Research and Teaching Experience

Research Practica/Assistantships

Three units of research practica for academic credit are required of all students. These begin after the first semester of successful academic progress. These assistantships provide opportunities to engage in different aspects of the research process and increase capacity and comfort for completing independent research. Skills gained include:

  • Conceptualization of research questions
  • Review, assessment and synthesis of relevant literature
  • Operationalization of theoretical concepts and empirical questions
  • Collection and analysis of data
  • Research report writing

The goal is for students to have the opportunity to define and gain ownership of a specific facet of a larger project, and many of our students publish peer-reviewed research, often in collaboration with our faculty and their fellow students. See recent first-author publications from our students.

Students have flexibility in how they meet the research practica requirement. They may work with multiple faculty, across multiple projects, or by conducting an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty advisor serving as the practicum instructor. Units of research practica may be completed consecutively or simultaneously, as approved by the advisor, course instructor(s), and associate dean of doctoral education. Learn more about our affiliated (research centers and institutes here).

Teaching Practica

The Brown School program requires three units of teaching practica for credit to ensure that our doctoral students are well-trained in social work and public health pedagogy, are comfortable in a classroom setting, and receive key experience necessary for advancing their leadership. These practica are fulfilled within faculty courses.

Teaching practica require that the student be involved in a variety of teaching tasks. The minimum involvement includes giving one or two full lectures based on notes or a lesson plan developed by the student and approved in advance by the professor; providing course-relevant consultation for students who may need additional assistance outside of class; and providing feedback on assignments, grading and/or critiquing papers.

Adequate knowledge of the subject matter is a prerequisite to earn practicum credit. This requirement can be met by the student having completed the course in which they will fulfill their practicum, or by the professor certifying that the student has adequate knowledge of the subject matter. Units of teaching practica may be completed consecutively or simultaneously, as approved by the advisor, course instructor(s), and associate dean of doctoral education.

In some cases, after the successful completion of one unit of supervised teaching practicum, a student may receive permission to teach a course of their own design for one semester, while being guided by a faculty member.

Faculty members who serve as teaching practicum instructors advise students in the development of their practicum proposals, and the university provides a required orientation for those completing their teaching practicum for the first time. The orientation provides an introduction to the Washington University Teaching Center, which is a valuable resource as students continue to sharpen their skills in the classroom.