The Field Educator, an online journal produced by the Simmons School of Social Work, promotes knowledge exchange among the social work field education community.

Volume 10.2 | Fall 2020

Editorial

Letter from the Editor, Field Education During a Global Pandemic: A Perfect Storm. Kudos to Our Valued Field Colleagues

In the grips of a global health crisis, and amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, field educators near and far have come together in the most remarkable of ways. In a world that feels (and is) so divided, the sense of community between us has been balm for these anxiety-filled times. It is in that spirit that we offer kudos to field educators everywhere: for the commitment to students even while distracted by the disruption and loss in our own lives; for the endless days of decision making; for the sleepless nights burdened with worries of life and death for our students; and for the exhaustion of our spirits as students looked to us to make it all whole. Who knew that PPE and CDC would be added to our library of field acronyms, or that we would suddenly feel so closely connected to our institutions’ uncertain financial futures?

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Field Scholar

Preparing Students for Field Education Using Innovative Field Labs and Social Simulation

Abstract

Field education is considered the signature pedagogy of social work education and the fundamental location for the implementation of learning into practice. Preparing students for the field is paramount to their success. This paper explores the use of field labs in combination with simulation conducted in a controlled environment outside of the classroom to prepare social work students for their first field placement. Students participating in the program (N = 22) completed both a pre- and post-assessment of their knowledge of safety as measured on an objective exam and self-estimate of counseling skills as measured on the Clinical Self Estimate Inventory. Results of a series of paired-samples t-tests with a Bonferroni correction indicated that knowledge and self-estimate of these skills had statistically significant increases (p < .007), supporting the concept of field labs in conjunction with simulation as valuable tools in preparing social work students for entrance into field education.

Keywords: field education; simulation; field seminar; social work education

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Building a Better Field Seminar

Abstract

In this small-scale study of 130 respondents from the CSWE Field Directors listserv, the research explores the pedagogical challenges and opportunities of teaching social work field seminars. Adult learning theory and the integration and implementation of self-directed learning become the genesis for a better understanding of how to teach a seminar in a way that engages students in active and reflective learning. This analysis provides a platform for understanding the fundamental pedagogical requirements of teaching field seminars in social work education.

Keywords: field education; field seminar; adult learning theory; student-led

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Evaluating Student Outcomes in Field Education with a Standardized Instrument: The Updated Field Practicum Placement Assessment Instrument (SWEAP 2015 FPPAI)

Abstract

The SWEAP 2015 Field Placement/Practicum Assessment Instrument is a standardized measure of student attainment in field practicum/placement, designed to align with the 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE, 2015). The tool is used by field instructors in undergraduate social work programs and in the generalist year of graduate programs to assess student competency across the nine CSWE Core Competencies. Analysis of data on 4,209 students from 66 undergraduate social work programs and 795 generalist-year master’s-level social work students from 10 graduate programs supports the reliability, validity, and utility of the instrument.

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Finding Empathy in Error: Student Consideration of Multiple Approaches to Interprofessional Education

Abstract

Health care professions are emphasizing the importance of well-functioning teams to improve health outcomes. Educating students in professional silos has been the tradition in higher education, but this separate approach has come under scrutiny for creating barriers to addressing the complexity of today’s health care system in the United States. Collaborative problem solving is necessary to end health disparities and medical error. The authors discuss an interprofessional internship using multiple approaches to interprofessional education that embrace interactive learning, and explore educational opportunities from the students’ point of view. The authors highlight observations about reluctance within the student interprofessional teams to make mistakes or to explain miscommunication supporting research evidence, suggesting that students harbor fears of disrupting hierarchy and the status quo.

Keywords: error; social work; interprofessional; SDOH

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Practice Digest

Transforming Field Education During COVID-19

Transition from In-Person to Online: A Virtual Partnership Project

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all spheres of life—social, economic, educational, political, cultural, spiritual, and environmental. Internationally, adjustments have had to be made in service provision in adherence to public health guidelines, and post-secondary institutions have developed strategies to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on student learners (Reimers & Schleicher, 2020). In order to ensure safety for students, staff, and faculty, and in response to local public health guidelines on physical distancing, Canadian post-secondary institutions rapidly shifted to virtual platforms and operations for teaching, student learning, and research (Bazinet et al., 2020; Wall, 2020). This transition affected all aspects of social work education programs, including student field placements and related field education activities (Canadian Association of Social Work Education [CASWE], 2020).

