FAQs: Applied Practice Experiences

The Council clarified the limited use of university-based sites in Criterion D5. A faculty-supervised lab setting would not be appropriate for the applied practice experience. Schools are no longer required to offer MPH degrees in specific concentration areas, so if a school wishes to convert the environmental health degree (based on this example) to an MS, there is no requirement for external applied practice experiences.

For the applied practice experiences criterion for MPH students (Criterion D5), the student may produce a project for a practice setting under a faculty member’s supervision. For example, a faculty member teaching a program evaluation course might pair students with local agencies and lead the students through the course, with students ultimately producing an evaluation for the community agency. In this case, the student must be regularly working/consulting with key agency staff to produce a useful evaluation product. The product of this course could be one of the products used to demonstrate competencies for Criterion D5.

An experience conducted solely under faculty supervision, such as a case study or simulation or preparing a manuscript for publication, would not be appropriate for satisfying Criterion D5. The product must arise from significant contact with a practice setting, whether that is structured like a traditional internship or through a series of faculty-led contacts, such as those arising from service learning experiences.

Applied practice experiences may be concentrated in time or may be spread throughout a student’s enrollment; therefore, there is no minimum number of hours required. All students must address at least five competencies, of which three must be foundational, through applied practice experiences. The assessment is based on the products produced rather than the hours involved.

We have moved our focus away from the number of hours (either credit hours or contact hours). There are a variety of ways to satisfy Criterion D6, and the Council would expect to see an approach tailored to the student. In this case, the experience for a student without a public health background would likely look different from the experiences structured for DrPH programs that only enroll practicing public health professionals.

Opportunities may include:

  • course-based activities (eg, performing a needed task for a public health or health care organization under the supervision of a faculty member as an individual or group of students)
  • activities linked to service learning, as defined by the program, school or university
  • co-curricular activities (eg, service and volunteer opportunities, such as those organized by a student association)
  • a blend of for-credit and/or not-for-credit activities

Students must demonstrate attainment of at least five competencies, of which three must be foundational competencies, in the applied practice experience. Assessment of student’s competency attainment is through a portfolio approach that includes at least two products. The requirement of two products is a floor rather than a ceiling, and it may in fact take more products for students to demonstrate competencies. The competencies are mapped to products produced from the applied practice experience(s), but each product does not have to necessarily map to all competencies. For example, one product (eg, a written assignment) may demonstrate three competencies and the second product (eg, a video presentation) may demonstrate the other two competencies. As another example, students may include five products in their portfolio if each one demonstrates a competency. Competencies and products may differ from student to student.

Schools and programs can decide what process works best in their own setting. Students may consult with an advisor to individually choose competencies that are tailored to their specific experience(s), or competencies may be set by the degree program for all students in a given concentration. CEPH’s primary focus is assuring that every student demonstrates attainment of at least five competencies, of which three must be foundational competencies, regardless of whether the competencies are identical from student to student. In such cases, separate templates (Template D5-1) would be necessary.

You must provide at least five complete samples from each concentration. These samples should have been created within the last three years. If your school or program does not have five samples from a given concentration, note this and provide all available samples.

While students may complete experiences as individuals or as groups in a structured experience, each student must present documentation demonstrating individual competency attainment. The same product may be used for multiple students if individual competency attainment is demonstrated and assessed.

The expectation is that the portfolio assessment looks at each identified competency and takes into account the specific theories and practices in which the student was prepared on the competency. The  assessment is not intended to be a generalized judgment on the quality of the work product but is intended to verify the extent to which the work product shows that the student can perform the competency. Preceptors are not typically expected to maintain the necessary level of familiarity with pedagogical methods for defining and assessing competencies. Preceptors may play an important role in assessing students’ products for quality, usefulness, etc., but a skilled assessor (typically a faculty member) must examine the work products in order to determine whether the work product demonstrates attainment of the designated competency.