School of Education - George Mason University

Planning for Internship or Practicum

The primary purpose of the internship in special education is to integrate, apply and refine student competencies necessary for independent functioning as a special educator in a variety of settings. Expected competencies will vary according to the specific area of study within special education, licensure requirements, and professional goals of individual students. Students in each setting will apply effective techniques and procedures and will engage in activities which contribute to the smooth functioning of the specific internship experience.  Depending on the internship experience, students will be expected to demonstrate competencies from among the following: human relations, organization and preparation, assessment, communication skills, classroom management, subject matter knowledge, individual and group instructional skills, and self-monitoring.

For further details on the internship including the responsibilities of the intern, mentor teacher and university supervisor, please review the special education teacher preparation internship manual or applied behavior analysis internship manual.

Special Education K-12 Virginia Teacher Licensure programs

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has approved the GMU licensure certificate programs in K-12 Special Education based on the inclusion of two internship experiences (one at the elementary level and one at the secondary level). Regardless of whether or not a student has teaching experience, internship experiences are required components for any student completing the state-approved licensure certificate programs. Students may use the following options to address internship requirements: 1) on-the-job internship, 2) placement, 3) waiver of one of the two experiences.

Applied Behavior Analysis program

Note: These recommendations are based upon current BACB standards and are subject to change without prior notice. Students are encouraged to keep apprised of changes by visiting the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s website and signing up for their newsletter.

Eligibility to sit for the BACB certification examination requires completion of coursework and experience requirements. The Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate (ABAC) is a BACB-verified course sequence. Once enrolled into the ABAC program, individuals who intend to sit for the national certification exam can opt for the following: (a) standard practicum, (b) intensive practicum track, or (c) track supervised independent fieldwork*. Students may complete these practicum either in conjunction with the ABA certificate coursework at George Mason, or after completing the George Mason ABA certificate coursework. Practicum experiences offered by George Mason University have been granted Approved Experience status by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Students must apply for ABA practicum each semester they are interested. Please note that applying for ABA practicum does not guarantee placement.

Students may complete all of the hours needed to satisfy the BACB supervised experience requirement through 15 credits of standard or intensive university practicum track. Individuals can be supervised on-the-job if the employment setting meets BACB requirements or the university can identify placement. GMU also provides paid and unpaid practicum placement options. Individuals completing practicum through the university must obtain professional liability insurance and provide proof of coverage to their practicum supervisor and site personnel prior to starting the practicum. The price of professional liability insurance ranges from $10-$59 for the year. Supervised Independent Fieldwork is for students who have appropriate employment settings. This option is not taken with George Mason and instead, the student will work with a qualified BCBA certified supervisor and will report directly to BACB.

Frequently asked questions
Will I have to complete the internship requirement if I already have teaching experience?

Internship is a required component of the VDOE-approved licensure certificate programs. All students completing programs leading to licensure must fulfill the internship requirement.

If I am already a certified teacher in a non-special education area, is it necessary to complete internships in special education?

If a teacher is licensed in a content area, such as chemistry, he/she still has to do internships with the population for which endorsement is sought. It could be that the chemistry teacher has students with disabilities in his/her chemistry class and thus could complete an on-the-job internship for one level.

How can I do internships for my teacher preparation program if I am currently working during the school?

With an appropriate setting and employer support, you may be able to complete one internship on-the-job. The second internship component can be addressed with either the internship waiver, if eligible, or a summer school internship. If you complete both internships rather than using the waiver option, one internship must be at the elementary level and one must be at the secondary level.  Teacher candidates not working in a classroom that is an appropriate internship setting for their program may complete two summer internships.

What are the requirements for an on-the-job internship for the teacher preparation programs?

The on-the-job internship option requires students to be responsible for completing university requirements associated with the internship, but allows them to complete the internship experience while they work. The requirements for internships can be met through actual teaching in public or Virginia Board of Education recognized accredited private schools, during the school year,on campus opportunities as well as other settings that may be considered appropriate by your advisor. To be eligible for an on-the-job internship, you must be working in a setting appropriate for your program. Additionally, you must have the permission and support of your building administrator and university advisor. You will identify a mentor teacher from your school who will act as a mentor during the internship process, and a university supervisor will be assigned to you. You must be able to accumulate sufficient direct teaching hours and planning hours during the internship period. Contact your advisor to discuss eligibility for your particular employment situation.

What is the difference between a waiver and an on-the-job internship?

The on-the-job internship is a typical university internship experience. The student will be assigned a university supervisor who will observe and provide feedback during the internship period. Students must apply ahead of time for the on-the-job internship and will register in three credits of their internship course. The waiver requires documentation of eligibility but does not require an application, registration or tuition. With the waiver one of the two internships is simply removed as a program requirement.

Who is eligible to waive an internship?

The internship waiver option is available for students completing the Special Education-General Curriculum certificate and who provide documentation that they have successfully completed two academic or calendar years in a full-time teaching position teaching students with disabilities in a public school or accredited private school setting in the special education endorsement area(s) K-12 they are seeking. Experience must be gained as the teacher of record in the classroom; experience as a substitute teacher, instructional assistant or intern does not qualify. Two years experience is defined as either two academic years or two calendar years. If a student taught from the first day of school to the last day of school in an academic year, his or her experience will be measured in academic years. If the student's contract began after the start of the school year, experience will be measured in calendar years. Students must fulfill the two year, full-time successful teaching requirement by June 30th if they are a May graduate and January 31st if they are a December graduate. The second internship experience may be waived if the student meets all of the requirements and obtains approval from a GMU faculty advisor.

What do I need to do to submit for the waiver?

When using the waiver option, a student must document eligibility for the waiver and complete one three credit-hour on-the-job internship coupled with additional observations at the opposite instructional level (elementary/secondary) in which they are teaching and seeking licensure. Students should refer to the internship waiver checklist to ensure they can provide the required documentation.

How can I complete the ABA practicum if I am working?

With an appropriate setting, employer support and university faculty approval, you may complete your practicum on-the-job. Additionally, Mason offers placements in a number of settings with a variety of working days and hours, so it may be possible for you to complete practicum hours outside of your regular employment setting. Further, a number of practicum sites provide paid opportunities and so may provide employment for the intern.

What is an appropriate setting for an on-the-job practicum for the ABA programs?

The on-the-job practicum requires students to be responsible for completing university requirements associated with the practicum but allows them to complete the practicum experience while they work. To be eligible for an on-the-job practicum you must be working in a setting that allows you to accumulate the requisite number of hours providing ABA Services (minimum of twenty hours/week). All services counted toward practicum must meet the specifications of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board for Appropriate Activities. Additionally, you must have the permission and support of your building administrator and university advisor.

Are summer ABA practicum available?

A number of ABA Sites provide services throughout the summer months. Students completing ABA practicum should expect to work between 10 and 25 hours per week at their sites for 11 weeks between mid-May and early August. Some practicum are paid.