Contextual Education Program Policies and Procedures

M.Div. Field-based Learning Completion Requirements

First Year M.Div. Student Timeline

November/December First year (including January entrant) student orientation. Program overview and introduction to a site selection process takes place at a plenary session.
Late Fall/Early Spring semester Students review field-based learning site information available on the Office of Contextual Education (OCE) website in relation to their educational goals. Any questions should be referred to faculty advisers and to the appropriate Director of Contextual Education. Anyone wishing to initiate a placement at a non-affiliated or accredited site should begin working on this since all such settings require advance approval.
Late January/Early February Students having trouble finding a setting for the second year should consult with the appropriate Director of Contextual Education as early as possible in the spring semester. All students planning summer internships must follow the procedures outlined in the policies and procedures manual. They must also contact the appropriate Director of Contextual Education .
March 1 Students should submit to the OCE the Basic Information Sheet on their prospective placement site. The OCE then reviews this information, consulting with students, faculty advisers, and potential sites as necessary.
March 31 Completed Field-Based Placement Covenants are due in the Office of Contextual Education.
End of May Registration for TC 801 Supervised Contextual Education is due with the registrar.
Early September Contextual education assignments begin in conjunction with beginning of classes.On the third Saturday of September, a Contextual Education Orientation is held for all participants.


Students, with the exception of January entrants, may enroll in field-based learning upon completion of their first full year of study and the first year core course, “Practices of Faith.” Students beginning in January are expected to commence their field-based learning in the fourth semester, generally the second Fall semester following entry into the program and after completion of the M.Div. core course “Practices of Faith.” All M.Div. students planning to complete their program of studies in three years must enroll in supervised field education by the beginning of the Fall semester of their second year.

Academic Year Parameters

  1. Two (2) semesters’ worth  of field-based learning (TC 801 and TC 802) are required for completion of the M.Div. degree. Both semesters’ worth of engagement must be completed at the same site.
  2. Credit is earned on a pass/fail basis.
  3. Each semester’s work earns four (4) credits for a total of eight (8) credits overall.
  4. Students participate weekly in an Integration of Theology and Practice group (ITP). These groups are led by STH faculty members and are designed to enhance students’ overall growth through the use of case studies, peer-group action-reflection, and discussion.
  5. The time commitment involved in field-based site learning is expected to be approximately: 20 hours/week x 12 weeks/semester = 240 hours each semester or 480 hours for the academic year. This 20-hour per week commitment includes 1 hour/week of travel time; 1-1/2 hours/week for ITP participation; 2 hours/week for preparation of case studies and reflection papers; and 2 hours/week for Sabbath keeping.
  6. An additional eight (8) credits of contextual education may be earned for a maximum total of sixteen (16) so long as all other core and distributional requirements are met.
  7. Beginning in the fall of 2013, students will receive a $500 per semester stipend from their contextual education site. If the site is unable to contribute this stipend, please contact one of the Directors of Contextual Education.
  8. A background check will need to be completed prior to the start of the contextual education placement. You will receive information about this from the Academic Dean’s office.

Under extraordinary circumstances requiring the permission of at least one of the Directors of Contextual Education, a student may complete the field-based learning requirement at a rate of two (2) units/semester over a total of four (4) semesters. In this case, the time commitment would be approximately ten (10) hours per week.

Selecting a Learning Site

Students are expected to find their own sites. However, to be eligible for credit, field-based learning sites must be those approved by the Office of Contextual Education. In consultation with their faculty advisers and the Office of Contextual Education  (OCE), students select field settings compatible with their overall educational goals.

The field setting is responsible for ensuring the availability of a certified on-site supervisor and (in the case of ecclesial settings) an internship committee made up of representatives of those affected by the student’s service. The provision of internship committees in non-ecclesial sites such as agencies and parachurch organizations is not uniformly mandatory but is determined on a case-by-case basis. Supervisory sessions typically take place weekly between the student intern and the field supervisor. In some instances, off-site supervision may be used with the approval of the appropriate Director of Contextual Education. Monthly meetings should also take place between the student intern and the internship committee.

Students may select learning sites from the following categories: STH Partner Sites, Student-Initiated Placements, or Boston Theological Institute Sites.

