I recently sat at a table with colleagues: fellow field directors, training directors, and healthcare administrators – all social workers – reflecting on a project we shared over the period of a year. When we began, some of us knew one another a little, some were quite connected, and others virtual strangers. One year later, we reflected on the connected and collaborative group we had become. We shared a common focus, brought our ideas, watched them evolve, and managed to produce something together that excited us, inspired us, and united us. I always marvel at the power of creative conversation born of a common language and a shared worldview; and of the learning that occurs (as we will eternally teach our students) in relationship with one another.
The Field Educator, an online journal produced by the Simmons School of Social Work, promotes knowledge exchange among the social work field education community.
The Simmons School of Social Work and the Field Educator sponsor an annual award to promote excellence in field education scholarship. A $1,000 prize is awarded for an outstanding paper on social work field education. We are pleased to announce this year’s winners are Paul P. Freddolino, Sheryl Groden, Julie Navarre, Jo Ann McFall, Amanda T. Woodward, and Alison Jahr from Michigan State University School of Social Work.
Abstract: Although many programs utilize field education outcomes in their overall assessment plan, there are few models for how to use these data for continuous quality improvement, especially when benchmarks have been met. This article presents a model for developing a field-based intervention to improve the incorporation of policy-related content in field. It is grounded in one school’s experience with the 2008 EPAS policy competency, which outcome data showed to be among the lowest competencies over several years in this school’s BASW and MSW programs. Implications for enhancing curriculum content and improving the connection between classroom and field are considered.
Back to Basics: A Skill-Based Approach to Assessing Social Work Students within Directly-Observed Practice
Abstract: This article is based on a piece of research completed with final-year social work students and practice teachers (educators/assessors) within Northern Ireland. The work was concerned with the assessment of students via direct observations of “live” practice, and captured the views, perceptions, and experiences of students and practice teachers.
The findings highlighted the complexity of the direct observation process and the need for effective skills in preparation, assessment, planning, communication, evaluation, and intervention/participation. The outcome challenges current thinking, as there was a high level of support for the use of professional discretion to intervene by practice teachers during an observation.
Abstract: Field learning plays a leading role in social work education, and as such, social work educators and field instructors need to know how their students learn and develop during the field education experience; by being aware of the ways in which students learn and develop in social work agencies, educators and instructors can better understand students’ educational needs and find ways to best support them through the learning process in practice. In this spirit, the article examines field learning in social work education in relation to the two dominant learning approaches for students as adult learners [individual approaches (adult learning theory) and sociocultural learning approaches] and looks at their application in field placement settings. The article highlights the multifaceted nature of field learning while suggesting that sociocultural approaches are closely associated with the nature of learning in field settings, and as such, they are particularly important for understanding the process of students’ learning in social work field education.
Abstract: This study investigates issues related to block versus concurrent formats for the advanced MSW field placement. Quantitative and qualitative survey data were collected from current MSW students (N = 103) and field instructors (N = 84). Each group identified the advantages of both block and concurrent formats for field education. Educational outcomes, the needs and preferences of students and field placement sites, and institutional perspectives should be taken into account when developing field curriculum and policies. Offering both types of practicum formats may be one way to maximize student choice and field placement options.
Abstract: Field Instructors Extending EBP Learning in Dyads (FIELD) has been crafted in consideration of the social work profession’s need for innovative and collaborative models with field education that further evidence-based practice (EBP) implementation efforts. FIELD is driven by the continuing education interests of field instructors and the availability of local expertise, and it embraces the complementary strengths of students and field instructors. Herein, we provide the background for the development of such a curricula model and delineate model components. FIELD may offer a viable curricula option for synchronizing academic and field efforts toward sustainable social work workforce improvements.
Abstract: This article presents initial results of an Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved case study exploring ways students may benefit from completing a capstone project within field practicum and research course sequences. The capstone project consists of an evaluation research project developed and completed during the final two semesters of a student’s MSW program. To assess perceived benefits, the authors surveyed graduating students (N = 59) at the end of their year-long project (n = 39 respondents; response rate 66%). In addition, qualitative data was obtained from written self-assessment exercises (n = 14). Lessons learned can contribute to improving pedagogy and enriching students’ field experiences.