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Heed the Call: A Simulated Model for Future Field Education Practice and Response to COVID-19

Introduction

Since the cautious move towards online social work education began in the early 2000s, we have seen the growth, change, and expansion of opportunities for individuals living in isolated rural areas, especially those working full-time, those serving or having served in our military, and those with caretaking obligations. Being at the forefront of creating and offering a fully asynchronous online Master of Social Work (MSW) program in 2009, the University of New England’s School of Social Work initially witnessed wariness and suspicion around online social work education. Over a decade later there is now some form of online programming at nearly every school of social work. Most have come to accept and appreciate the online delivery method of social work courses, social work training, and even social work networking.

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Field Instructor Training: Implications of Low Completion Rates

Introduction

In 2008, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) described field education as the signature pedagogy of social work education. Field work provides the opportunity for students to integrate social work theory into practice, and is the optimal opportunity for problem-based learning. Because the majority of an MSW (Master’s in Social Work) student’s time is spent in field, it reinforces the importance CSWE (2008) places on a student’s ability to demonstrate skills learned in order to meet the competencies of social work education. Due to this emphasis on real-world learning in social work education, the knowledge and skills of the student’s internship supervisor, or field instructor (FI), are also very important. Given the potential impact of the role of the FI, it is required that students be supervised by a master’s level social work professional who is not only a good social worker and well qualified, but ideally also familiar with best practices for adult learning, instruction, and supervision. A critical component of a social work program’s quality assurance for the FI role (outside of requiring a social work degree) is providing a required FI training. Unfortunately, this vital training often has low completion rates, leaving social work programs struggling to incentivize field instructors to complete the training. Possible reasons for low completion rates include disinterest in content covered, FI’s assumption that they can perform the role without training, limited time availability, and/or lack of agency administrative support. This article will provide an overview of FI training, discuss the importance of FI training, and examine ways social work programs could increase completion rates. The authors end with a discussion and call to action for social work programs to consider the student impact and importance of encouraging their FIs to participate and complete training, ideally prior to working with their MSW students.

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University Agency Partnerships: A Title IV-E Training Initiative on Ethics and Child Welfare Practice

Introduction

The connection between our profession and the protection of children from harm is historic and represents the heart of social work as a discipline (Zlotnik, 2008). Social workers in child welfare practice pursue the essential charge of protecting children from acts of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and the various forms of neglect including (but not limited to) medical neglect, truancy, and inattention to physical and developmental needs (Hamilton & Bundy-Fazioli, 2013; Shireman, 2015). In the academy of social work education, student placements in public child welfare agencies are often considered among the most challenging, while at the same time mainstays for many field education programs. While the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) specifies that social work students must demonstrate competence with regard to ethical and professional behavior (CSWE, 2015), this generalist standard does not address ethical challenges and dilemmas that are unique to the practice of child welfare. Hence, common ethical dilemmas in child welfare practice, such as negotiating the practice obligation to keep families together while also keeping children safe, may prove challenging for field education students contemplating a career in public child welfare (Shireman, 2015).

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Strengthening Community Partnerships: Preparing Social Work Students for the Profession

Field education is the signature pedagogy at accredited social work education programs. The purpose of field education is for students to integrate the theoretical and conceptual knowledge, values, and skills learned in their courses into practice (CSWE EPAS, 2015). In addition, field education serves as the liaison between the school or department of social work and the surrounding community. The role of the field education office is to build partnerships with agencies and encourage students to be a part of that process to strengthen their skills and ensure that community partnerships are sustained. The purpose of this article is to describe how one Historically Black College or University (HBCU) prepares students for field education by engaging them in professional development experiences, community engagement, and intentional supports. The culminating professional development experience for social work students at this university is a social work agency fair where students engage with social service organizations and demonstrate soft skills. In order to support students’ demonstration of professionalism, the school of social work provides intentional supports and mock interviews, and engages them in interprofessional education activities.

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Conversations

The Conversation: An Innovative Internship for Generalist-Year MSW Students

[Editor’s Note: This issue’s Conversation features an interview by Nancy Blumberg, MSW, with Anthony Serio, MSW, and Sharon Gunda, MSW. Anthony Serio is the Assistant Director of Youth and Family Services for the Town of Lexington, Mass. Sharon Gunda is the Outreach Coordinator for the Town of Lexington Human Services Department.]

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What We're Reading

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.

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Simmons

The Field Educator is an online journal published by the Simmons School of Social Work that promotes knowledge exchange among the social work field education community. Learn more about Simmons SSW »