STH Partner Sites

STH Partner Sites

A list of field settings closely affiliated with the Boston University School of Theology is provided through the Office of Contextual Education, take a look at Ecclesial Organizations Site Book and Community Agencies Site Book. Most students enrolled in the M.Div. curriculum who are anticipating ordination must satisfy their required field-based learning experience in a local church community. Students should check denominational requirements prior to selecting their contextual education placement site to ensure they are in compliance with their ordination requirements. Students who are not seeking ordination may fulfill their field-based learning requirements in a setting other than a local church.

Student-Initiated Placements

Student-Initiated Placements

Students may develop field-based placements to meet special needs or interests. Since there are several detailed steps involved in the process, students should begin working on such arrangements early enough to meet all requisite deadlines. These settings must meet the criteria for learning and supervision for all contextual education placements as outlined here and they are subject to the approval of the appropriate Director of Contextual Education. For those seeking placement in a community setting, a number of good websites can provide inspiration for investigation. See, for example,, and

Note that approved student-initiated sites and supervisors do not need to be previously accredited by STH. The supervisor will, however, need to receive training by STH if he/she has not already received such training by STH or another BTI school. New supervisors must complete and submit the Application for Supervisor Certification by April 15. The Field Site Application Form for a new site will also need to be turned in to the Office of Contextual Education by March 1. We recognize that there can be circumstances which interfere with the meeting of this deadline. However, all applications for student-initiated placements must be received by June 15 or the student will need to secure a placement at an STH or BTI approved site.

A student wishing to propose a self-initiated placement should meet with one of the Directors of Contextual Education to discuss the idea. If the placement is approved, the standard field-based learning documents must be filed: a Field-Based Placement Covenant, Learning Agreement, mid-year Evaluation (summer placements exempted), and final Evaluation.

Boston Theological Institute Sites

Students may complete their Supervised Field Education in a setting affiliated with another BTI (Boston Theological Institute) institution. Check the BTI website for access to sites affiliated with all the BTI member institutions. Pursuit of a BTI-affiliated site should only be undertaken in consultation with one of the Directors of Contextual Education. Each school within the BTI welcomes students from other schools to engage in field-based learning at one of their sites when the site is not filled by one of their own students. All approved placements must meet the standards of competent supervision as set out elsewhere in this document. This includes one-on-one weekly supervision sessions. Supervisors must also be available for regular consultations and meet the requirements and deadlines for Learning Agreements and Evaluations at their respective schools.

Students must adhere to the BTI policies detailed below and coordinate fully with the sponsoring school. To receive full credit, the student must submit copies of all required paperwork to the sponsoring school and to BUSTh.

A BTI Policy for Field Education Sites

Adopted by BTI field educators, February 16, 1990; Amended April 2007.

Occasionally it is desirable for a student from one BTI school to serve in a field education site that is affiliated with another. The BTI field educators agree that this opportunity should be as simple as possible, while recognizing that there are important differences in our respective programs: differing timetables, differing financial arrangements, differing requirements for sites and students, and differing underlying philosophies. The following assumptions and procedures attempt to state and clarify the ways in which a student may serve in the field education setting of another school.


  1. Each field education site is directly affiliated with only one BTI school. If a site wishes to switch affiliations, it must contact both the school with which it is ceasing affiliation and the school with which it wishes to partner, and receive agreement from both.
  2. Each field education site relates to and honors the policies, procedures, and requirements of the school with which it is affiliated (the sponsoring school). The school with whom a faith community partners in field education is the primary location of accountability for the site.
  3. Each person who wishes to supervise field education students must satisfy the sponsoring school that s/he is qualified to do so, or enroll in a basic supervisory course offered by any of the BTI schools. While all BTI schools agree to recognize completion of a current course at any BTI school as satisfactory preparation, it is assumed that supervisors will pursue the course of study at the school where their sites are affiliated except in unusual circumstances.
  4. Each field education site establishes student stipend arrangements, if any, in relationship with the sponsoring school. It is understood that not all of these arrangements will be suitable for students from other schools.
  5. The student serving in another school’s field education site will follow the site’s sponsoring school’s procedures for learning agreements and evaluations. However, the student will also fulfill his/her own school’s other requirements, such as participation in practicum groups, where applicable.
  6. Each BTI school manages communication and placement in its own way, which students can and must learn through direct communication with the appropriate field education offices.

