All Volume 1.1 | Fall 2011

$1000 Prize for Excellence in Field Education Research

The Simmons School of Social Work and the Field Educator announce an annual award to promote excellence in field education research. A $1,000 prize will be granted for an outstanding research paper on social work field education. The first winning paper will be announced at the 2012 Annual Program Meeting (APM) of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and published in the fall 2012 issue of the Field Educator.

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New Appointments

  • Maria Paradiso, MSW, is the new director of field education at Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research.
  • Boston College Graduate School of Social Work’s new field director is Sue Coleman, MSW.
  • Lisa A. Zimmer, MSW,  is the new director of field education at the University of Cincinnati School of Social Work.
  • New members of the Council on Social Work Education Field Council are:  Rebecca Brigham, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,  Lisa Durham, Ohio State University, Saundra Ealy, Arizona State University, Heather Gillis, Tulane University, Freda Herrington , University of Kansas,  Raesa  Kaiteris,  Yeshiva University and Rita Zeff, Seattle University.

Questions for Reflection

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Reflection is a process of people “exploring their understanding of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and the impact it has on themselves and others” (Boud, 1999, p. 123).  Reflection can help increase students’ awareness of their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences and therefore build a greater capacity for empathy with clients. Reflection leads students to be curious about the human condition, and to challenge their existing assumptions. It can help students to analyze and integrate past and current knowledge into their practice. Finally, as reflective practice encourages students to stay in touch with their own responses and personal needs, it is a vital component of self-care and professional development.

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Recent Articles of Note

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. Whenever possible, we have provided links to freely available fulltext articles.

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From the Editor

Welcome to the Field Educator! The Field Educator is an open access journal dedicated to the exchange of knowledge between field educators in academia and in the practice community. Field is the heart of social work education, and has been designated its “signature pedagogy.” There is a wealth of tacit knowledge held by field educators: field instructors/practice educators, training coordinators, liaisons and field directors. The aim of the Field Educator is to make this knowledge explicit and to share it within the community involved in training social workers.

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Call for Papers

The Field Scholar is the section of the Field Educator devoted to the publication of formal, scholarly articles on theory and research in field education. Field Scholar is issuing a call for theory and research papers on a variety of subjects. These subjects include best practices in field instruction, measures of competencies in field, school-agency collaborations and innovative approaches to challenges in field education. These articles will be reviewed for rigor and relevance by members of a panel of noted field educators from the US and abroad; the list of consulting editors can be found in About Us.

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Experiential Learning in Preparation for Field Placement

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As Aristotle said, “The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them.” Prior to entering placement, social work students often experience anxiety about effectively dealing with problems and challenges in field (Warren, 2005).  Further, students may not have the knowledge, skills, and abilities expected and needed in field, if these skills are not developed through other courses within the curriculum (Alex-Assensoh & Ryan, 2008).  Engagement exercises are effective strategies to create experiential opportunities for students to learn necessary skills prior to the field experience.

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Placements in Social Justice Education

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As the retrenchment of resources for social services undermines the ability of agencies to offer placement to social work interns, the development of new placements is a major concern of field educators. Field sites integrating micro and macro social work practice are sorely lacking (Carey & McArdle, 2011). The University of Michigan School of  Social Work has spearheaded a number of innovative approaches to field placement. The School’s Office of Field Instruction places over 300 students each year. Students are placed according to their practice method (Interpersonal Practice, Community Organization, Management of Human Services, and Social Policy and Evaluation) and practice area (Health, Mental Health, Communities and Social Systems, Children, Youth in Families and Society, and Aging in Families and Society). The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR) at the University of Michigan has served as an effective placement for social work interns from a variety of practice methods and practice areas.

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Inauguration of Simmons School of Social Work Trauma Training Project

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Research findings suggest that one in four children in the United States are exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event by age sixteen; and, many experience multiple or repeated traumas (Costello, Erkanli, Frank & Angold, 2002).  Given the prevalence of childhood trauma, social work students need to learn effective treatment interventions for working with children and families impacted by trauma.  In 2010, Simmons School of Social Work joined a collaborative effort between Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service and Hunter College School of Social Work to “build workforce capacity by increasing the ability of schools of social work to provide trauma-informed education and training” (Katz, 2010).

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MSW Student Field Readiness: “Boot Camp”

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The California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) MSW Program, one of seven MSW programs in the greater Los Angeles area, began in the fall of 2007.  One of the new Field Director’s first goals was to invite seasoned field instructors to form a Field Advisory Committee (FAC).  The FAC began to meet monthly, to elect officers, draft bylaws, and discuss what their role would be within the CSUF MSW program.  These discussions revealed the feeling on the part of field instructors that the new generation of MSW students was younger than in the past, had less “life experience,” and thus required more training time on the part of agencies to prepare them to deliver services.  Agencies expected students to be more knowledgeable about mandated reporting laws, social work ethics, and confidentiality. They also thought that students lacked understanding of how to use supervision and adopt a professional attitude.

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Students and Field Instructors in Ongoing Supervision Groups

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Students’ participation in ongoing supervision groups made up of agency staff and/or volunteers is likely to be an increasing phenomenon as stretched resources make group supervision more common. Including students in ongoing groups presents benefits and risks to field instructors and students, beyond those that are associated with the provision of individual student supervision or supervision of students in student-focused groups.

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The Reflecting Team in Supervision of Social Work Interns

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The Reflecting Team is a process by which a team of family therapists can share their reflections with a family being interviewed by other therapists. The comments build on the reflections of other team members. The reflections are not meant to be pronouncements; they are neither decisive nor instructive. They assume a tentative tone of wondering–of possibilities rather than prescriptions. Since all ideas are valued, what the family hears are multiple perspectives rather than a search for the right solution. At the conclusion of the reflections, family members are invited to comment on what they have heard, and the session is ended. At Programs for People, a day program in Framingham, Massachusetts, the “reflecting team” is an integral part not only of therapy but also of social work interns’ education at the program.

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Readiness for Field: What Do Field Instructors Think?

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Faculty members at the undergraduate social work department at Johnson C. Smith University were concerned about the readiness of their students for field placements. Students are assigned to a block placement in the spring semester of their senior year. Internships are in a variety of agencies such as schools, child welfare services, mental health and substance abuse programs, and health clinics. Field instructors from these internships were surveyed using the Readiness Skill Survey, adapted for social work from a study of law students’ readiness for externship and clinical experience (Young & Blanco, 2007).

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In Defense of Process

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The social work field is currently focused on goal achievement, competence and evidence-based practice. We must not underestimate the importance of process. Becoming a social worker, being a field instructor and developing a collaborative relationship in supervision, even evaluation and gate-keeping—all of these are a process.

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Field Placement Disruptions: The CIA Approach

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The placement process involves thoughtful collaboration between field departments and affiliated agencies; students are offered thorough orientation and a careful matching process including interviews with field faculty, as needed, and with the selected agency. Nevertheless, field placement disruptions–when a student’s placement ends for an unexpected or unplanned reason–are inevitable in field education. Disruptions in field placements should be based on objective criteria: the field department’s learning plan and evaluation forms reflect the required competencies, and the agency’s Human Resources offices specify criteria for skills and behaviors in professional practice. Disruptions are also a process requiring careful reflection. At the University of Akron, we developed the CIA process to help address field placement disruptions: Clarifying the various aspects of the problem, assessing the Impact on student, field instructor and agency, and attending to the Affective aspects of the process.

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