"JOB DESCRIPTION" OF PRECEPTORS
The preceptor is the key agency person in the life of the student enrolled in the program. The preceptor's primary function is to oversee the student's application of relevant theory to agency work and help the student to use his/her experience in human services to better understand what is taught in the classroom. In addition, the preceptor is advocate, negotiator, mentor, friend, and counselor to the student.
Preceptors help students initially settle into the program. They may be instrumental in helping students to reorganize their work and family schedules to make room for their academic responsibilities.
Each preceptor-student relationship is unique; its structure and style are determined by the student’s needs, and by the skills and time limitations of the preceptor. PLEASE NOTE: STUDENTS MAY NOT USE SPOUSES OR RELATIVES AS PRECEPTORS.
Six Helping Roles
We have identified six helping roles which preceptors can perform with students. Each preceptor should feel free to modify them, add to them, or delete any of them in terms of the total set of relationships established among preceptor, student, agency, and the MHS Program.
- Helping students plan and carry out tasks. Launching out on a full-time graduate educational program in addition to professional and family responsibilities is a major life undertaking. It can be done only by careful planning, discipline and a follow-through at a level most students have not previously attained. Students may need help in planning, time-organization, stress-management, decision making, relinquishing some favorite but non- essential activities, making time for recreation and studying effectively.
- Providing a balanced perspective. Students sometimes lose sight of the big picture of what they are doing and instead become embroiled in details and non-essentials. Preceptors can help students restore their larger perspective since preceptors themselves have gone through the graduate educational process and because they can bring objectivity to the student’s perception of things.
- Providing encouragement. Students understandably feel defeated at times and wonder whether the prize is worth the effort. Their spouses, family, and friends may waiver in their support. The preceptor is in an excellent position to give encouragement to the student. Encouragement may, however, sometimes take the form of pushing the student into renewed effort as well as giving comfort and a listening ear.
- Providing academic feedback. Preceptors should encourage students to give them copies of rough drafts of their papers and reports, as well as encourage discussion of on-going class applications. Your feedback can result in the student doing better work, getting better grades and, therefore, maintaining high motivation. Thus, the preceptor becomes the student's personal critic, and, as such, is in an excellent position to gain insight into the student’s overall achievement.
- Evaluating the student’s work. The MHS Program expects help from preceptors in evaluating such major student projects as the Portfolio, Learning Plan, Constructive Action Projects, and the Master's Project final thesis. Because preceptors have a unique perspective on the student’s performance, their input is invaluable. Procedures for evaluating the student are reviewed in detail by the Field Instructor as the various projects become due.
- Serving as an advocate. An agency may sometimes fail to give students sufficient time for their studies and projects. This may jeopardize the student's progress. Often the academic program temporarily places overwhelming demands on a student. In such cases, the preceptor may need to represent or intercede for the student before a supervisor and obtain a better set of educational conditions for the student.
Amount of Time Required for Precepting
As a rule of thumb, we recommend at least one hour per week on the average. This may vary from student to student, and from semester to semester in the program. In times of crisis or when students are under special pressure, they may require more attention. When things are going smoothly, they may require less.
It is important that the preceptor take the initiative to become involved in the student’s educational program to the point where they know their student’s needs, and how they can best help meet those needs.
The main thing is being available by phone or by appointment to give your student assistance when it is needed.