Guidelines for MPH Programs in Canada

Glossary

Capstone project

A capstone project is a culminating display of ability, demonstrating that the MPH graduate is prepared to become a professional in the field of public health. It is an opportunity to integrate coursework and field experience into a singular applied project that demonstrates proficiency. The concept is derived from the word “capstone,” which refers to the highest stone in an arch; it completes the arch and transforms a set of individual parts into a unified whole.

Culminating experience

A culminating experience is an experience that requires a student to synthesize and integrate knowledge acquired in coursework and other learning experiences and to apply theory and principles in a situation that approximates some aspect of professional practice.

It must be used as a means by which faculty judge whether the student has mastered the body of knowledge and can demonstrate proficiency in the required competencies. While the practice experience and the culminating experience are often separate requirements, it is possible to integrate the two experiences. In those instances when the practice experience also serves as the culminating experience, it is essential that these assignments be planned and implemented to assure that the student applies skills from across the curriculum and demonstrates synthesis and integration of knowledge. (See reference document 4).

The culminating experience needs to be viewed as the mechanism by which the program ensures the synthesis and integration of the various learning experiences that have occurred over the course of the project (e.g. courses, seminars, independent study, practica).

The culminating experience is not equivalent to a practicum placement. It may take the form of a formalized capstone course, seminars, or project, or a practicum supplemented with additional activities.

Some programs have a Culminating Committee to ensure consistency and quality in expectations for students.

Deliverable

A deliverable is a product expected from the student's work during the practicum. The target audience for a particular deliverable may by the university, the practicum host organization, or a combination of the two.

Field-based practicum supervisor

A field-based practicum supervisor is an individual based at the organization hosting the practicum who will support and supervise the student. Some programs refer to this individual as the “preceptor.”

Learning contract

The “learning contract describes and defines the working relationships between the student and the host agency or organization. The agreement explains the student's learning objectives and interests, as well as the needs and opportunities of the host agency or organization...[it is] a tool for communicating, monitoring and evaluating the practicum. Remuneration to the student may or may not be involved.” (See reference document 3).

Practicum

A practicum is a planned, supervised and evaluated field placement that provides the opportunity to integrate classroom learning and practice in a public health work environment.

“A practicum is a defined period of formal, supervised placement, typically external to the school of public health, during which a student defines learning objectives for the placement in coordination with his or her faculty mentor and agency field-based practicum supervisor; follows a planned set of activities to gain professional insight and experience relative to his or her career goals; and fulfils MPH degree requirements. Ongoing communication exists among the student, the agency preceptor and the faculty mentor throughout the experience. The practicum or internship may be required or nonrequired. If it is required, it may also be called the MPH required internship, required capstone or culminating practice experience.” (See reference document 3).

Practice-based learning is a core element of professional master's training in public health. As such, the practicum is a critical program component. Its overall objective is to provide a student with an educational and training opportunity in the field of public health that will integrate the coursework and further the development of practical skills.

As stated in the main body of the guidelines, practica are to be a semester in duration (i.e. 16 weeks). Learning objectives are to be identified for all practica. These should be developed and agreed to by the student, field-based practicum supervisor and program's university-based practicum supervisor. The specific learning objectives should be guided by the overall objectives of the practicum.

The practicum guidelines set out in this document outline the responsibilities of the student, the university-based practicum supervisor and the field-based practicum supervisor. They also describe the steps involved in evaluating the practicum.

Stipend

A stipend is a fixed amount of money paid at regular intervals to the student as a salary or to cover living expenses.

University-based practicum supervisor

A university-based practicum supervisor is an individual based at the university who ensures that the practicum meets the academic requirements and assigns academic credit for the practicum. In some programs, this role may be fulfilled by the program director. Some programs have “faculty advisors” who provide mentorship to students throughout the MPH program. The university-based practicum supervisor may or may not be the same person as the student's faculty advisor.


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