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 11.1 | Spring 2021

Editorial

Letter from the Editor: Back to the Future

It is time to take a breath—albeit a cautious one—in hopes that we can begin to think of the future once again. For all of us, the year behind has shaped all the years ahead. We’ve watched the devastation of a global pandemic and the pulling back of the curtain on the injustices that plague us at so many levels. We are reminded, more than ever, of our commitment to social justice. And we are reminded of the power and productivity of joining together in crisis. Field educators everywhere have been a global team in a way we may never have thought possible.

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Field Scholar

BSW Students in Field: Factors Contributing to the Internship Experience

Abstract

Drawing on field evaluation surveys, this qualitative case study explored one BSW senior cohort’s (N = 29) perceived characteristics for successful completion of field, experience with field supervisor, and positive aspects of and concerns related to internship placement. Using thematic analysis, findings revealed that students emphasized initiative and flexibility as two characteristics that were important to being successful in practice settings. Learning opportunities and work environment were identified as positive aspects of internship sites, while lack of placement support and poor supervision emerged as two key concerns. Results will inform professionals and educators of strategies to support students’ professional development through field education.

Keywords: field internship; social work education; BSW student experience

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Preparing Students for Trauma Exposure in Field Education Settings

Abstract

Over a two-year period, Master of Social Work (MSW) field education students were asked to complete measures on their trauma histories and trauma symptoms to assess their risk for secondary traumatic stress (STS) and vicarious trauma (VT) when in field placements. Results of the study found that a significant number of students had trauma histories, that they developed symptoms of STS while in their field experience, and that some developed symptoms of VT. Results indicate the necessity for trauma training, including self-care, for all faculty members, supervising field instructors, and student interns to support the field experience.

Keywords: field education; secondary traumatic stress; vicarious trauma; social work; master’s students

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Integrating Practice Research into Social Work Field Education

Abstract

Social work field education is considered a key element of social work education. While many field education placements traditionally have focused on teaching practice-based skills and integrating theory into practice, it is also critical to incorporate research into social work practice and field education. This article discusses how practice research can be integrated into social work field education by drawing upon a training module designed for this purpose by the Transforming the Field Education Landscape (TFEL) partnership. Implications and recommendations for practice research and field educators are provided.

Keywords: field education; practice research; social work; practicum/internship

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Practice Digest

Addressing Self-Care for Students and Field Educators with Mindfulness: A Collaborative Approach to Field Placement

Introduction

Field education faces unique and daunting challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Partner organizations have been forced to upend their service-delivery models, students are facing new levels of stress and isolation, and field faculty have been forced to rethink the nature and form of field education. Through field education, students should develop their professional identity, learn how to work as part of a team, and learn how to interact and communicate with clients and stakeholders. With social distancing and the challenges associated with moving traditional in-person social work to remote models, field faculty must develop new and innovative models that allow students to gain those skills. Additionally, the pandemic has dramatically altered the context in which students and agencies operate. Students and agencies are facing higher levels of stress and insecurity; these factors must be taken into consideration, and models of field education should adapt to better suit the new context.

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COVID-19: An Existential Crisis for Social Work Field Education

Introduction

COVID-19 shifted social work field education into an existential crisis when field placements were required to fully transition to a virtual service delivery model in early March 2020. This launched students, agencies, and field education programs into uncharted territory. The timing of a return to in-person, agency-based training remained unknown during the peak of the pandemic, and continues to be unpredictable. With no preparation for a catastrophe of this extent and duration, social work field education curricula and infrastructure required immediate redesign, using unprecedented practices, such as agency-supported, fully remote practice, and school of social work–supported alternative trainings and learning activities. In this article, the authors describe the strategies employed and lessons learned by two urban social work field education programs in the Pacific Northwest. Both programs returned to historic social work values, informed by social justice, through deepening engagement with community partners, students, and school of social work–based research centers to create innovative remote field placements designed to respond to community and student needs.

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Innovations to the Design and Delivery of Foundation Field Education Seminars

Introduction

Field education is considered the signature pedagogy of the social work profession (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE], 2008). “Signature pedagogy is a central form of instruction and learning to socialize students to perform the role of a practitioner” (CSWE, 2008, p. 8). Although the primary delivery mechanism for field education is the internship and its accompanying professional social work supervision, field seminars are an important component. The practicum seminar has been noted to serve a wide range of educational purposes for the development of social work professionals by integrating classroom and field learning and socializing students to the process of peer consultation (Fortune et al., 2018). It can be used to prepare students for employment (Deck et al., 2017) and help students critically reflect on their development (Bowers, 2017; Bowlin & Cress, 2015). The field seminar also provides an opportunity to share experiences, reinforce values and ethics, examine agency policies and procedures, explore personal reactions and feelings to situations, discuss personal and professional challenges, and network with other students in a safe environment. (Dill & Bowers, 2020; Harris & Myers, 2013).

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Integrating Classroom and Field Assignments: Creating Comprehensive Assessment and Learning Opportunities

Introduction

In 2008, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) identified field education as the signature pedagogy for preparing future social workers to be competent, ethical, and professional (CSWE, 2015b). Historically, social work education segregated curriculum into micro, mezzo, and macro practice skills and theory. Over the past decade, the CSWE has revised the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) as a curricular roadmap emphasizing integrating academic standards and practice skills into a cohesive, dynamic, and comprehensive curriculum (CSWE, 2015a).

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Conversations

The Conversation: Dr. Melissa Reitmeier, Chair of the Council on Field Education

[Editor’s Note: This issue’s Conversation features an interview with Melissa Reitmeier, PhD. Dr. Reitmeier is chair of the Council on Social Work Education’s Council on Field Education. She is also director of field education and an associate clinical professor at the College of Social Work, University of South Carolina.]

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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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Kudos

Kudos: Dr. William Fisher retiring after a twenty-four-year career in Social Work Education

Dr. William “Bill” Fisher

From 1996 until his retirement in 2020, Dr. William “Bill” Fisher served as a member of the faculty of Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He held leadership roles as the assistant dean of field education and as chair of the Department of Graduate Social Work. As the assistant dean for field education, he is known by his faculty and community colleagues for his excellence in teaching, advising, and educational administration. Most significant has been his contribution to the Springfield College Field Education Department, where he successfully led a busy program, managing field placements for over 250 MSW students and developing approximately 500 field agency partnerships, while also advising students and teaching the yearly seminar in field instruction.

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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 »