The Purpose of Field Education
Field education at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary assists students in learning about the practice of ministry through direct involvement in congregations and other settings, under the direction of skilled supervisors who are ordained clergy (at least three years). Placements are negotiated with the intent of broadening each student's range of experiences in order to contribute to his or her personal and professional growth. Objectives of the program include:
- acquaintance with a wide variety of ministerial activities,
- development of ministerial skills,
- sensitivity to the dynamics of pastoral relationships,
- awareness of the social context of ministry, and
- theological reflection upon aspects of the practice of ministry.
Master of Divinity students are required to complete one year of planned, supervised, and evaluated field education in a setting approved by the director of Field Education. A detailed learning agreement, developed by each student in cooperation with his or her supervisor, coordinates the educational objectives with the needs of the congregation or agency to be served and provides a basis for a shared evaluation of progress at later points in the year. The student also participates in a weekly colloquium on campus, during the year of supervised field education, for which three academic credits are awarded. The requirement is fulfilled when all evaluations have been completed by the supervisor and the students, accepted by the director of Field Education, and recorded on the student's permanent record.
The Field Education Setting
Congregations and agencies participating in the Field Education program are encouraged to see themselves as a vital part of the student's preparation for ministry. This involves three important steps:
- The congregation or agency makes a formal decision to participate in the preparation of women and men for ordained ministry, based on an assessment of the opportunities for learning it can offer rather than on the kind of assistance it needs.
- The congregation or agency endorses the time its minister or director will need to spend in supervising the student and in preparing for the responsibilities of supervision.
- The congregation or agency prepares a position description.
Contracts normally run from September through May. Students are expected to give approximately 10 hours of service in the field each week. Time spent in staff meetings and in preparation for work (lesson preparation, arranging for meetings, room set up, etc.) should be included in this total, but travel time to and from the field is not to be counted. Two of these hours per week are expected to include opportunities for the student to observe and discuss the supervisor's practice in such areas as funeral preparation, weddings and baptisms, administration, curriculum evaluation, and home visitation.
Unless alternative arrangements are made in advance, students will be expected to work in the placement during vacation periods at the Seminary. The student should nonetheless be assured an opportunity for a vacation the week after Christmas. Students are not expected to work in the field education placement during end-of-term examination periods.
Students normally receive a stipend for their work and reimbursement for travel expenses related to their work. Current guidelines for this compensation can be obtained from the Office of Field Education. The stipend is considered taxable income and is subject to Social Security.
Congregations and agencies may offer full-time or part-time summer employment with the stipend being adjusted to reflect the number of hours the student will be expected to work.
Termination of a position before the end of the contract period may occur only in consultation with the student, the field supervisor, and the director of Field Education.
The Learning Covenant
The Field Education Office provides a form to assist students and field supervisors in the process of coordinating the educational objectives of the student and the needs of the congregation or agency being served. The Learning Covenant has been designed for the following purposes:
- to give an opportunity for mutual clarification of expectations;
- to enable students to focus their work around limited and realistic objectives which are related to their specific educational needs and personal and professional goals;
- to provide a framework for supervision and evaluation of the activities in which students will be engaged.
This form must be completed by the student and field supervisor and returned to the Field Education Office by mid-October for approval.
The Role of the Supervisor
The key to a good field education experience is supervision. It is expected that the student will meet with the supervisor at least one hour each week to discuss and reflect theologically upon some aspect of ministry. Guidance in the form of training sessions and printed materials is provided by the Field Education Office to assist in the supervisory relationship.
Because supervisors are participating in an educational program designed to help equip students for the responsibilities for which they are preparing, they must have been ordained for a minimum of three years. Under normal circumstances, supervisors do not assume the additional responsibilities of being pastor and/or counselor to students. The restraints of time and the value of maintaining role clarity make the addition of these responsibilities inadvisable.
Evaluation of the Field Education Program
Mid-year (January) and end-of-year (May) evaluations are required for a student to complete the requirement in supervised field education. The purpose of such assessments is to enable the student to learn and grow in ministry. These evaluations are based on the Learning Covenant developed by the student and the supervisor at the beginning of the field education experience and revised during weekly supervisory sessions.
The final evaluation must be completed and returned to the Field Education Office before the requirement can be considered satisfactorily completed. Forms for the evaluation process are provided by the Field Education Office. The evaluation can be shared with the student's sponsoring judicatory when requested, if the student's written consent has been given and confidentiality has been assured.
The staff of the Field Education Office is prepared to answer your specific questions and provide the necessary forms and additional information. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Director of Field Education
Holly A. McKelvey
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
616 N. Highland Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206