Required Procedures

  1. If a student is interested in serving in a field education site of another school, the student must receive approval from those in charge of field education in his/her home school, the director of field education at the sponsoring school, and, of course, the site. The sequence in which these steps are taken will vary from student to student, but communication is essential.
  2. Students may contact the director of field education from the sponsoring school via phone, email, or in person. In most cases, it is advisable for students to make first contact via email, with the understanding that different field education directors will express different preferences for follow-up communication.
  3. The student is responsible to learn what expectations the borrowed site may have that are different from field education sites at her/his home school, e.g. written work, relationship with teaching committees, and hours.
  4. If the student and the site decide that they will work together, they must officially notify both schools of their decision.
  5. The student is responsible for ensuring that all official documents related to field education, such as contract/covenants, learning agreements, and evaluations are sent to both the student’s and the site’s sponsoring institution.
  6. The student incurs no additional tuition liability in serving in another school’s field education site. All tuition is paid to the student’s home school. Some schools (Gordon-Conwell, for example) do not have formal affiliation agreements with the sites and/or supervisors which their students regularly serve. If a student from another school wishes to serve in such a site, the student and those in charge of field education at the student’s home school will decide on the procedures to follow.

BTI Schools Contact Information

Andover Newton Theological School
210 Herrick Road
Newton, Centre, MA 02159
Phone: 617.831.2364
Contact:  Jeff Jones

Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Phone: 617.552.8440
Contacts:  Theresa O’Keefe, Melissa Kelley

Boston University School of Theology
Office of Contextual Education
745 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: 617.353.3037
Contacts:  Wanda Stahl, Cristian De La Rosa

Episcopal Divinity School
99 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617.862.1510
Contact:  William Kondrath

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
130 Essex St.
Box 241
So. Hamilton, MA 01982
Phone: 978.468.7111
Contact:  Katherine Horvath

Center for Urban Ministerial Education
363 South Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02130
Phone: 617.427.7293 ext 1640
Contact:  Teri Elliot-Hart

Harvard Divinity School
45 Francis Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617.495.5761
Contacts:  Emily Click, Laura Tuach

Holy Cross School of Theology
50 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02146
Phone: 617.731.3500
Contact:  Philip Mamalakis

Course Requirements

To pass the field-based learning requirement, students must complete all the steps of the placement process as outlined in this document, including the following:

Spring Semester Prior to Start of Fall Placement:

  1. Submit Basic Information Sheet describing the prospective site by March 1.
  2. Field-Based Placement Covenants are due in the OCE by March 31.
  3. Register for TC801 Supervised Contextual Education.
  4. Completion of a background check through Viewpoint Screening.

During Academic Year Placement Experience:

  1. Submit an original completed, signed, Learning Agreement plus one copy (the copy may be submitted electronically but the signature page must be original) to the Office of Contextual Education:
    • Fall semester Learning Agreements are due the first Wednesday in October.
    • Revised Learning Agreements, when necessary, are due the first Wednesday of the spring semester.
  2. Submit all evaluation material, together with the accompanying signature sheet, plus one complete copy to the Office of Contextual Education on or before the specified due date at the end of each semester. Evaluations will not be accepted without an attached copy.
    • For the Fall semester, the due date is the first Wednesday in December.
    • Spring semester evaluations are due the last Wednesday in April.
  3. Participate in the weekly Integration of Theology and Practice group that runs concurrently with the field-based learning component

Other Completion Options

Summer Placements

Normally, contextual education in the summer is undertaken only after TC801 and TC802 have been completed. However, opportunities may arise which necessitate either TC801 or TC802 being done in the summer. Both cannot be done in the summer except in special circumstances. For any of these arrangements, students must consult and receive approval from the appropriate Director of Contextual Education.

