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Read these prompts before going to your practicum site. Use the three-part format to organize your critical reflection. You don’t have to answer every question posed below, but you’ll want to describe your practicum situation carefully and thoroughly in your critical reflection:

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(1) general observation – Briefly (no more than 1 long paragraph) describe your practicum site as a social world or field of activity. Make your description concrete and specific. You don’t have to use any jargon to do this — think of Steinbeck’s vignette as a model for writing up your observations. Now describe the people who take part at your site. Where do they come from (how can you tell)? Do they speak the same language (including the jargon of the program or institution you’re working in)? What do they do? Describe some of the general kinds of actions and interactions that take place among those who participate at the site. Try not to interpret what you see here; simply describe an overall picture of your site and what you see happening.

(2) focused observation – Briefly (no more than 1 long paragraph) but carefully describe one example of the interaction between people participating in an activity. This activity could be a small group of 2 or 3 people (including yourself) or a larger activity involving more people. Do you notice any differences in the interactions among the two or three people you are observing? For instance, it might be a conversation between you and one or two young people in the program where you’re working. What are the people doing? What do they say? Use direct quotes if you can remember them, or capture key phrases they use, if you can’t remember everything they say. Write your description as concretely and with as much detail as you can, avoiding abstractions, generalizations, and your own interpretations.

(3) critical reflection – Briefly discuss (1-2 paragraphs) your interpretation of the task or activity you described above in your focused observation. As you write your critical reflection, ask yourself — do your general and focused observations provide support or evidence for your interpretations? Also consider: Does the activity you described make sense to you as a coherent field of activity, or does it seem perplexing and chaotic? How do you feel at the practicum site — comfortable or uncomfortable? Excited? Frustrated? Puzzled?Inspired – by what?

Do you feel like you “fit” in this social world, or do you feel like an outsider? Can you explain why? Have you witnessed challenging issues that the site’s orientation did not address? Does what you have seen and heard have any implications for how you view the activity and your role in it? Are there any implications for your own action or role for the future? What are they? Have your initial impressions about the practicum activity changed or are they being confirmed as you learn more about it?

Consider the questions we pose in the course “roadmap” about identifying puzzles:

  • What sparks your curiosity? Or is mysterious, contradictory, or puzzling? Why does something happen in a certain way?
  • What do you want to learn more about?
  • What sticks with you when you leave your site?

This is where you’ll tell us about the “so what” of your observations (why did you observe not that and not something else?)

Think of your critical reflection as a research tool for

  1. Understanding what goes on at your practicum placement, and
  2. Gathering evidence and ideas you can use to construct your final project.