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Practicum Student Information

Your Practicum

A practicum is an exciting opportunity to learn and gain "real world" experience in the field. Although it is recognized that field experience requires time, energy and personal commitment beyond that of traditional University classes practica are a fun part of the program which many students have considered to be a highlight of their education. The following are some comments from students and graduates of the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program regarding the practicum.

"Participating in a number of practica allowed me to experience the different areas, challenges and rewards that community rehabilitation has to offer. The opportunities give future practitioners a chance to determine which route they want to take before actually jumping in with both feet. Participants are given hands on experience that helps to develop personal philosophies and values that will inevitably follow them into their own practice. The opportunities presented and the learning gained in this exceptional component of the community rehabilitation program is undeniably crucial to the understanding of what is involved in the field".

Jennifer Resch (Graduation December 2000)

"The further I go in Community Rehabilitation, the more I realize what an excellent program it really is. I feel that this is mainly due to the practicums. Each practicum allows the student to learn theory and immediately apply it. Not only does this provide the much-needed practice, but also it presents the opportunity for each student to develop their own personal beliefs and morals in regard to their work. The lectures that accompany the practicums provide specific strategies that can be practiced at the job site. This is vital, and helps the individual to know and become comfortable with their own unique style. When an organization hires an individual, they expect them to know what to do in difficult situations. The practicum classes leave the students with the confidence to handle nearly everything that may come along. Most importantly, this field deals with human lives. It is absolutely essential that we have the proper training, so we know how to do the best job possible. Practicums provide this."

Meagan Twomey (Graduation April 2001)

"My practicum gave me the chance to practice my leadership, independent learning and teambuilding skills. There are so many things that you can learn from people in the field and I definitely got the experience of learning from others through my practicum placements. In all I had great practicum experiences". Janelle Zacharias (Graduation April 2001) "Practica are a wonderful opportunity to get hands on experience in a positive learning environment. They allow students to see first hand what working in the field will be like and teach many valuable lessons that may not be taught in lectures."

Rebecca Wopnford (Graduate April 2000)

The practicum classes are a required component of the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program. The Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) accredits the Bachelor of Community Rehabilitation degree. According to this standard "A well supervised field experience component will provide the capstone experience for an undergraduate rehabilitation education program. It will provide an opportunity for integrating classroom principles and developing entry-level skills in a real-life work setting." The program differs in how practica are designed, the places where practica take place, and the phases in which the practica unfold.   

Practicum Formats

Practica for the Community Rehabilitation program (classes CORE 485, 487, 589.01/.02/.05/.06) follow the same format. Students have one semester to complete 130 hours of practicum work. This is usually carried out by completing 10 hours a week for the 13-week semester. The format for the CORE 205 and 207 classes is to complete 24 hours per semester. This is usually carried out by students completing 2 hours a week. The block practicum, CORE 589.06, which runs in the spring semester, is more intense. Students must complete the 130 hours in a 6-week period.

Practicum Tutorials

Practicum tutorials help students build a guiding philosophy and personal code of ethics, apply theory to practice, and transfer and generalize learning through exploration, reflection and application. The practicum coordinator or another instructor from the Community Rehabilitation faculty facilitates the tutorials. They are held every two weeks for 100 minutes. The tutorials are always structured with the same purpose. That purpose is to help students make sense of what you are experiencing, to integrate practice into theory and to help you become an effective Community Rehabilitation Practitioner. The practicum tutorial allows you to discuss your practice experiences with classmates and the tutorial facilitator. This is great opportunity for you not only to share your experiences with others but to learn from your classmates' experiences as well.

Practicum Settings

Community Rehabilitation graduates will work in a variety of different areas once in the field. During your practicum you will not only learn from your site but about other sites as well. The practicum settings will vary according to the class you are taking. The different practica encourage one-on-one experiences, group settings, program planning, supervision, case management and mentorship. Practica can be based in a community, private, non-profit, office/managerial, clinical, educational, group home or hospital setting, just to name a few. Some examples of practica are the following:

  • Working with a child in an inclusive preschool.
  • Recruiting vocational placements for adults with developmental disabilities.
  • A day program with a group of seniors with dementia.
  • Working for a volunteer agency planning new volunteer programs.
  • Adapting a curriculum for a student who is blind in an integrated classroom.
  • Supervising a teen with serious vulnerabilities to complete assigned community service work.
  • Supervising junior students in the CORE 207 class.
  • Putting together a case history and rehabilitation plan for someone receiving disability insurance benefits.