In order to meet the requirements for TC801 and TC802, summer contextual education placements must total 260  hours for either TC 801 or 802. These hours include participation in an Integration of Theology and Practice group during the academic year following the summer placement (45 hours for attendance and completion of reflection papers and case studies for either TC 801 or 802), travel time (10 hours for each) and preparation time for reflection papers and other requirements related to completion of the placement (10 hours for each) (see below).

For elective credit (TC803 and TC804), total hours are variable. Students engaging in a summer placement as a requirement for TC803 and/or TC804 should consider 65 hours as equivalent to one course credit. Please note that students in the MDiv degree program may count only 4 credits of TC803 or TC804 toward the “Theories and Practices of Leadership” 8-credit distributional requirement.

Each student taking part in a summer placement will need to meet the following requirements:

  1. Approval of site and supervisor by one of the Directors of Contextual Education and the Academic Dean.  Site applications must be received by March 1.
  2. Completion of the  Placement Covenant. This is due by April 1 prior to the start of the placement.
  3. Completion of Exegeting the Site assignment within two weeks of the beginning of the placement. This will be submitted to the appropriate Director of Contextual Education.
  4. The Learning Agreement for the summer placement will also be due two weeks after the start of the placement.
  5. If possible, a field visit by one of the Directors of Contextual Education will be undertaken.
  6. Completion of reflection papers to be submitted to the theological supervisor and the appropriate Director of Contextual Education. The number will be negotiated between the student and supervisor.
  7. At the end of the placement, the student must complete the following:

a.  Final Evaluation Report: Due no later than the last Wednesday in September

b.  Exit Interview with one of the  Directors of Contextual Education

International Placements

Students may seek placements abroad, usually for the summer. Boston University’s International Programs office offers helpful information for many conceptual and logistical questions related to studying and working outside the United States. Additional ideas and contacts may be gained by perusing some of the resources available throughout the University. The African Studies Center and Center for the Study of Asia are good places to begin the search. Outside of BU, the ELDIS website provides links to many international organizations that take volunteers. And, although Christian Connections for International Health deals primarily with internships and jobs in the health field, the resources of their website are valuable as well.

International placements follow the same policies and procedures of other STH placements. At this time, STH has no program funds available to support international placements. Although the OCE can offer guidance and suggestions, students contemplating field education abroad are expected to explore funding possibilities on their own.


The OCE strongly encourages students who are engaging in any sort of cross-cultural contextual experience to do some preparatory work prior to taking up their assignments. The United States government’s Peace Corps program has a good self-training manual that can be worked through at an individual’s pace. Here are some other good reading resources that offer a wealth of thoughtful and practical advice:

American Cultural Baggage by Stan Nussbaum;

Cross-Cultural Connections by Duane Elmer;

Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier;

Survival Kit for Overseas Living by Lawrence Kohls.

The University is also rich in resources for students wishing to learn another language. Information on available courses may be found here and here. The Howard Thurman Center, located in the lower level of the George Sherman Student Union building, offers BU students access to a variety of Rosetta Stone language learning computer programs. These are available for use only on site but are free. Look here for more information.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Students may elect to pursue clinical training in hospital, prison, social service, and parish settings either locally or in centers throughout the country that are approved by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). One (1) unit of CPE earns eight (8) credits of field-based learning. CPE credits may transfer if they are from an ACPE accredited institution. They may not fulfill the contextual education requirements of TC801 and TC802 except for the Master of Divinity Chaplaincy track or in particular circumstances by petition to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and the Director of Contextual Education and Community Partnerships.

For a list of CPE sites, please refer to

Full-Time Internships

Occasionally, students choose to spend an entire semester or academic year in a full-time field placement. For example, a student might serve as a full-time college chaplain, away from STH.  Students can receive 4 credits for 240 hours per semester and 8 credits for 480 hours per semester.  If the planned internship is not at a BU STH-accredited site with a BU STH-certified supervisor, students must complete a student-initiated site placement form. If the internship is also  meeting a denominational and/or dual degree requirement, the student should confer with one of the Directors of  Contextual Education on matters of coordinated communications and requirements from respective institutions.

A field-based placement covenant, learning agreement, mid-year evaluation, and final evaluation must be submitted to the OCE in accordance with a mutually-agreed upon schedule. That schedule should conform, where possible, to the normal contextual education calendar.

