning and Placement Coordinator
    • Special instructions for resume submission included in online application

Independent Study

An independent study course provides a student the opportunity to work with a faculty member on a project of mutual interest. Students seek out such an opportunity by contacting instructors/faculty members whose research and scholarly interests match their own. Faculty members do not need to be within the School of Health Studies. Students have worked with faculty members in the Sister Schools of the Faculty of Health Sciences as well as researchers in other Faculties at Western and at other institutions. Elements of the independent study course are arranged with the specific faculty member; that is what makes it an independent experience.

Core Expectations

All students are required to complete certain components during the course, including:

  • A written independent study proposal
  • A report of the research project (in a format and style agreed upon with the supervisor)
  • An abstract submission and presentation at the term-end Independent Study Research Forum

Requirement: Registered in a Honors module, 75% cumulative average

Application Deadlines

Term 1 and Full Year (HS4990F)

  • Application Deadline: June 1
  • Review and Approval by Chair: July 14
  • Student Must Add Course By: July 21

Term 2 (HS4991G)

  • Application Deadline: October 1
  • Review and Approval by Chair: November 14
  • Student Must Add Course By: November 21

NOTE: Deadlines that fall on the weekend or a statutory holiday will be accepted the following business day.

Practicum and Independent Study FAQs

Why can’t I add these courses to my timetable?

The independent study (HS 4990F/HS 4991G) and practicum (HS 4995F and HS 4996G) courses require an application by students. These applications can be found on the School of Health Studies website under the Practicum and Independent Study tab. The applications have deadlines; ensure that you have completed and submitted your application in advance of the deadline and have met the course requirements.

How much time is involved with the independent study course?

Each independent study course is a unique arrangement between the student and faculty supervisor. The expectations and required time commitment will be different for each student. There are required course components in addition to the project arranged with your supervisor, which includes a project proposal, abstract submission and presentation at the year-end research forum.

How much time is involved with the practicum course?

The practicum requires students to spend on average 6-8 hours working with the organization or community partner each week of the term (generally 11-12 weeks for a one semester course and 22-24 weeks for a full placement). The time commitment may fluctuate each week depending on the needs of the organization and type of project the students are involved with. In addition, there are course requirements, including a learning contract, reflection assignments and a final report.

Can I take both a practicum and independent study course?

Yes. Students can take both courses in their senior year.

Can I take two independent study courses?

Yes. However, you must organize your two projects in one of two ways: (1) you must arrange the deliverables for your projects so that the second term is a continuation of the work done in first term (e.g., completing the ethics protocol in first term, and the empirical data collection in second term; or completing a literature review in first term, and an ethics protocol in second term); or (2) you must complete two wholly different projects (with markedly different content areas. Please contact the independent study course coordinator if you are concerned about the nature of your projects, and whether they are sufficiently dissimilar as to allow you to complete two terms of study. Also note that students enrolled in more than one term of the independent study course are required to complete all course components for each course (i.e., HS 4990F and HS 4991G).

Can I take two practicum courses?

Students may take HS4995F and HS4996G and receive 0.5 credits for each course (1.0 credits total). Students taking the Rehabilitation Sciences practicum (4970E) may not also take HS 4995F or HS 4996G.

Are there scheduled and required class times for these courses?

The independent study is completed online and does not require any in-class time.

Two seminars per semester will be scheduled for the practicum, at a day and time most convenient for all students to attend. Attendance (or subsequent follow up with the Placement Coordinator) is mandatory.

These are essay-designated courses, how much writing is required?

As essay-designated courses, the independent study and practicum courses require a minimum amount of writing as stipulated by university guidelines. Final reports consisting of a minimum of 2000 words for a one-term course and 4000 words for a full-year course should be expected. This would be in addition to other obligations such as learning contracts or project proposals. See course outlines for greater detail.

How do I find a supervisor for an independent study?

It is recommended that potential supervisors are contacted early (usually in the spring for a fall independent study project and early fall for a winter term course). Students should consider their specific interests and approach faculty members who share a similar area of interest and with whom they feel there will be a positive working relationship. Supervisors for an independent study do not need to be faculty members in the School of Health Studies. Students have found supervisors from several different Faculties across Western and in some cases supervisors from other institutions where students worked on projects in the summer, for example. Not all faculty members supervise independent study students. There is no list of potential supervisors.

How do I find an organization where I can participate in a practicum experience?

The School of Health Studies facilitates the partnering of students with potential community organizations. The Experiential Learning Coordinator secures practicum opportunities by connecting with organizations that may be interested in hosting a practicum student. As well, students may seek out community organizations where they have been involved in the past, potentially as a volunteer, or suitable organizations that work in an area of health and health care. Practicum projects and organizations must be approved by the Placement Coordinator. Examples of past placements include (but are not limited to):

  • St. Joseph’s Health Care and Parkwood Hospital
  • London Health Sciences Centre
  • Regional Health Units (please note that the Middlesex-London Health Unit does not currently accept undergraduate placement students)
  • School boards
  • Non-profit organizations
    • Horton Street Seniors' Centre (at the Boys & Girls Club)
    • Alzheimer Society
    • Hutton House
    • Heart & Stroke Foundation
  • Private health providers (physiotherapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists)
  • Research Centres
  • Retirement and Long-Term Care Homes

How are students selected?

Independent Study: The independent study course requires an application. The application form is available around the beginning of June. The deadline is identified within the application. Applications must be complete and include supervisor and/or organizational details. This course is intended to extend your knowledge of health and health care. Project proposals that are not deemed to meet that expectation will not be approved. However, the discipline of health is broad and the interpretation of projects equally broad.

Practicum: Students must submit an application; provided they meet the basic criteria for the practicum (Honours Specialization and cumulative average of 75%+) they will be considered for a practicum placement. Whether a student is matched to a placement, and thus, registered for the course will depend on the number of placement spots available and the fit between the student’s interests and the organization’s needs.

Do I have the option to do an independent study courses/practicum course in my 5th year?

Yes, however, preference is given to senior (fourth-year) students. Should we determine that we have reached capacity for one of the courses, offer of enrolment will be extended to fourth-year students first.

What are the deadlines?

Independent Study: Applications for the fall semester are due in the summer. Applications for the winter semester are due in the fall. See the specific course information for details.

Practicum: Applications for the fall semester or full year practicums (September to April) are due in the spring. Applications for the winter semester practicums are due in the fall. Students will be notified when applications are available.