Experiences vary from working with teens who are troubled, to seniors in a day program, from elementary students in an integrated classroom setting to persons with brain injuries in a segregated setting. The possibilities are endless.


How to select a practicum

For your practicum course, the practicum coordinator will have a minimum of 20 agencies/site confirmed at the beginning of each semester. This list can be located on this website as well as on your course Blackboard site once you have registered for the class. It is your responsibility to contact the practicum coordinator Patti DesJardine (padesjar@ucalgary.ca or 403-220-2416) and provide her with the course you are registered in and your top three choices out of the confirmed sites on that list. She will provide you with contact names for those sites. It is then your responsibility to approach those contact people directly. This is important since your weekly schedule is unique to you and therefore only you can best discuss with an agency as to when you would most likely be able to attend to complete the required hours for your practicum. It is also important to note that practicum placements MAY be confirmed on a first come first serve basis, but some agencies reserve the right to interview potential practicum students. This is encouraged both on the part of the agency, but also on the part of you as the student as the opportunity to be interviewed also allows you the opportunity to "check out" the site to ensure it will be a good fit for you and your learning needs.

If out of the 20 confirmed sites you do not find one that matches your interest, goals and career path, it is then your responsibility to set up your own practicum site. This can be done on your own or with help/collaboration from the practicum coordinator.

Practicum selection has a lot to do with individual choice. Some questions you may want to ask yourself before selecting a practicum site are:

What community of people do I want to work with?
What population have I never worked with?
What kind of skills do I want to develop?
What knowledge am I trying to gain?

Several practicum options are available to you to choose from when deciding with whom you would like to do your practicum. Your choice is exactly that - YOURS. You may wish to work with young children, teenagers, adults or seniors or there may be a specific program or service you are interested in learning about. While specialization is encouraged, we recommend diversification of experience prior to establishing a set career path. Your reasons for whichever site you choose will likely shape your focus and goals once you begin, so you may want to identify your interests and goals at the time you decide on your practicum site.


Criteria for finding your own site

If the practicum options confirmed by the Practicum Coordinator do not match your interests, goals and career path it is then up to you to find your own site. To find your own site be sure to figure out ahead of time what you are hoping to accomplish and learn from your practicum experience. This will help you to narrow your search. You may want to be at an agency that the practicum coordinator is not familiar with. Together you may want to work together to make your experience all that it can be.

Criteria for self-initiated practicum placements are as follows.

The selected site must:

  • present an opportunity to work with or for people with disabling conditions and /or chronic health concerns
  • pose learning opportunities within an educational context
  • challenge the student with new learning
  • facilitate assignments and responsibilities consistent with the student's course of enrolment
  • complete a comprehensive:

    Practicum Student Request Form (Appendix A)
    Job Description (Appendix B)/Sample Job Description (Appendix C)
    Practicum Contract (Appendix H)

  • support completion and fulfillment of Student Learning Contract (Appendix D) Included is also a sample Student Learning Contract (Appendix E)
  • fulfill Site Facilitator expectations and obligations including meeting with the Student Instructor and or Practicum Coordinator for the set-up, mid-term and final meetings
  • facilitate a student start-date not more than one week beyond the first day of lectures

It is the student's responsibility to review and facilitate each of the above criteria with the Site Facilitator. The student will then coordinate a meeting between him/herself, the Site Facilitator and the Instructor and/or Practicum Coordinator. This meeting must take place not more than one week beyond the first day of lectures. A Practicum Student Request Form, Job Description and Student Learning Contract must be drafted prior to this meeting for review.


Practicum Placement List

Each semester different organizations from the Calgary BCR Practicum Sites tab agree to participate in hosting practicum students. As such, a list of those sites can be located both under the "Current Sites for Fall/Winter 2011/2012" tab. That same list can also be located on your course Blackboard site. Along with the agency, there is a brief description of what their agency does, whom their services are for and the job description that you would be responsible for fulfilling. Over the summer months, prior to each academic year, a DRAFT of the practicum list is posted under the tab with additional sites being added after Aug 1.

Police Security Check

Police Security Checks are required for any placements that involve direct work with individuals under the age of 18 and those individuals with developmental delays over the age of 18. For information on how to get a Police Security Check completed go to the Police Security Check tab.