Students planning internships should consult with the registrar regarding their enrollment as a student at STH during their time away from campus and with the OCE on the matter of theological supervision for the experience.

Planning and Evaluating the Learning Assignment

STH students are responsible for creating their own plan for learning via the contextual education, or field-based learning requirement. This means selecting a site placement and designing and describing learning goals. The Office of Contextual Education (OCE) helps by providing the necessary structure for students to navigate the different stages of the process. At each stage, students, supervisors, and internship committees are expected to adhere to all deadlines and to follow the procedures for submitting paperwork for the field-based assignment. (Sites affiliated with other BTI schools should follow procedures and deadlines for that school, but submit a copy of the Learning Agreement to the OCE when completed). Paperwork should not be submitted to the OCE unless it is filled out completely and signed as directed.

Field-Based Placement Covenant

Once a student and supervisor agree to a field-based arrangement, the student is responsible for notifying the OCE. This is done by filling out the Field-Based  Placement  Covenant by March 31. If a student does not find an acceptable placement, she or he should contact  one of the  Directors of Contextual Education immediately for consultation and assistance. Failure to conform to this schedule may result in postponement of graduation.

Learning Agreement

The first supervisory session at the field-based site should be scheduled as soon as possible after the covenant has been filed so that negotiation of the learning agreement can begin. The Learning Agreement should be submitted by the student by the first Wednesday in October.  The student, supervisor, and internship committee must negotiate and complete the learning agreement using the forms provided. Learning agreements establish and delimit goals, objectives, tasks, resources, and the supervision process. Serious consideration of this document sets up the learning relationship so crucial in contextual education. Particularly in ministry and service vocations, professionals need to be able to negotiate expectations and commitments to attain clarity, accountability, and appropriate limits. Over the course of the assignment, it is often necessary to refer back to the original learning agreement to clarify what was specifically meant and what was implied at the outset.

Rationale and Plan for Learning Agreements

Learning Agreements are the means by which students, supervisors, and ITP leaders work out the details of field placements or on-site experiences. Each Learning Agreement should be designed in concert with the overall educational goals of the student; the student’s degree track or specialization; and the specific tasks or activities that will take place at the site. A well-constructed Learning Agreement will provide a framework and reference point for all parties involved so that the expectations of the student, site, and school are clear and mutually understood. The Learning Agreement should also help guarantee that evaluations and negotiated changes proceed from a concrete basis.


Access the Learning Agreement form here. Learning Agreements should be organized according to the categories contained in this form. Be as specific as you can so that expectations and understandings can be as clear as possible. Specificity now will also help later when you analyze and evaluate how the experience has unfolded in light of initial objectives.


Evaluation is a critical part of capturing and interpreting the learning that has been part of the contextual education experience. Students, supervisors, and internship committees fill out mid-year evaluations (for academic or year-long placements) and final evaluations (for all placements). These are to be discussed with a supervisor before the student submits them to the OCE. See the Course Requirements section above for mid-year and final evaluation due dates.

Mid-year Assessment and Goal Revision

In early December, students and supervisors and the internship committee prepare a joint evaluation. At this time, each party should negotiate any revisions to the original learning agreement and prepare a plan for learning throughout the second semester. This mutual aspect of the evaluation process calls for all members of the learning partnership to reflect on how they have built an effective partnership and how they might want to improve the partnership so that better learning can occur. Students, supervisors, and the internship committee are expected to meet to discuss their evaluations before the student submits them to the OCE on or before the published deadline.

Final Evaluation and Assessment

During the month preceding the end of the placement, the student, supervisor, and internship committee work together to prepare a joint final evaluation of the student’s work at the site. Evaluation is an ongoing process, but the written evaluation is intended to identify and articulate the strengths and weaknesses of the learning experience. The final evaluation should focus on the observable behaviors and competencies demonstrated by the student at the site. Supervisors are encouraged to share insights about possible directions of vocational promise in the student’s future.

As was true for the mid-year evaluation, all members of the learning partnership should summarize how their work together was accomplished and what were the strengths and weaknesses of the supervisory relationship. Students and supervisors must share their evaluations with each other before the student submits them to the OCE on or before the published deadline.