A Praxis Student's Perspective
Designing a Praxis Independent Study Course
Marcia Adams, ‘21
Major: Classical and Near-Eastern Archaeology
Course: The Problems of Public Archaeology
Finding a Faculty Advisor
What was it like to approach a professor to ask about advising a possible Praxis Independent Study course?
Approaching a professor early in the process is important; if you leave it until later, a professor may not be able to take on advising a Praxis Independent Study course alongside their usual workload. Doing this also helps you to build a better relationship with the faculty member.
They can help you refine your ideas for a Praxis Independent Study as well as give you suggestions for finding a field site. I approached a professor I was familiar with and who I had taken a class with before, as I knew I would be able to have a good working relationship with her.
If you are not familiar with the professors in your department, it may be good to reach out to the department chair or your major advisor. They can help point you towards and introduce you to other faculty members who may be a good match for your Praxis Independent Study ideas.
Are there tips for talking to faculty?
The best way to have a conversation with a faculty member is in-person – I arranged an appointment with the professor I wanted as my Praxis advisor so I could discuss my ideas with her. I think it is the best way to gauge whether they can take on this role alongside their usual teaching schedule.
It allows them to ask questions about your individual proposal for an Independent Study as well about the Praxis Program if they are unfamiliar with it.
Finding a Field Site
How did you know where to look for a field site?
I found my field site before I had even begun the process of developing a Praxis Independent Study. I was already planning to work as a volunteer at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia before considering doing it as part of a Praxis Independent Study course. However, this is not the case for everyone!
I would say doing research into different institutions is a good way to narrow down your options. Consider if these potential field sites already have internship or work experience opportunities, or if the goals of the institution are related to your ideas and interests.
What resources did you use?
I found my field site through talking with older students in my major department. If you know that people have worked at a particular field site, for Praxis or just for work experience or volunteering, it would be good to get in touch with them and ask them about their experiences.
That way you can gauge whether a particular field site is right for you and can give you the experience you want. If you are completely unsure, get in touch with the Praxis staff! You can set up an appointment with them and talk through your ideas. While they cannot pick a field site for you, they can offer suggestions based on where other people with similar interests have worked in the past.
How did you make initial contact with a potential field site? What tips would you give about this kind of communication?
Reaching out to staff members who may have worked with interns at the field site is a good place to start. However, I think it is important to try and set up a meeting with them in person if possible, especially before the end of the semester. This is beneficial for both you and the field site you are interested in.
Not only are they able to put a face to the name and get to know you, but you also get to know them. You are better able to see if that workplace is right for you and can offer you the experience that you want out of a Praxis Independent Study.
Furthermore, if they are unfamiliar with the Praxis Program, it is a good way for you to explain it to them in person and let them ask questions. Again, by doing it in person which could include using either Skype of Zoom for your meeting, both you and the potential field site can see if you can work together and create a mutually beneficial experience.
Communicating with a Potential Field Supervisor
How did you explain your situation and what it was you were looking for?
My Field Supervisor was actually a Bryn Mawr alum and had experience working with Praxis students! However, that is not the case for most people. I would explain a Praxis Independent Study as being work experience at a field site that the student is earning academic credit for.
It is also important to mention that you are also working with a faculty advisor back at college, and that the work that you are undertaking at the field site is in conjunction with some academic work. It may be helpful to go through the expectations and timeline for the Praxis Program with staff at the field site.
Making it clear that you must work at least 8-10 hours per week or discussing the final project for the Praxis Program is really important to emphasize. By explaining the expectations laid out by the Praxis Program and the college, the field site staff are able to understand the program better as well as consider how the work they expect from you can align with the program and your course of study.
Once You Confirmed a Faculty Advisor, a Field Site and a Role There - Completing the Learning Plan
How did you communicate with your Faculty Advisor and Field Supervisor while you worked on your Learning Plan?
I communicated mainly via email; I would frequently send them drafts of my Learning Plan and they would return it with edits and suggestions. We also used Skype to check in with each other about the progress of the Learning Plan.
What communication tips do you have?
I think it’s important to check in with both your Praxis Faculty Advisor and Field Supervisor frequently about not only the progress of your Learning Plan, but also with any thoughts and ideas that you have about your Praxis Independent Study course before you start.
The breaks between semesters are long and it’s easy to lose touch with your Faculty Advisor and Field Supervisor. Keeping them in the loop consistently about your plans and ideas as they change and develop helps them to better understand what you want from your Praxis Independent Study and how they can provide the experience you want.
Email was the best way for me to stay in touch with my Faculty Advisor and Field Supervisor, as none of us were in the same area or even in the same time zone over the course of the break!
How long did it take you to finalize your Learning Plan? Was there a lot of back-and-forth communication?
Completing my Praxis Independent Study course in the Fall semester meant that I had the entire Summer to work on my Learning Plan, giving me plenty of time to tweak and adapt it alongside my other commitments.
It took about a month or two to finalize the Learning Plan, and I would be in touch with my Faculty Advisor and Field Supervisor every few weeks with updates and revisions of my Learning Plan. It is important to bear in mind that your Faculty Advisor and Field Supervisor will most likely be busy with other projects over breaks and may not be able to respond immediately each time.
In my experience, working consistently on your Learning Plan with them from the beginning of break until the semester starts is the best way to develop a thoughtful and useful Learning Plan – it’s not something you can rush the week before you start your Independent Study!
Learn more here about how to design a Praxis Independent Study course and connecting with Praxis staff to discuss your interests.