Practicum placements at employment sites

Students may make a request in writing to do a practicum at their place of work. The Course Instructor and Practicum Coordinator on a case-by-case basis will consider requests. The following conditions apply:

  • the experience at the student's work site must be related to the core content area of the practicum course in which the student is registered
  • keeping in mind that the goal of practicum courses is to broaden student's experiential learning, the opportunity to develop new skills must exist with the proposed practicum
  • only one practicum course (i.e. one of CORE 485, CORE 487, CORE 598.01, CORE 589.02, CORE 589.05, CORE 589.06) may be completed at a student's place of employment
  • any potential issues, such as conflict of roles and liability issues will need to be identified and clarified by the student with solutions proposed

If the respective agency will support students in completing a project related to one of the practicum components (i.e. individual, group, program planning, supervision) and they wish to take advantage of this opportunity, we will do our best to accommodate them within the conditions specified above.


Project expectations/assignments

Project assignments are the chance for the practicum students to give something back to the agency in the form of research and application. Assignments are negotiated between the student, site facilitator and instructor/practicum coordinator. They are designed to be mutually beneficial-presenting a learning opportunity for students and a practical contribution to the practicum sites. Two examples are a survey with data collected, and a book written for mothers with developmental disabilities.



During your practicum you will have three evaluation/meetings with your Site Facilitator, Class Instructor and/or Practicum Coordinator and yourself. Evaluations are learning tools intended as opportunities, which facilitate empowerment, self-directed learning and self-management and build personal skills such as self-advocacy, critical thinking and analyzing.

Set Up Meeting

During this meeting the student, Site Facilitator, Practicum Coordinator and/or Class Instructor meet for the first time. It is important to recognize that you are making a first impression on personnel who will be hosting you over the next thirteen weeks, and possibly even a future employer. Students are encouraged to present themselves as you would for a job interview, dressed appropriately, prepared to present one's experience and talk about one's contribution to the site, demonstrating familiarity with the agency and the practicum, and with a comprehensive up-to-date resume. At the meeting together you will have the opportunity to draft the Student Learning Contract (Appendix D).

The Student Learning Contract is comprised of four learning areas.

  1. Proposed Activities, this is what you will be doing while at your practicum site, this includes your role and responsibilities.
  2. Student Goals - skill development, this is what skills you are looking to improve or develop during your time at the practicum site.
  3. "Student Goals - Professional Development" differs from the previous "Skill Development" student Goals, in that "Professional Development" goals are comprised of transferable skills such as time management, understanding of professional roles, and assertiveness. "Professional Development" goals could be worked on within any practicum site whereas "Skill Development" goals are site and content specific.
  4. Written Assignment, this is your opportunity to make a contribution to the practicum site. Together with your Site Facilitator you negotiate a work-related project with practical application to the site. This project must contain a research component and is not included in the 130 required practicum hours. This is to be done on your own time. Located on Appendix E is a sample Student Learning Contract you may want to refer to as an outline.

Midterm Evaluation

The purpose of the midterm evaluation is to evaluate your performance thus far. It is a time for you, the student in the presence of your Site Facilitator and Course Instructor and/or Practicum Coordinator, to facilitate your learning for the remainder of the practicum. Together you will summarize the learning objectives, goals and skill development achieved thus far and to recognize what you still want to accomplish. The midterm is a chance to voice concerns regarding the contract previously written by the student and signed by the site facilitator and course instructor and to make sure that the 130 hour requirement will be made successfully by the student. (See Appendix F for midterm evaluation form)

Final Evaluation

Near the end of each 130-hour practicum, another meeting is held between the student, Site Facilitator, Program Instructor and/or Site Facilitator. This meeting gives the student and Site Facilitator a chance to discuss what the student has accomplished and if the expectations that they set at the beginning of the practicum were met. At this time, the students provide input on the achieved letter grade based on meeting their goals, skill development, and work accomplished. (See Appendix F) This is an opportunity to provide input on the grade you feel you have earned. Along with this opportunity you are building skills in the area of self-advocacy. The evaluation is based on the learning contract. It is therefore your responsibility to meet the objectives you set. (See Appendix D for Student Learning Contract) The Course Instructor and/or Practicum Coordinator, relying on feedback from the Student and Site-facilitator assigns student grades. Grades are based on the following components:

  • student learning goals
  • practical performance
  • professional and ethical conduct

See the Grading Guidelines in Appendix G for specific requirements and performance measures.


