Praxis is an experiential, community-based learning program that integrates theory and practice through student engagement in active, relevant fieldwork. The program provides consistent, equitable guidelines along with curricular coherence and support to students and faculty who wish to combine coursework with fieldwork and community-based research. The three designated types of Praxis courses—Praxis I and II departmental courses and Praxis III independent studies—are described below and at www.brynmawr.edu/praxis.
Praxis courses on all levels are distinguished by genuine collaboration with fieldsite organizations and by a dynamic process of reflection that incorporates lessons learned in the field into the classroom setting and applies theoretical understanding gained through classroom study to work done in the broader community. The nature of fieldwork assignments and projects varies according to the learning objectives for the course and according to the needs of the community partner. In most Praxis courses, students are engaged in field placements or working on community-connected projects that meet an identified need in the community. In other courses, the focus is on developing a relationship between the College and a community organization that will ultimately benefit the organization as well as the College.
The Praxis Program is coordinated by the Civic Engagement Office, located in Dolwen on Cambrian Row. The Civic Engagement Office builds relationships between the College and the community with an emphasis on collaboration, reciprocity and sustainability. The Praxis Program staff assist faculty in identifying, establishing and supporting field placements in a wide variety of organizations, such as public health centers, community art programs, museums, community-development and social service agencies, schools, and local government offices. Faculty members retain ultimate responsibility and control over the components of the Praxis Program that make it distinctly academic: course reading and discussion, rigorous process and reflection, and formal presentation and evaluation of student progress.
There are three levels of Praxis courses (see below), which require increasing amounts of fieldwork but do not need to be taken successively. Praxis I and II courses are offered within a variety of academic departments and are developed by faculty in those departments. Praxis III courses are Independent Study courses and are developed by individual students, in collaboration with faculty and field supervisors. Students may enroll in more than one Praxis course at a time and are sometimes able to use the same field placement to meet the requirements of both courses. Praxis-style courses taken at other institutions are subject to prior approval by the Praxis Office and the Dean’s Office.
Praxis I Departmental Courses provide opportunities for students to explore and develop community connections in relation to the course topic by incorporating a variety of activities into the syllabus, such as: field trips to local organizations, guest speakers from those organizations, and assignments that ask students to research local issues. In some cases, students in Praxis I courses are engaged an introductory fieldwork activities; the time commitment for this fieldwork does not exceed 2 hours per week or 20 hours per semester. The Praxis component in all Praxis I courses constitutes less than 25 percent of the total coursework assigned.
Praxis II Departmental Courses include a more substantial fieldwork component that engages students in activities and projects off-campus that are linked directly to course objectives and are useful to the community partner. The time commitment for fieldwork varies greatly from course to course but falls within the range of 2-7 hours per week or 20- 70 hours per semester. Praxis II courses might include: weekly fieldwork, such as assisting in local classrooms, urban farms, community-based organizations; conducting research that has been requested by a community partner; project-based activities such as creating a curriculum or workshop, designing websites or brochures, writing grant proposals.
The Praxis Fieldwork Agreement is an important part of all Praxis II courses. This document outlines the learning and placement objectives of the Praxis component and is signed by the course instructor, the field supervisor, the Praxis coordinator and the student.
The Praxis component in Praxis II courses constitutes between 25-50 percent of total coursework assigned.
Praxis III Independent Study places fieldwork at the center of a supervised learning experience. Fieldwork is supported by appropriate readings and regular meetings with a faculty member who must agree in advance to supervise the project. Faculty are not obligated to supervise Praxis III courses and may decline to do so. Departments may limit the number of Praxis III courses that a faculty member may supervise.
Students who plan to undertake Praxis III Independent Study should submit a completed Praxis III proposal to their dean for her/his signature at pre-registration and then return the form to the Praxis Office to be reviewed by the Praxis Program Director. The Praxis III learning plan—which must include a description of the student’s course, all stipulated coursework, a faculty supervisor, a fieldsite, a fieldsite supervisor and fieldwork responsibilities—must be approved by the Praxis Program Director by the beginning of the semester in which the course will take place. The Praxis Program Director will notify the Registrar’s Office when the Praxis III learning plan is approved, at which point a course registration number will be created for the course. Students are encouraged to visit the Praxis Office to discuss possible field placements, although they are not discouraged from developing their own fieldsites.
Praxis III fieldwork typically constitutes 75 percent of total coursework assigned, with students typically completing two, four- to five hour fieldsite visits per week. Praxis III courses are available to sophomore and higher-level students who are in good academic standing. No student may take more than two Praxis III courses during her time at Bryn Mawr.