Abstract: The author, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Social Work, shares her experience of assigning social media projects to her social work students, including the use of micro-blogging site Twitter. She shares resources and stories of Twitter in her classroom and seeks to continue the conversation about Twitter in social work through the social media platform.
Are Students’ Rights Violated in Field Practicums?: A Review of the Fair Labor Standards Act in Social Work Field Education
Abstract: In recent years, there has been much confusion over whether or not internships violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This article discusses the catalyst leading to the media coverage of internships as a “hot button issue” in higher education. The author distinguishes between traditional internships and the nature of the social work field practicum. The article also outlines the importance of field education programs remaining structured, organized, and well-staffed to provide the significant oversight needed to ensure educational opportunities are afforded to students and to protect students, staff, faculty, and universities from potential litigation.
Abstract: The excitement social work graduates experience in finding initial employment or paid practice speaks to their confidence in applying social work knowledge, values, and skills toward social justice. However, an area of expertise that may cause anxiety and temper that confidence is graduates’ vague comprehension of legal mandates to report suspected abuse or neglect. It is imperative that schools and colleges of social work assume responsibility for preparing students for this aspect of social service. Students may attempt to fill the gaps in their knowledge with their own biases, in terms of their subjective experiences and culture. Evidence of over-reporting or under-reporting of some ethnic or social groups exposes the slant of professionals’ perceptions and perspectives in reporting. Social work field instruction in this area of practice could contribute to mitigating the impact of bias and privilege in the social work profession, while increasing graduates’ confidence to address a disclosure or observation of abuse or neglect. In order to achieve these goals, the University of Washington School of Social Work included in its introductory course on field education specific instruction on mandated reporting of neglect and abuse.
The Affordable Care Act is changing the nature of social work practice in healthcare. One exciting area of innovation is the integration of primary care and behavioral healthcare. Schools of social work should anticipate developing more placements in integrated care settings, such as medical homes, community health centers, and health clinics co-located with mental health clinics. This issue’s Conversation addresses the skills and knowledge base necessary for integrated care practice. Do students need a new skillset or are the skills similar to traditional social work practice? Sandra Bailly, M.S.W., Associate Professor of Practice and Assistant Director of the Simmons School of Social Work Field Department interviews Alexander Blount, Ed.D., Professor of Family Medicine and Psychiatry and Director of The Center for Integrated Primary Care at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. —Editor’s Note
What We're Reading
Staying current with scholarship enriches the work of field educators: it teaches us innovative ways to solve perennial field problems, suggests new readings for field seminars, keeps us abreast of current debates in social work education, and even inspires us in our own writing on theory and research. “What We’re Reading” presents our brief summaries of the findings of recent publications in field education. Our emphasis is on implications for practice. Readers are encouraged to suggest articles or books for future review.
News & Notes
The North American Network of Field Educators and Directors (NANFED) is pleased to announce several events at the 2014 CSWE Annual Program Meeting (APM), in Tampa, FL. All are welcome as we consider best practices in field education and celebrate exemplars of the signature pedagogy of social work education.
inSocialWork®, the podcast series of the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, is hosting a Self-Care Photo Contest on Facebook.
Entering is easy! Just follow these three easy steps:
Talking about My Generation, But Not Necessarily about Me: Working with Older Adults in a Community Setting
The author is a newly graduated student of the Simmons School of Social work. In this article, she touches upon the lessons she has learned from working in the field with older adults and discusses the greater cultural and societal factors that she has observed that have impacted the older adult population.
The Dean Schneck Memorial Award for Distinction in Social Work Field Education Winner: Emeline Homonoff
Fierce. Compassionate. Inspiring. Welcoming. Artful. Imaginative. Encouraging. Supportive. Joyful. A true visionary with the scholarship and sensitivity to back it up.
These are just a few of the words used to describe Emeline Homonoff, or Emmie as she is affectionately known, by her students, colleagues, and counterparts in field education throughout the country and beyond.
Field Educator is made possible by the Arnold & Irma Bloom '51SW Fund for SSW.