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Missional Clerkship

Clerkship pertains to the practice of a student or recent graduate in a given field practicing under the guidance of an expert in said field. Clerkship is a common practice in Law and Medicine. For example, one may see a law clerk interning with a lawyer. A law clerk is a law student or recent law graduate who practices law under the mentoring or guidance of a judge or licensed attorney who practices law. In medicine, clerkship often takes place during the second half of a student’s education as a medical practitioner. Students who are in clerkship report to a “teaching hospital” where they are given experiences in all aspects of a hospital setting, including the operating room, emergency department and various other departments that allow learning by observation and doing.

While clerkship is a most popular practice in law and medicine, in principle other fields are also utilizing this experiential learning approach in training new practitioners. For example, some universities require a one year “practice teaching” clerkship type program where senior or graduating students teach actual classes in the subject of their expertise under the guidance of a mentoring professor who ensures that the intern is executing well on assigned tasks. The same professors critique and assess the performance of the practice teacher. Social work programs provide learning opportunities referred to, as “internships for more advanced training.”1 Even those training to be members of the clergy are often required to go through an internship where students are coached and mentored by a minister as to how to pastor a church.

The intent of clerkship type programs i.e, internships, is to teach students the fundamentals of their field of practice and to enable the student to select an area of specialization in the chosen field. For example, interns can decide if they want to focus on internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics etc. During the clerkship the student or intern interacts with real clients in their chosen practice. As another example, medical students will interact with real patients much as a physician does. However, their evaluation and recommendations will be reviewed and approved by more senior physicians.

Clerkship is a very effective experiential learning approach that best equips students in their chosen field of practice. It allows for confidence building among trainees or interns. It also helps interns be aware of the varied challenges and issues they may encounter in their chosen field. Clerkship also allows for shadowing of professional practitioners and experts in the field by interns.

In sum, experiential learning is crucial to the preparation for service in the mission of God. It is an approach to learning that best prepares students to deal with real world challenges and to become lifelong learners and effective problem solvers. It is also consistent with Jesus’ discipleship approach. The various ways that experiential learning may be encouraged are through observation practice, participant observation, action learning, action research and clerkship or internship. All these experiential learning modes facilitate a holistic development of a student, thus best equipping them to engage the world where God chooses to deploy them to serve.

Reference List

  1. Brian N. Baird, The Internship, Practicum, and Field Placement Handbook: A Guide for the Helping Professionals, 7th ed. (New York: NY:Routledge, 2016), 2.

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