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

Past Issues

The Field Educator online journal is published twice annually. To get notified when a new issue is published, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

Volume 13.1 | Spring 2023

Field Talks

Field Talks Episode 1 – The Future of Field Education: An Exploration of Emerging Issues

Episode 1: The Future of Field Education: An Exploration of Emerging Issues

Field Talks host, Dr. Katharine Dill of Marist College, interviews Suzanne Sankar, executive editor of Simmons University’s Field Educator, for the inaugural episode of Field Talks. Katharine and Suzanne discuss current issues in field education, as well as the central role of the Field Educator journal in promoting robust information exchange and engaged scholarship.

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Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

This issue marks the launch of Field Educator‘s new podcast, Field Talks. Dr. Katharine Dill, field director at Marist College, will host the podcast and hold in-depth discussions with social work leaders, researchers, and practitioners, focusing on the most pressing issues in field education today. Field Talks will also feature interviews with field directors, field instructors, and social work students, discussing new and innovative approaches to effective field-based learning.

Listen to the inaugural episode of Field Talks here:

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Field Scholar

Social Work Field Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Scoping Review of the Literature


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council on Social Work Education modified field education delivery methods and reduced the number of required field hours. Consequently, schools of social work and field agencies employed online and other methods of distance learning to fulfill field education requirements. This scoping review synthesizes available literature on social work pedagogical approaches to field education during the COVID-19 pandemic, identifies knowledge gaps in the literature for future studies, and suggests the need for proactive disaster preparation for future field challenges. Eleven peer-reviewed articles are included in this review. We describe the challenges and achievements experienced by schools of social work, students, and field supervisors. Findings indicated five themes: (a) remote field work, (b) alternate activities, (c) communication, (d) technology, and (e) early termination with clients. Suggestions illuminate implications for best-practice scenarios to promote future disaster preparedness.

Keywords: social work; social work pedagogy; field education; COVID-19

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Closing the Mental Health Treatment Gap Through Field Education: A Call to Action


Seventy-five to ninety percent of individuals affected by mental illness do not receive the treatment they need, largely due to the shortage of mental health professionals. Common Mental Disorders (CMDs) like depression and anxiety constitute a large part of the disease burden of mental illness and can be treated effectively with low-cost, low-resource psychosocial interventions that can be delivered by trained paraprofessionals. Social work education can contribute to closing the treatment gap for mental illness by training Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) students to deliver evidence-based interventions for CMDs during their field education experience, and thereby meet a critical need in their communities.

Keywords: mental health treatment gap; social work education; evidence-based psychosocial interventions; field education; common mental disorders, task-sharing; social work Grand Challenges; CSWE competencies; Problem Management Plus

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Understanding the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Social Work Field Placements: A Student’s Perspective


This study seeks to understand how the COVID-19 outbreak impacted social work students completing field placements during the spring 2020 semester. In May 2020, a national survey was distributed soliciting information from MSW and BSW field students to examine their perspectives on their universities’ and field agencies’ responses to disruption of field education courses. The survey instrument consisted of seven open-ended questions pertaining to the potential impact COVID-19 had on students during their spring 2020–semester field placement, and the final question asked students to voluntarily submit a photo of their work space during the pandemic. Data were analyzed using QDA Miner. Analysis made use of open coding and directed coding using themes derived from the literature and the survey questions. Results revealed that while some field placement students received support, guidance, resources, and communication from their agencies and universities, many did not. Moreover, many students experienced unexpected ethical dilemmas and frustrations associated with the abrupt termination of relationships with clients. These findings are used to formulate policy recommendations for universities and field agencies regarding sudden transition to remote work during a pandemic-related shutdown.

Keywords: field education; ethical dilemmas; COVID-19; university policies; termination

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Practice Digest

The Case for Keeping COVID Modifications:
More Opportunities for Deaf, DeafBlind, And Hard of Hearing Social Work Interns

With the numerous, rapidly changing obstacles brought to the social work profession by the COVID-19 pandemic, social workers wrestled with how to continue their work remotely as they faced and surmounted technological challenges. We looked to our professional associations—specifically, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)—for new and appropriate ways to provide ethical and effective services while remaining at home, and received real-time guidance. Individual field placement agencies and practitioners sought out remote technologies that would meet the needs of workers, interns, and clients.

These adaptations, through their improvements in accessibility and other accommodations, have contributed to how social work interns who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing can perform effectively and efficiently, especially considering that they often have trouble gaining parity with hearing peers. The unique challenge of practicing in a pandemic has brought innovative approaches, new perspectives, and growing opportunities that may, indeed, provide greater professional opportunities for future social workers who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing.

