Student learning in college and university settings has changed over the years as more and more emphasis has been placed on learning competencies and learning outcomes. The student learning agenda, sometimes called a learning contract, is the universal tool that all social work students use to integrate the competencies within their field placement. A learning agenda’s main purpose is to provide a framework for student identification of needed learning, and for the evaluation of the demonstrable competencies and behaviors shown by the student at the field site. The learning agenda is a tool to identify what learning experiences the agency has to offer and what skills and abilities the student brings. The CSWE requires field instructors who have degrees from accredited social work programs for at least part of field instruction and supervision because of the unique perspective and educational model of social work education.
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According to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the field practicum is the signature pedagogy of the student’s social work education. Students are evaluated on their performance in the field practicum. This chapter focuses on the use of field evaluation measures to characterize the student’s readiness for social work practice, and focuses on the literature review, the purpose of evaluation, the timeline for the practicum and the tasks that students perform at the field agency which serves as evidence of the student’s mastery on the content of the field placement. Studies have named the merits of the fieldwork experience in social work education. Reflective practice is an important skill for any social worker. At all points of all levels of social work practicum experiences, field instructors should ask themselves and their students whether the learning that is happening is appropriate for the specific stage of professional development.
Field education is an integral aspect of every social work student’s training. Whether a student is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) in the hope of pursuing a career in generalist practice or working toward a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to prepare for advanced or independent work, learning skills and practice techniques in community settings is essential. The work that is performed by students in the field is supervised by social workers in many different organizational and practice settings. The relationship between the field instructor and the social work student provides fertile ground for socialization as a member of a profession and the acquisition of practice skills. Whether we are working in health care, child protection, mental health services, corrections, education, gerontology, or another area of social work practice, we have much important knowledge to share with a student.
Serving as a field instructor is usually a delightful and rewarding experience. Most of our students are bright, motivated, and eager to develop into skilled professionals. However, there are times when a practicum student may be ill-suited to the internship. Field supervision is both a process and a relationship. Several frameworks have been discussed in the social work literature about the nature of the field instructor-student relationship. These include the developmental model, attachment-based approaches to supervision, and the relational approach. Program faculty can also work with you to help in the process of integrating classroom knowledge and theory with interventions in the practicum setting. Some areas where students may particularly struggle are the following: emotional self-care, professionalism, setting appropriate professional boundaries, integrating classroom knowledge with fieldwork, professional writing skills, accepting constructive feedback, and asking for help.
Nearly all social work professionals remember their field instructors. Field instructors clearly play a critical role in social work education. This chapter is for those field instructors who would like to broaden their repertoire of tools for helping students become more adept at integrating theory, models, and skills in a coherent manner. It briefly reviews the literature, then identifies barriers, and makes recommendations about strategies for theory and practice integration. The literature suggests that students have appreciated the systematic integration of theory and practice by field instructors. The literature about how to foster integration in field education has a different focus when comparing academic field faculty and agency-based field instructors. For more experienced field instructors, the literature recommended training centered on topics such as enhancing students’ critical thinking, group work, and communication skills, as well as conflict resolution skills.
One of the most important areas of practice that field instructors discuss with their students is teaching and reinforcing the ethics and values of the social work profession. Students are introduced to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) early in their social work education, but it is up to academic faculty and also field instructors to ensure that social work students can make connections between the content of the ethical code and real-life practice situations. There are a number of topics that frequently arise as ethical challenges in the practicum. These include mandated reporter responsibilities, mental health treatment and involuntary commitment, worker-client boundaries, specific boundary concerns related to self-disclosure, and disclosure of student status. There are a number of other approaches to resolving ethical dilemmas. These include the use of principle-based ethics and virtue ethics.
This chapter provides an overview of ways in which people can work to ensure a positive experience for their and thier social work practicum student. It offers some helpful, practical advice to guide the field instructor-student relationship. The chapter presents a checklist of “dos and don’ts”, and the chapter provides a great deal of practice-based wisdom for the field instructor. Many students choose to or must meet enormous responsibilities, and they balance complex schedules. Knowing about these circumstances from the beginning of the internship can dramatically decrease conflicts, stress, and unmet goals. Establishing open lines of communication so students will be proactive in seeking our input, guidance, or permission to meet changes and challenges can decrease anxiety, which will help ensure their maximum learning, growth, and performance in the practicum.
When social work practitioners agree to take on interns from a social work degree program, they are agreeing to work hand in hand with the students to ensure that the students meet the learning requirements, often expressed as competencies, of the social work program. An important element of ensuring a good experience for the practicum student is to engage actively with the student’s social work school or department. Effective communication between the academic institution and the field instructor/agency setting is indispensable to the social work practicum process. One of the biggest responsibilities in the implementation of "signature pedagogy" is ensuring that practicum students can successfully integrate the knowledge they gain in the classroom with the real-world practice of social work. In some social work programs, faculty advisors conduct site visits for their students’ practicum placements.
This chapter discusses the techniques for mobilizing community participation, the impact of social institutions on society, and the impact of the political environment on policy-making. It describes the concepts of social policy development and analysis, techniques to inform and influence organizational and social policy, and theories and methods of advocacy for policies, services, and resources to meet clients'/client systems' needs. Advocacy is one of a social worker's most important tasks. The goal of social work advocacy is to assist clients to strengthen their own skills in this area. Fundamental to social work is advocating to change the factors that create and contribute to problems. Social workers may assist by locating sources of power that can be shared with clients to make changes. There are three major types of prevention strategies—primary, secondary, and tertiary. Optimally, all three types are needed to create comprehensive strategies of prevention and protection.