Challenging a Practicum

Some students come to the Community Rehabilitation program with many years of experience in the field. To challenge a practicum, students must show sufficient evidence that they have met the criteria/objective learned by students in the particular class. For example, a student in their first year of the program who has 20 years experience in the field, including the position of frontline worker, team leader of 10 members and executive director of an agency might challenge the CORE 589.02 Supervisory Practicum. Students are required to complete the 20 course credits even in the absence of the specific practicum course. Students must submit a resume, a letter of intent, and an outline of how they intend to fill the requirements for credits.


Challenging a Topic Area

Students may also wish to challenge a topic area. For example, the same student presented above knows his/her career goal to be specialized towards vocational evaluation in the private sector so he/she may chose to enroll in the CORE 589.02 course but, may wish to challenge the class requirement that deals with supervision. This student would attend the CORE 589.02 tutorials but their practicum work would be in the area of vocational evaluation rather than supervision. Students are again required to submit a resume, a letter of intent and an outline of how they intend to fill the requirements for credits.


Specializing through Practicum placements

Upon enrolment, or shortly thereafter, some students have made a decision regarding their career choice. Many of these students like to gear their practica towards these career choices. For example, a future teacher will gear their practicum experiences towards classroom settings and teaching. Specialization may involve a particular phase of the life span such as childhood, adolescence, adulthood and seniors, a specific realm of practice such as vocational, advocacy or education or a particular disabling condition and/or chronic health concern such as autism, chronic pain or dementia.


Diversification through Practicum placements

Practica present an opportunity to get out in the community and see what is out there. Diversification of practica is a great way to learn. Diversifying the age ranges of clients you work with along with different realms of service such as vocational, recreational or therapeutic are ways to 'spread your wings'.


Being Interviewed for a Practicum Site

When there is more than one student for a position at a practicum site, interviews will be conducted. These will be an informal interview between the site facilitator and the prospective student. Students will be selected on the basis of best fit with the agency and job description, presentation of enthusiasm and motivation, and presentation of transferable skills. Students are encouraged to present themselves as you would for a job interview, dressed appropriately, prepared to present one's experience and talk about one's contribution to the site, demonstrating familiarity with the agency and the practicum, and with a comprehensive up-to-date resume.


Responsibilities of a Practicum Student

When you become involved with an agency, that agency will be counting on you as part of their team. Your role within the agency may affect how smoothly the agency runs, so being clear about your availability and the length of your stay will be important to the agency and its clients. Commitment is not just about completing your hours. Punctuality, dedication and responsibility are also involved. If at anytime you experience troubles, have questions or concerns regarding your placement, it is your responsibility to talk to your Course Instructor or Practicum Coordinator. The faculty is always willing and ready to help you with any needs that you have. We cannot stress enough how important it is for you to take your own role in your practicum. It is after all, your practicum experience, your learning and you shaping your future.


Being an Effective Practicum student

As a practicum student at an agency you will most likely be placed in the role of 'helper'. This is a caregiving role that is based on a number of attributes:

Feelings of companionship: Being an effective helper is being a good companion. Companionship involves feelings of unconditional acceptance and valuing, relatedness, mutual support, empathy and warmth, dialogue, sharing and trust towards individuals or groups you are working with. The installation of feelings of companionship may ask us to express warmth to those who have been marginalized, shunned and who may not trust. This may not always be easy, however, we must endure difficult times in order to reach a place where our giving is reciprocated.

Being human: We are no more and no less than any other. The purpose of caregiving is not to rid people of behavioral difficulties, nor to instruct them to obey. It is most important to help others to live, work and play within family and community. It is vital, in order to develop companionship, to teach and reciprocate respect, not because anyone earned it, but because we are all human. This means acceptance with dignity.

Empathy: Empathy is not pity. It is a feeling of being one with others. It is about understanding the wholeness of an individual, including their past, their reality, vulnerability, strengths, and weaknesses. It involves a spirit of common humanity and the belief that we all exist interdependently. Empathy understands.

Values and Actions: Values must be closely examined, especially to avoid being overpowering, punishing, and controlling. Our values must convey a message of acceptance of the full human being that we all are - in mind, body and spirit. Remember no action is value-free. All of our interactions communicate what we feel or believe about each other.

There are four steps in the process of establishing companionship.

