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 12.1 | Spring 2022

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

This issue is dedicated to noted field education scholar Marion Bogo, who, sadly, died last fall. We remember Marion for her groundbreaking contributions to social work education, especially in the area of assessment of student competence. In this issue, we reprint a 2013 interview of Marion by Trudy Zimmerman. (Trudy is the former director of field education at Boston University.) Although the interview occurred nearly 10 years ago, the editorial team was struck by its profound relevance for today’s learning environment. We also honor Marion’s scholarship by dedicating this issue’s “What We’re Reading” section exclusively to Marion’s publications.

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Field Scholar

Training Field Instructors:
Beyond the Stated Needs

Abstract

The Council on Social Work Education requires field directors to provide orientation and ongoing training to field instructors. In the authors’ experience, participants at national field director committee meetings and regional field director consortium gatherings regularly propose collaboration on resources for field instructor training materials. This research arose from that expressed need. A national survey of social work field directors collected the essence of what respondents felt field instructors needed to know in order to enhance student competence effectively. Results reinforced the need for a collaborative repository of educational resources, but also revealed a lack of agreement on what field instructors need to know beyond orientation topics, which are often program specific. Development of national field instructor competencies supported by evidence-informed training materials are necessary next steps. Still, they should be considered transitory to a more fundamental system change that does not rely heavily on overloaded agency-based practitioners for intensive teaching.

Keywords: field instructor training; field education; training modalities

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Social Work Field Practicum Instruction During COVID-19:
Facilitation of the Remote Learning Plan

Abstract

In social work, integration of theory and practice primarily occurs within the practicum. For practitioners, enacting the role of field instructor is associated with both personal and professional benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic led to dramatic challenges in this role, given that many student placements transitioned from in-person to remote engagement. This study explores the experience of field instructors in supervising social work students who were engaged in remote learning plans. Their experiences followed a continuum from crisis to developing a “new normal,” with opportunities that augmented and, occasionally, had benefits over traditional approaches to field education.

Keywords: Canada; COVID-19; field education; remote learning; virtual learning

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From Abstraction to Clarity: Centering Human Rights in Field Education

Abstract

Social work department mission and vision statements are replete with commitments to human rights as central to social work aims. However, a gap exists in the literature regarding field students’ transfer of human rights comprehension into human rights practice in field practicum. This paper takes conversations about human rights from the peripheral and brings them into focus by providing clarity to the implementation of human rights theories, concepts, and competencies in field education. Authors outline an eight-module curriculum that assists field supervisors, field educators, and field students to sustainably integrate social work practice and human rights practice into field education.

Keywords: field education; field practicum; human rights; seminars

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Faculty Field Liaisons:
Ambassadors of Implicit Curriculum

Abstract

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) requires social work education programs to assess both the implicit curriculum and the explicit curriculum. There is a divergence in the literature regarding these types of curricula; research on explicit curriculum is prevalent, while research on implicit curriculum is nominal. The implicit curriculum for social work education provides a powerful mechanism for assessing the atmosphere and culture of the learning environment for students. The field program is a natural, if challenging, venue for social work programs’ assessment of their implicit curriculum. As such, the role of the faculty field liaison becomes a critical piece in understanding the implicit nature of the field education experience. This research project explored for purposes of program evaluation the role and responsibilities of faculty field liaisons over five years, using exit surveys completed by graduate-level social work students (N = 168) and their assigned field instructors (N = 244). The findings suggest that the role and responsibilities of the faculty field liaison—especially when staffed by a full-time tenure-track faculty member—for both groups of respondents contributed to higher rates of satisfaction with the overall field experience, a desire for more site visits, and more effective relationships.

Keywords: faculty field liaison; implicit curriculum; field experience; social work

The Council on Social Work Education ([CSWE] 2015) requires social work education programs to assess both the implicit and the explicit curriculum. There is a divergence in the literature regarding these types of curricula; research on explicit curriculum is prevalent, while research on implicit curriculum is nominal. The implicit curriculum for social work education provides a powerful mechanism for assessing the atmosphere and culture of the learning environment for social work students—especially given that the field education experience is viewed as the profession’s signature pedagogy (Shulman, 2005) and is governed by stringent standards (Grady et al., 2018).

