The Field Study was the product of discussions between the American Medical Association (AMA) and The Critical Skills Group. Each recognized the importance of medical clinics having a meaningful way to participate with their local school systems not only to serve as a good community citizen, but also to offer students an environment in which the Critical Skills may be practiced.
Each had a desire to test Field Studies for medical practices in schools representing different socio-economic levels and with students with different cultural backgrounds. The result of this thinking was to form a team of students from two separate Chicago inner city schools and two suburban schools. None of the students on the team had ever conducted or participated in projects of this nature.
An additional student was selected as the “team captain.” Inasmuch as this was a pilot field study combining students from four different schools, the need for a Field Study experienced student who was sensitive to team dynamics as well as familiar with the Field Study process was deemed essential.
Once the team was formed, a medical practice in Wheaton, Illinois was approached by The Critical Skills Group regarding their interest in serving as the pilot test “partner.” The Administrator of the Wheaton Medical Clinic and a practicing physician at the clinic agreed to allow the student team to conduct a market survey of patients under the supervision of The Critical Skills Group.
In general, finding students who might be interested in conducting Field Studies either for credit in school or as an extracurricular activity is not difficult. The difficulty lies in finding the ‘right’ students who will work productively as a member of the team toward completing the work.
Based on one Field Study conducted by students to determine the level of interest by local business partners regarding student-led Field Studies, business partners prefer students who are mature, intelligent, have good but not necessarily the top grades, and will make a professional commitment to spend quality time on the client’s problem.
- Students need to be mature and intelligent – but not necessarily have the top grades. (i.e., you do not have to choose only National Honor Society students to do Field Studies)
- Students must make a genuine commitment to spend quality time on the project;
- Students must recognize that such projects represent professional commitments (i.e., if they don’t produce, the won’t get credit, etc.)
We have found that students who might be considered as ‘underachievers’ but who have the characteristics of intelligence and reliability are ideally suited for Field Studies. Such projects often bring a high degree of meaning to these students and motivate them toward learning.
With initial Field Studies in school, we have also found that a first Field Study team might be best comprised of students who are JUNIORS – i.e., 11th grade. There are two reasons for this:
- Juniors tend to be less distracted than seniors who are often preoccupied with college selection and other matters;
- Juniors provide an excellent ‘farm team’ for developing experienced students to serve as ‘team captains’ of Field Studies during their senior years.
Care should be taken to ensure that the Field Study team has one highly responsible individual as a member of the team. This individual should be designated as the ‘team captain’ and be the foal point for leading the other students during the Field Study experience. The team captain generally works closely with the faculty supervisor, the educational partner, and manages the difficult tasks of scheduling interviews and keeping the project on track.
Time and effort are required in selecting an effective Field Study team. This effort, however, will pay off in enabling students to work together and overcome the inevitable conflicts that will occur in conducting projects that require careful management of their time and effort.