Practicum Case Study

Sam is a Global Studies student from China, who moved to the U.S. to complete his undergraduate degree in Leadership.  He has done well academically and has a fairly good command of the English language.

He was looking forward to begin an internship for his Practicum requirement and accepted an offer to work in the office of a nursing home.  He understood that he would not be engaging directly with the elderly residents or with the staff who work with the residents.

Sam’s expectation was to be a part of the problem solving and decision making that takes place with the management team of the nursing home.  His leadership goal was to improve his cultural competence.  See his Practicum Plan on the following pages.

On his first day, Sam felt awkward.  It seemed his supervisor was not ready for him to be in the office and he needed to find a place to sit.  Initially, he answered the phones and took messages.

In the first weeks, Sam was asked to make copies and to create some spread sheets using Microsoft Excel, which he was not familiar with.  He began to feel frustrated, annoyed, even angry and had thoughts about quitting.

His Supervisor, the Director of the Nursing Home, had been busy and she and Sam have not yet had a meeting about his Practicum Plan.

It is week 3 of Sam’s Practicum Course.


  1. How would you define Sam’s problem?
  2. What specific information from Successful Manager’s Handbook might Sam find useful?
  3. What advice would you give to Sam about the next 3 steps he should take?


  1. Personal Leadership Learning Goal:

Interactions, especially on teams can be complex and the path may not always be clear. The existing culture diversity makes situations more difficult to be viewed. Thus, being able to adapt to cultural norms and expectations is a key to get succeed in workplace.

2. Context to Accomplish My Goal:

  • I will practice the skill of increasing culture competence between July 2 and August 24 at South Cove Manor, which is a full service nursing and rehabilitation facility, providing quality, compassionate care, with a special emphasis on creating a warm, welcoming culture for their residents, their families, their staff and the entire community. Being there, I get a lot new knowledge and skills to learn. I am challenged a lot as well since I have no nursing and medical background.
  • My sponsor Li Chen is an important stakeholder in my plan. Besides all the skills and knowledge I can learn from her, as the manager who gives me the chance to intern at South Cove Manor, she does not hope my performance will let her down. My colleagues are also stakeholders in my plan, because since we have worked together, they hope I can contribute something to the workplace. NEU co-op office is another one, as they have a vested interest in my internship success, my performance shall be a supportive measurement. The last one should be Professor Chernin, how am I perform will be the reflection of how effective she taught me. These stakeholders are also someone I can get support from. Their experiences and knowledge should be my resource. I can also get help from my parents, who are both doctors in China

3. Leadership Models/Theories:

  • Geert Hofstede’s six culture dimensions may help during my practice. The research of Geert Hofstede has shown that cultural differences between nations are especially found on the deepest level; i.e. on the level of values. In comparison, cultural differences among organizations are especially identified on the level of practices. Practices are more tangible than values.
  • Edward Freeman’s stakeholder theory is another one that will affect me in my practice plan. Anyone whom my decision may influence need to be considered every time before I make a step.
  • David A. Kolb’s circle of experimental learning is how I improve myself during this process. Concrete experience, observation of and reflection on that experience, formation of abstract concepts based upon the reflection, testing the new concepts, these four steps will help me to achieve my learning goal.
  • Chapter 25 of the book, Successful Manager’s Handbook is helpful as well. Some suggestions they lay out are:
  • When you’re in a new culture, note your assumptions about it. During the next few weeks, determine whether you were correct.
  • Make a list of the aspects of the culture that are most difficult for you to adapt to, and think about why they are particularly challenging.
  • Be patient with your self. Adjusting to a new culture is a long process.
  • Talk with your boss, a mentor, or a colleague about the organization’s policy on adapting to culture norms. There may be some norms that your organization chooses not to adapt to. Be aware of how these delicate situations are handled.
  1. Action steps:

Week 1: To greet and know my colleagues. To recognize and understand the different values and beliefs between Chinese workplace and American’s by observing the behavior of theirs. Writing some of my observations down in my journal.

Week 2: Have the first meeting with my sponsor. Seeking out culturally diverse ideas and points of view to achieve business success. It is a good opportunity to communicate with Li, my sponsor, about her expectation of me. Making a checking list that includes what I should do and what I should not.

Week 3: Ask specifically what is not okay or not accepted in the culture. It is much better to ask than assume I know. Prepare some questions or write them down as they come up. Taking with residents, knowing their traditions and feelings. Chatting with colleagues, recognizing their regulations and hobbies. Writing down the information that enlightens me about the similarities and differences between elderly in the U.S and China.

Week 4: Adapting to cultural norms and expectations based on the checking list. The hardest part of working in America should be “can do” attitude, which means employees do what ever they need to do to meet the challenge. It means going to your boss with your idea of a solution to a problem, rather than simply stating that there’s a problem. I will try to seek for opportunities to learn instead of waiting for it.

Week 5: If I feel I am having an especially difficult time adapting to a new culture, seek professional counseling, like my instructor Chernin, or coaching forma a seasoned cross-cultural traveler, like my sponsor Li.

Week 6: Having the second meeting with my sponsor. Checking out how I am doing by then.

Week 7: Continuing to pursue my hobbies and interests in the new culture. Adapting them to locally available products and venues. Review my journals, learning from specific situations.

Week 8: Seeking and receiving feedback from my sponsor and colleagues. Using the David A. Kolb’s circle of experimental learning to make me better.

  1. Expected Outcomes:

Certain outcomes can help me to measure my success. A couple of them are expected as follows:

  • To Seek and receive feedbacks from my sponsor and colleagues. Some questions I may ask are if it is difficult to communicate with me, if they can understand some actions I took and decisions I made, and if I have adapted to the home culture.
  • The section 4 is like a checking list. Examine the degree of completion is another way to judge how I am doing in the 8 weeks.
  • Identity any learning I will have gained about cultural differences from specific situations or interactions.
  • I will check if all the conflicts can be solved by professional approach not culture criticize. Hopefully at the end of this quarter, I will have accommodated the needs of a diverse workforce.