Field Experience: Developing Learning Objectives

Every field experience is unique and guided by the student's learning objectives, as negotiated with the site supervisor and faculty supervisor. The field experience agreement is a learning contract, and as such all parties agree to certain responsibilities to assist the student to achieve his or her learning objectives. 

What are you going to learn? (Objectives)

How are you going to learn it? (Resources and strategies)

How are you going to know that you learned it? (Evidence)

How are you going to prove that you learned it? (Verification)

Choose a site for your field experience that will enable you to fulfill your learning objectives. A site at which you will perform tasks like the job you plan to seek upon graduation may be desirable, but is not necessary: much information work is generalizable across contexts. For example, you can learn preservation-related skills in special collections, archives, or museums. You can learn user education-related skills in almost any information organization.

Resources that will help you accomplish your learning objectives include the site itself and your site supervisor, but may also include your colleagues on the site, the materials and technologies with which you will be working, professional and social networks you can join, and the professional literature that you read. Strategies for fulfilling your learning objectives may include the tasks you will be performing, meetings you attend, committees on which you serve, feedback from your site supervisor, and the actions you take based on that feedback.

For certain types of learning objectives -- those that are more skill-based, in particular -- strategies may involve apprentice-like interactions with your site supervisor and other colleagues at your site, and legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice. 

In other courses, the instructor develops course objectives, assignments for assessing if students have accomplished those objectives, and grading rubrics according to which individual students' work on those assignments is evaluated. Exams and papers provide the instructor with evidence that a student has or has not learned certain material, and the instructor weighs this evidence against some set of criteria to gauge the quality of the performance.

What evidence will you collect to demonstrate that you have accomplished your learning objectives? Since a field experience is an individualized learning experience, no one but you can evaluate whether you have accomplished your learning objectives. However, because a field experience is situated in the context of your site and some segment of the profession, your site supervisor is uniquely qualified to assist you to identify appropriate evaluation criteria.

The criteria according to which your accomplishment of your learning objectives should be evaluated may be derived from the skills and competencies required to do the job, may be documented in the professional literature, or may live implicitly in your site supervisor's and colleagues' minds, or some combination. The evidence that you should collect to assess your performance may be derived from these criteria, or may be developed by you, or some combination.

Part of the function of the work log is to provide a vehicle for you to document your growing understanding of these criteria and your collection of this evidence. Part of the function of the reflective paper is to provide a vehicle for you to explore the implications of all of the above for you, your course of study in SILS, your professional aspirations, etc. Visit the Deliverables page for more information on these components.