Technological adaptations adopted during the pandemic positively impacted field education and direct service provision for Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing social worker interns. This article offers recommendations to employers, supervisors, and general practitioners for retaining these adaptations even after things “return to normal.”

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Community Care: A Field Education-Based Model For Police Social Work in Rural Communities

The summer of 2020 was an inflection point for social justice issues in the United States. Widespread protests in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans were held nationwide, and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted and intensified the many symptoms of racial, health, and economic disparities prevalent in our society (Salmond & Dorsen, 2022). Calls to defund and/or reform policing were ubiquitous, and many of these calls proposed the use of social workers in place of some or all police responses (Andrew, 2020; Levin, 2020; Lum et al., 2021). At Western Carolina University (WCU), we began examining the ways in which we were preparing our students for working in this complex area of practice. This process led to the development of the Community Care program, a graduate-level internship embedded in the local police department and supported by faculty from both the Department of Social Work and the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The mission of the Community Care program is to support the local community by offering voluntary social work services to anyone in need, especially those who are or might become involved with law enforcement. The program has five identified objectives:

  1. Expand the law enforcement toolbox by increasing officer response options beyond arrents, citations, and warnings
  2. Promote long-term solutions for community members in need through connections with appropriate resources
  3. Promote safety of officers and community members through increased opportunities for de-escalation and proactive, precrisis intervention
  4. Reduce the risk of trauma to all parties involved in potentially negative interactions between law enforcement and community members
  5. Reduce officer workload and streamline officer workflow

While the program is still very new, initial feedback from the community, the police department, and the social work students suggests that these objectives are being met, and all partners involved are experiencing mutual benefit.

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The Conversation: The ASWB Licensing Exam Pass Rates and Bias

Editor’s note: This issue’s Conversation features an interview with Karen Goodenough, PhD. Karen has been executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, Minnesota chapter since 2018. She received her BSW from St. Olaf College, MSW from Augsburg University, and PhD in social work from the University of Minnesota. Previously, Dr. Goodenough worked in direct practice and nonprofit program management, and has been a consultant in evaluation, data utilization, and strategic planning. She has also served as adjunct faculty in numerous BSW and MSW programs throughout Minnesota. Dr. Goodenough is a member of the Minnesota Board of Social Work Advisory Committee and Legislation and Rules Committee, cochairs the NASW Licensure Task Force, and was on the Document Writing Team for the Social Work Interstate Compact.

The interview discusses the recent release of data revealing the pass rates of the ASWB exam, related issues of bias and access, and opportunities for a way forward as a profession.

Amy Skeen: Hi, Karen, and thanks for joining the Conversation. As you are aware, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) released data on licensing exam pass rates for the first time during the summer of 2022. As a result, questions were heightened related to the equity of the exam and how this impacts access to licensing. Your background and research in this area can provide an important framework. Could you start by talking about your role related to licensing issues, and why this topic is relevant to our field?

Karen Goodenough: This is an area of great importance for our field, and has been a significant focus of mine throughout my career. I have served as the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of NASW for five years. Aligning my academic and professional interests, my dissertation focused on the county exemption from social work licensure in Minnesota. I am cochair of the NASW licensure taskforce and was on the document team, the group that wrote the social work interstate compact. The final compact legislation was announced on February 27, 2023, and is now ready for state enactment. Information on the Compact can be found at

The issue of licensing and regulation is of utmost importance, as it allows social workers to compete in the marketplace. Social workers fought hard for licensure in order to protect the profession as well as the public. However, we take for granted that the current structures and requirements of licensure are necessary and are meeting these goals.

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Field Finds

Gatekeeping in 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 concept and implementation of gatekeeping within social work programs—and, more specifically, within social work field education. The review provides suggestions for practice and future research.

The concept of gatekeeping in social work education has been written about, discussed, and debated for many years. A seminal text, Gatekeeping in BSW Programs, edited by Gibbs and Blakeley (2000), remains the blueprint for conceptualizing gatekeeping. The term “gatekeeping” itself conjures up a “gate” that is closed when someone ill-suited is not permitted to move forward in a professional program.Two distinct views of gatekeeping exist in social work education (Gibbs, 2000a & 2000b):

  1. Students are screened in: A supportive perspective, where students are provided with developmental opportunities to enhance their knowledge, values, and skills throughout the social work program curriculum (Elpers & Fitzgerald, 2013; Gibbs, 2000a; Gibbs & Macy, 2000; Royse, 2000; Sowbel & Miller, 2015; Street, 2021).
  2. Students are screened out: Students are screened out for entry to a social work program based on stringent admissions criteria, such as GPA or a personal statement (Gibbs, 2000b; Holmstrom, 2014; Homonoff, 2008; Royse, 2000).

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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 »