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Home arrow Education arrow Field-Based Learning in Family Life Education: Facilitating High-Impact Experiences in Undergraduate Family Science Programs


Activities That Have Applications to Settings On/Off Campus

The importance of making class work applicable to the experiences students will have in the field is essential. Brower (2013) identified the importance of intertwining classroom knowledge with real-world practice and explained that out-of-class opportunities increases student interest and engagement and improves learning. The weaving of knowledge and practice makes learning meaningful and creates a depth that cannot be achieved with traditional classroom instruction. A challenge to this practice is class size. Our course has up to 65 students each semester and is facilitated by one tenured faculty and three upper-class-level student assistants. This large class is subdivided into work groups of five students where, over time, they form a learning community that will support safe spaces for critical self-reflection, deconstruction, and application of course concepts for problem solving and case study analysis (Millis, 2012).

Students are required to complete 60 hours of field experience across one or two human service agencies while attending a two-hour weekly seminar, completing readings, journal entries, and case management activities. Students are exposed to the diverse nature of needs and programs in the human service industry through volunteer work and the opportunity to participate in a series of professional development experiences (Klien & Weiss, 2011). These opportunities include a poverty simulation, emergency mental health training, and the leadership service with the Family, Community, and Career Middle and High School conference.

Weekly seminars are designed to initiate thought with a brief introductory lecture that summarizes the readings while presenting a key theme in the practice of human services. As identified in the Report on High- Impact Educational Practices (Kuh, 2008), colleges need to provide curricula that meet the demands of future employers by challenging students to examine course concepts with real-world applications. This is done in the Field Work course by selecting themes that emphasize the character of the professional, professional ethics, skills, family life education, and focusing on services to groups in need. Since students take this course after successfully completing at least one of the Family Studies core courses, they come into the class with foundational knowledge of families and human development. This knowledge is linked to the mini-lectures requiring the students to integrate previous learning with practice.

This leads into application where the work groups are assigned a scenario designed to allow the students to explore the key elements of the evening topic. The groups are given guidelines and a time limit with expectations of sharing their work. Sometimes the work is shared in large group and sometimes it is posted on the course discussion board. Many times the groups are also charged with searching the web for news stories that align with the problem(s) plaguing their case studies.

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