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Practice Digest

Responding to Behavioral Concerns in Field: A Team Approach

Introduction

The topic of professional gatekeeping continues to be confusing and contentious for social work education. Social work educators and programs are aware of the need to establish and enforce standards for competency and performance, and recognize the expectation from the profession to do so, but these gatekeeping standards and expectations can be elusive to define. Programs often struggle to articulate and specify standards, especially values-based competencies for attitudes and behaviors often considered to reflect professionalism, as opposed to content-based competencies that focus on knowledge and skills (Paulson & Rinks, 2018). Programs typically must decide not only what standards to emphasize, but how to specifically define them, to communicate them to students, and to do so ethically and legally throughout the educational training process—from admission to performance and behavior while in the social work program and during field placements (Elpers & FitzGerald, 2013; Hylton et al., 2017).

This also challenges field programs to develop processes for identifying and responding to performance and behavioral concerns, especially when such issues jeopardize the student’s placement. While not all performance or behavioral concerns result from mental health issues, students who experience such challenges may end up having problems during field due to the impact of their condition on their functioning.

Unfortunately, such issues are on the rise. Several authors have highlighted the growing prevalence of mental health issues in adolescents and young adults, including mood and anxiety disorders, psychiatric hospitalizations, and suicidality (Lukianoff & Haidt, 2018). This trend has also been observed in college students generally, including social work students (Lynch et al., 2021; Reardon, 2012; Todd et al., 2019). Limited resources and psychosocial stressors, such as employment and family commitments, can also create possible issues for students’ performance in field as they struggle to balance their life circumstances with academic expectations. Sadly, these have been exacerbated in recent years, especially since 2020 and the COVID pandemic, leaving programs to continue to adapt and refine their policies and practices for addressing these concerns (De Fries et al., 2021).

Although there are multiple possible causes for behavioral concerns in field, programs still must find ways to address them. This article is an overview and discussion of strategies adopted and implemented to address these concerns over the past several years in undergraduate and graduate field education at a midsized Midwestern university.

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Preparing Future Field Educators:
Reflections From Developing Placements Within the Field Office

Across the country, individuals are continuing to choose social work as a career. Although this is exciting for the profession, pressures to increase enrollment directly impact the number of field placements needed for students (Ayala et al., 2018; Council on Social Work Education [CSWE], 2015b). This may cause additional stress in finding students a placement. Meade et al. (2015) reported that schools of social work grapple with the increase in student numbers and the decrease of student field placement opportunities due to competition, the practicum needs of online programs, and the operational strains of social service agencies. Additional challenges further complicating the field placement process include students’ needs for flexibility in scheduling, transportation, and, for students with disabilities, accessibility (Meade et al., 2015; McKee et al., 2015).

This article describes the development of an alternative field placement within the social work field office to address current field challenges such as the needs for increased flexibility, virtual work, access to quality placements, and exposure to potential career options in field.

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“Is this REALLY Social Work?”
Facilitating Practicums in a Pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many university institutions across the globe have moved to online learning platforms and remote practicums, to reduce in-person contact in compliance with local public health requirements. While this has meant significant changes to teaching and learning, schools of social work have maintained their ethical obligation to prepare students to support the individuals, families, and communities they work for and with (Morris et al., 2020). Both the stay-at-home orders and the significant reduction of in-person interactions impacted those with whom social workers and students work, as well as social workers, educators, and the students themselves. In response, our MSW field practicum team developed flexible strategies to support students through the pandemic, while continuing to ensure a rigorous field placement learning experience that prepares them to enter the field. In this article, we use the lens of transformational learning theory to explore macro strategies that help MSW students grow into competent professionals, and micro considerations that support student success. This exploration is based on our experience as a social work field team.

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Conversations

The Conversation: Marion Bogo on Field Education

[Editor’s note: As part of Field Educator‘s remembrance of Marion Bogo, we are reprinting an interview with Professor Bogo that appeared in the Fall 2013 issue. The interview was conducted by Trudy Zimmerman, who at the time of the interview was director of field education at Boston University School of Social Work. Notable in the interview is Bogo’s emphatic clarity on the need for students to “see and be seen,” “to practice over and over,” and to be observed by and to frequently observe their role-model field instructors as they also practice. She strongly believed that students need to see practice in action and to receive reflective supervisory feedback to become effective social work practitioners. Her work continues to be foundational to how we understand student learning and the challenges to providing optimal field learning environments.]

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What We're Reading

Articles of Note

This issue’s “What We’re Reading” section is dedicated to the writings of Marion Bogo. The editors selected some of their favorite articles for summarization. All are co-authored by Bogo, as collaboration has always been a hallmark of her work. Written over the course of the last decade, these articles reflect the richness of her innovative thinking in the area of social work field education pedagogy, especially on the use of simulation as a methodology.

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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 »