  1. Primary goal: Creating a feeling of companionship is the primary goal of being a helper. We need to support the individual to feel safe and to develop trust. We must show, through our actions, that we support and value the individuals and that we represent sources of companionship; not as sources of power that oppress but rather using our personal power to become allies.
  2. Feelings of our presence: As a helper, one must commit to making certain that our presence signifies feelings of safety and security. Our interactions must signal warmth, serenity, and tolerance. This can only be demonstrated through a true reflection of our values of equality.
  3. Feelings of Human Engagement: Human engagement is teaching the belief that it is good to be with and participate with other human beings. Human engagement involves a desire to be with another, not a desire to do a particular task. Instead of making an individual comply by giving rewards and punishments, a good helper values the individual and allows them the opportunity to be together, because both individuals want to. Rewards and punishments are built of power, not equality.
  4. The meaning of unconditional valuing: To value another is to uplift, honor, respect, listen, empower, reflect, and share feelings regardless of deeds alone. Value should not be contingent on behavior or earning this respect. Being valued and valuing others is the central dimension in the establishment of companionship.


Expectations of the student within the practicum setting

It is anticipated that students will perform at their practicum in a professional manner. Expectations of the students include:

  • Respecting policies and procedures of the agency.
  • Maintaining attendance and punctuality.
  • Informing the site facilitator of all expected absences.
  • Interacting respectfully with all supervisors and colleagues.
  • Seeking and accepting feedback from Site Facilitator and/or Course Instructor/Practicum Coordinator.
  • Exerting maximum effort in completing tasks and assignments.
  • Asking questions whenever unsure of any and all policies, procedures, assignment guidelines, and expectations.
  • Understanding your level of competence.
  • Upholding a level of professionalism in attire, language, attitude and respecting all matters of the agency as confidential.
  • Good time management skills; most students have full course loads and some have part time jobs - being effective in time management skills will not only make more efficient use of your time but helps you prioritize what you want to accomplish.



A practicum is always time limited. From the time you begin you know that your stay with your practicum host is temporary. While you are involved with an organization you become a part of its functioning, and the organization depends on you. There may be tasks or responsibilities that you will need to keep in mind to ensure that your departure, at the end of the practicum, will be a smooth transition for everyone involved. At the onset of your practicum you may which to discuss closure with your client (s), as your client (s) may not know the length of your involvement. Not informing your client (s) could have negative effects. If your client (s) becomes close to you, your leaving may be difficult for them, causing hurt feelings, or if you have been involved in assisting them with particular activities, your leaving may disrupt the continuity of their pursuits. It is important to recognize that some people do not have a developed conception of time, making creative means of facilitating closure imperative. You may find it helpful to discuss closure with your facilitator or instructors early in your practicum so that you are prepared for it when the time comes. It is important to remember that even though you may have very good intentions to maintain contact, succumbing to making false or vague promises will only disappoint other people and failing to keep such promises usually leads to future mistrust.


Rewards of Practicum Experiences

Rewards may be professional, personal or both. Personal rewards include skill development, greater awareness of likes and dislikes and more. Professionally, a practicum can build networks, increase employment leads and contacts, lead into job opportunities, increase our knowledge in a particular area of the field and provide opportunities to develop personal philosophies and practice.

The most important reward may be life experience and enjoyment. Helping another person, participating in your community and sharing who you are with others will intensify your life experience.

Rewards are reciprocal; your energy rewards others. A practicum is a mutually beneficial experience. Agencies who host students' practicum placements also benefit. Your time, input, commitment and energy contribute to the operation and growth of an agency. As much as you learn from them they learn from you as well. More specifically, the individual person or persons you work with benefit. In a practicum placement, you have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of another person. That is quite an accomplishment!

New experiences often lead to growth and development, challenging us to learn and perhaps change how we do some things, and review our values and beliefs. These challenges can assist you in your professional and personal development. Challenges may evoke feelings of discomfort and anxiety as you chart new territory or go beyond your comfort zones. Perhaps the simple recognition of a situation or circumstance that is new or unknown to you can help you to move into it with less anxiety. A practicum will often require you to go beyond your previous experience and challenge you to learn.


Orientation Day

The orientation day is held at the beginning of the Fall semester and is a great way for you to meet the faculty of the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program. It is also a great way for you to meet your fellow classmates and the CRDS Faculty.



This Guide Book provides an introduction and overview of the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program, particularly the facilitation of practicum experience, as well as information for Practicum Hosts and Students. Please feel free to contact us at any time with questions, comments or ideas.

Thank you for being our Partners in Learning!