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

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Volume 12.2 | Fall 2022

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

Social work field education is in a state of change and moving in new directions. What prompts this appraisal?

First, the new, less restrictive 2022 EPAS guidelines for employment-based field placements will allow more students to maintain employment, and thus their financial solvency, while seeking a social work degree. This is a game changer for many current and future students, who will now be able to take advantage of a more equitable path to a social work education. But, as field educators, let’s not underestimate how these guidelines will impact our work. Notably, field departments will have more responsibility in ensuring the integrity of learning in placements that will be fraught with conflicting demands on students, as they strive to meet both educational and employment responsibilities.

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Field Scholar

Field Instructors’ Perspectives on Educating Social Work Students in the Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect


This mixed-methods study examined field instructors’ (N = 58) perspectives on how to prepare social work students for mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) examined differences in field instructors’ perspectives of their educational roles and responsibilities by program level. Overall, field instructors strongly agreed that schools need to prepare students regarding their role as mandatory reporters (M = 1.61, SD = 0.78), and moderately agreed that schools do a good job in this endeavor (M = 2.57, SD = 0.95). Field instructors thought Master of Social Work (MSW) students had better awareness of mandatory reporting at the start of practicum [(F(2, 41) = 2.95, p = 0.06] compared to Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or a mixed cohort of BSW/MSW students. Thematic analysis examined students’ expected knowledge and skills before, during, and after field education regarding mandatory reporting. The following themes emerged: 1) knowledge of child abuse and neglect; 2) knowledge of professional roles and boundaries; 3) knowledge of the processes involved in reporting child abuse and neglect; and 4) preparation through experiential learning. Implications for integrating legislative and ethical responsibilities into social work education are offered.

Keywords:field instructors; field education; mandatory reporting; child abuse and neglect; online survey

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The Vital Role of Field Supervisors’ Perspectives:
Connecting the Field Setting to Social Work Competencies


Field education is the signature pedagogy of social work education, yet there has been criticism by field education scholars regarding its assessment and evaluation. In this qualitative inquiry, I used focus groups to inquire about how field supervisors understood educational competencies as applied to their students. Over half of the themes that emerged were associated with self-reflection, interpersonal challenge, or emotional readiness. Recentering the perspectives of field supervisors may provide new avenues to improve field assessment and evaluation.

Keywords: field education; field supervision; competencies; social work education

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MSW Field Syllabi Analysis: The Crossroads of Intersectionality and Social Work Field Education


In order to be competent social workers, it is necessary for social work students to understand who they are and how their experiences shape their perceptions of the world. Exploring how one’s unique identity characteristics influence or limit access to systems of power and privilege is the essence of intersectionality. This exploratory, qualitative study aimed to examine the degree to which intersectionality was infused into MSW field syllabi. The implications of the findings suggest that intersectionality is not fully integrated into MSW field syllabi. Results of this study summarize opportunities within social work education to increase students’ awareness of intersectionality.

Keywords: intersectionality; MSW field education; syllabi; social location; EPAS

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Reflective Supervision Training Model: Impact on the Supervisory Working Alliance


Reflective supervision scaffolds a stronger supervisor working alliance (SWA), or supervisor–trainee relationship, which is critical to trainees’ skill development. Given supervisory trainings’ positive impact on these dynamics, and the increased need for access to these trainings, an asynchronous online training program for clinical supervisors was assessed to evaluate its impact on the SWA during social work and counseling field placements. Findings revealed supervisors’ satisfaction with the training, and improved SWA from pre- to posttest for both trainees and supervisors, with supervisors’ years of experience playing a unique role. This study supports the establishment and participation of supervisors in an asynchronous training program.

Keywords: clinical fieldwork; reflective supervision; working alliance; social work; counseling

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The Conversation: Paid Versus Unpaid Field Placements

Editor’s note: This issue’s Conversation features an interview with Daniel Fischer, MSW. Daniel is a clinical associate professor and assistant dean for field education in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan. The two discuss the recent focus on paid versus unpaid field placements, student organizing around the issue, and innovative solutions for consideration within social work education.

Amy Skeen: Dan, I want to share my appreciation for your willingness to join me for this conversation. I welcome this opportunity to learn about your experience and perspective related to field placements, and more specifically about the recent increase in students advocating for and seeking change to the longstanding structure of social work field placements being unpaid. In addition, I’m hoping you’ll talk about how your social work program is responding, and share some of the innovative ideas and approaches being implemented. First, can you tell us about your role at the University of Michigan?

Dan Fischer: Thanks, Amy, for reaching out to me. I’m happy to be a part of the conversation. A little about me: I graduated with my MSW from the University of Michigan in 1984, have been an instructor at the School of Social Work since 1993, and am currently a clinical associate professor of social work and serve as the assistant dean for field education.

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Field Finds

The Impact of Mental Health Challenges on Social Work Field Education

Editor’s note: Field Finds is a regular feature of Field Educator. These concise literature reviews provide information and guidance to field educators and field instructors. Each review concludes with three discussion questions as inspiration for further thought on the subject matter.


This edition of Field Finds explores the existing literature on student mental health challenges in social work and field education. The following themes are discussed: 1) the prevalence of social work students with mental health concerns; 2) social work students’ attitudes toward others with mental illness; 3) complex issues to consider, and 4) strategies for supporting students.

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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 »