By: Rachel Thomas, ABA + OBM M.S. Student
Before coming to Florida Tech for the ABA + OBM master’s program, I spent eight years working in the public school system. I have always wanted to work with children who have learning problems and will likely take that route during my career. However, upon entering the Master of Science (M.S.) program in ABA + OBM, I realized that getting practical experience in the field of OBM was also important, so I chose to do two of my three semesters of Intensive Practicum Training (IPT) with an OBM company which focuses on instructional design. This experience provided many awesome things for me to write about, but I’ll just stick with three, for now!
One of the most important elements of my practicum experience was learning presentation skills. I have never really lacked confidence in public speaking, but learning how to properly deliver a presentation was amazing. The company I worked with gave us access to their Continuing Education Unit (CEU) library. All semester we used videos form the library to work on our culminating project of presenting a mock executive board proposal and mock staff training. I had never used PowerPointTM for presentations prior to this, as I was a huge fan of the index card approach. After that semester, I will use PowerPointTM for all of my presentations. Never underestimate the power of good visuals!
Next, we were given an opportunity to teach one of the sections of a class the company provides. I was able to go through the books and choose the chapter that I wanted to teach. I made a 15-minute presentation based on the book chapter and my personal knowledge on the subject. I presented my lesson to the class as the instructor and fielded the questions that were posed. I learned that 15 minutes is a very short amount of time when presenting! Another lesson learned: do not go off script during your first attempt as acting-instructor! Thankfully, I learned this lesson with my supervisor watching me and giving me constructive feedback.
Finally, we were invited to take part in the CEU development process. Developing a CEU course is something that many people want to do, and now I have an advantage because I know what it takes to get the CEU out to the public!
Practicum is a lot of work as a graduate student. At the same time you are doing practicum, you are doing coursework, research, thesis or capstone, and you may even have a part-time job (or two). But, the experience that you will gain is invaluable. I have made so many contacts I will be able to use for my future career; I know I will be in a great position to get hired! I have been exhausted and even ready to throw in the towel, but I would not trade the opportunities that I have had at Florida Tech for anything!