Desktop version

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


Ashley Schmitt

High-Impact Practices (HIP) in the form of field-based learning have been and are continuing to be emphasized in Family Life Education and Family Science programs. These programs are well suited to field-based learning as they typically require some type of actual in the community/ workplace experience while being guided by instructors and on-site supervisors. Field-based learning is also an excellent vehicle for Family Science programs to transform knowledge and skills into practice. Infusing field- based course work with high-impact elements enhances the experience for students by creating authentic, collaborative, impactful experiences. But while the literature is filled with the benefits of such experiences, there is a lack of information on how to incorporate these experiences into the classroom. This manuscript is designed to help fill that gap and the preceding pages contain examples of how each author incorporated this pedagogical idea into their courses. But to this end, how each institution and educator structures and forms the experiences for students is different but with some key commonalities that make the experiences high impact:

A. Schmitt ()

Office of Graduate and Professional Studies, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

© The Author(s) 2017

T. Newman, A. Schmitt (eds.), Field-Based Learning in Family Life Education, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-39874-7_19


  • • they demand that students devote a considerable amount of time and effort to a purposeful task;
  • • students interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters;
  • • students receive frequent and meaningful feedback;
  • • students have opportunities to see how what they are learning applies in different settings, on and off campus;
  • • students experience diversity through contact with people who are different from themselves (Kuh, 2008);
  • • connect personally and professionally through opportunities for active, collaborative learning (AAC&U, 2007).

Finally, all of the experiences described here are grounded in theory.

In this work, field-based learning is separated by treatment as either by course as the experience or by experience in the course. The first section deals with the course as the experience and is divided further by either a practicum or internship experience while the second section deals with experience in the course and is separated into either a service-learning or community-based experience. While some instructors develop the experience as an internship or practicum, others create the experience around a service-learning project or community-based experience. They all incorporate the common high-impact elements and are based in theory. There is no one way or “correct” way to structure a high-impact experience as illustrated by the authors in this work but each is effective by taking into consideration the institution and student population as well as community partners and incorporating high-impact elements into their practice.

The first section of this book deals with the treatment of internships and practicums (the course as the experience), employing elements to make each experience high-impact in nature. As defined by Kuh (2008), the internship experience provides students with direct experience in the field with the benefit of supervision and coaching from a professional that culminates in a final event/paper/project. The internship and practicum experiences created by the instructors in these pages are different in structure and focus but share commonalities in the form of HIP elements.

Internship discussion focuses on: [1]

  • • On-campus event connecting students to community agencies that is integrated into pre-internship and internship courses;
  • • Teaching observation and how to interpret behaviors in two courses;
  • • Modified teaching of Family Life Education methodology with a focus on the class, the certification, and the experience;
  • • And reflection and feedback.

While all employ HIP elements, they may only employ a few of the HIP elements. The main high-impact elements incorporated into the internship experiences discussed included frequent feedback, applications on/off campus, diversity, and time spent on task were the most frequently cited.

The practicum experience before the internship is an important step to prepare students in Family Sciences programs for field experiences. Typically, a practicum experience is an experience in which theory is put into practice.

Practicum discussion focused on:

  • • Sixty hours each at two sites and gain life span experience and professional skills using tools such as reflection through journaling and conducting an investigative interview of the agency and a professional in the field;
  • • And an introductory field experience course that incorporates field work, experiential activities, structured journaling, and work group learning communities.

No matter how the practicum experience is formatted, they are based in theory and have high-impact elements woven into the experience. Through all the discussions, the high-impact elements that were most frequently cited were experiencing diversity, time spent on meaningful tasks, authentic connections, applications on/off campus, and frequent performance feedback.

The second section of this book deals with the treatment of servicelearning and community-based experiences (experience in the course) to employ elements to make each experience high-impact in nature. Servicelearning and community-based experiences, in Family Science programs, are another vehicle for students to explore concepts and skills important to the field. Kuh (2008) describes these types of programs of field-based experiential learning as an instructional part of the course where students receive direct experience with issues they are studying in the course and analyzing and creating solutions to problems. He identifies key features of this type of practice as students have the opportunity to both apply what they are learning to the real world and reflect in the classroom on their experience (Kuh, 2008). In this work, discussion of service-learning featured concepts such as:

  • • Exploring how Family Life Education can benefit communities through preventative programming;
  • • Re-designing a course to transform student motivation;
  • • Using reverse planning to design a field-based experience;
  • • Designing a project working backwards and using the Management Model to form teams and place students with community agencies;
  • • The instructional level of planning a project highlighting transmission, transaction, and transformation;
  • • And a multi-step collaborative service-learning project in an upper- division course.

Community-based experience discussion featured ideas such as:

  • • Two courses aligned with high-impact elements and NAEYC standards focusing on structure of the courses and student assignments;
  • • Students working in inter-professional team with local human service community organizations to create programming;
  • • Teaching fundraising and grant writing process by identifying and working with community partners.

Again, not all high-impact elements were identified by instructors as being integrated into the experience. Typically, an average of four elements were identified as being incorporated into the experience though all were most likely present. Most often cited as being integrated into servicelearning and community-based experiences were time on tasks, frequent performance feedback, interacting about substantive matters, and application to different settings on/off campus.

The field-based experiences presented in this work are only a small collection of ideas that can be designed and implemented that incorporate high-impact elements and give students an authentic, active experience. It was designed to contribute to the literature and present the plethora of possibilities when it comes to high-impact experiences for students. There is no template for implementing high-impact practices in the classroom. For each instructor, how the experience is designed, integrated, and executed will be different based on a number of factors. These are not one-size-fits-all models and are only guides to the experiences that can be created for students in Family Sciences programs.


American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). (2007). College learning for the new global century: A report from the national leadership council for liberal education and America’s promise. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Kuh, G. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: AAC&U Publishing.


  • [1] Three course sequence culminating in an internship experience; • In-house procedure to match students and Internship sites througha ten-step process;
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source