With the introduction of CSWE’s 2008 Education and Policy Standards, field education’s role in social work education gains new vitality as we integrate competencies throughout the curriculum and field education. Now we are able to determine the practice behaviors that, when measured, will reflect achievement of the specific competency for our on-going program and quality assessment. Measuring students’ professional practice abilities in the field has long been challenging; social work schools have designed a variety of evaluative tools that may or may not have provided an accurate performance review. In addition, with the promotion to competency-based education, the 2008 CSWE educational standards made a clear statement that “in social work, field education is the signature pedagogy…, the central form of instruction and learning in which a profession socializes its students”(CSWE EPAS, 2008). This statement promotes classroom and field learning as equally important for student learning and integration of theory and practice in social work.

Identifying field education as the signature pedagogy is a call to action for all field educators, according to Professor Marion Bogo, a leading scholar in social work field education. Bogo’s book, Achieving Competence in Social Work through Field Education (2010), offers a timely response to the challenge. For the new or experienced field director or field education faculty member, this is a “must read,” as it provides a comprehensive review and analysis of theory and research guiding field education practice. There are chapters discussing the contextual factors affecting field education; the nature of professional social work practice; theories and evidence-based practice related to field education; formats and methods of field instruction; the nature of student learning; and the important relationship of the field instructor and student in successful practica. In reading these chapters, one can easily digest the history, complexity, and significance of field education within social work education.

Bogo identifies evaluation as a core concern in establishing field education as the signature pedagogy; in this book, she states, “The challenge for evaluation of student competence is to develop processes and methods that effectively capture these various dimensions of competence” (Bogo, 2010, p. 75). I highly recommend that readers focus on Chapter Three, “Competence” and Chapter Eight, “Evaluation of Competence in Field Education.” Chapter Three reviews the various ways competence and methods of measurement have been defined to date. Key to this is the examination of what constitutes competence in the areas of performance, judgment, and behavior or conduct. Bogo aptly provides a conceptual framework that includes the elements of meta-competencies [cognitive, relational, personal and professional competencies, and values and ethics], as well as procedural competencies [competencies in assessment, intervention, and communication which can be technical or clinical, generic or specific to the profession] (Bogo, 2010, p. 74).

Bogo and her colleagues at University of Toronto began a several-year program of research to develop effective approaches to student learning and competence in field education. Chapter Eight presents the overview of factors that make measuring competence difficult. The research team first attempted to study the reliability and validity of an existing “competency-based education tool” (Bogo, 2010, p. 182). As those of us in field education know, it is very difficult to have consistency in any evaluation process due to the uniqueness of each field instructor and student and each supervisory experience. This led to two additional field education evaluation tools that were developed as part of the ongoing research. The “vignette-matching evaluation” was problematic. The “practice-based evaluation” showed more variance than the competency-based evaluation tool. All three tools, which are included with their scoring in the appendix of the book, could be tested by other schools, as they represent thoughtful attempts to capture competence.

Bogo continues to be a leader in conceptual and research scholarship, addressing important current challenges to providing strong social work field education. Her book offers both a comprehensive overview of central issues in field education, and a careful assessment of measures of competence. The exploration of competence in field education in this book serves to encourage all field educators to measure up to the definition of signature pedagogy.

Bogo, M. (2010). Achieving Competence in Social Work Through Field Education. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.