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. Whenever possible, we have provided links to freely available fulltext articles.

Baum, N. (2011). Social work students’ feelings and concerns about the ending of their fieldwork supervision. Social Work Education, 30(1), 83-97. doi:10.1080/02615471003743388

Many articles have addressed the importance of termination in supervision. At the end of their internship, eighty social work students responded to a questionnaire about their feelings about supervision. Students who had good relationships with their field instructors experienced conflict at ending between feelings of attachment and desire to grow and progress. Students with poor supervisory relationships were left with bad feelings, un-discussed and therefore unresolved, despite opportunities for feedback. Authors suggest that field instructors need guidance to help with termination of the supervisory process.

Bogo, M., Regehr, C., Logie, C., Katz, E., Mylopoulos, M., & Regehr, G. (2011). Adapting objective structured clinical examinations to assess social work students’ performance and reflections. Journal of Social Work Education, 47(1), 5-18. doi:10.51575/JSWE.2011.200900036

The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) originally used in medicine to assess performance was adapted for social work. Students are observed conducting simulated interviews in five stations with standardized clients in a range of domains, and then rated according to a competency checklist. A subsequent reflective dialogue was added to assess student meta-competencies like self-reflection. Reliability and validity of the adapted OSCE are presented.

Carey, M. E., & McCardle, M. (2011). Can an observational field model enhance critical thinking and generalist practice skills? Journal of Social Work Education, 47(2), 357-366.

Yes! A BSW program initiated an introductory field experience for 23 students including opportunities for observation at selected social service agencies, shadowing social work professionals, and group student learning. A reflective assignment focused on core values including service, integrity, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships and competence. A final assignment included a portfolio and presentation.

Davidson, C. (2011). The relation between supervisor self-disclosure and the working alliance among social work students in field placement. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 265-277. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580248

Maintaining a good supervisory relationship requires field instructors to share their experiences with interns while maintaining appropriate boundaries. 184 social work students responded to measures of supervisor self-disclosure and the supervisory working alliance. There was a significant correlation between supervisory self-disclosure and a good working alliance, as long as the content of supervision was congruent with the student’s issues and concerns and was not perceived as intimate.

Dedman, D. E., & Palmer, L. B. (2011). Field instructors and online training: An exploratory survey. Journal of Social Work Education, 47(1), 151-161. doi:10.5175/JSWE.2011.200900057

Questions have been raised about whether online training works for field instructors. 208 field instructors responding to an online survey reported extensive use of, and comfort with, Internet communication. Suggestions are offered for creating online training programs for field instructors.

Dotson, B. (2011). Thoughts about field placement. New Social Worker, 18(1), 9-9.

A BSW social work student was originally unhappy with her placement at an agency providing services for clients living with HIV/AIDS. She found that it provided a “priceless” learning experience, with engaging clients and excellent supervision. She also appreciated the ongoing support of her senior seminar.

Everett, J. E., Miehls, D., DuBois, C., & Garran, A. M. (2011). The developmental model of supervision as reflected in the experiences of field supervisors and graduate students. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 250-264. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580245

The developmental perspective, important in establishing and maintaining a good supervisory relationship, is a focus of training for field instructors at one school of social work. 81 field instructors affiliated with the school responded to a survey, and 14 field instructors participated in three focus groups. Respondents perceived that most first year MSW students were anxious and concrete in their thinking, and therefore provided structure and guidance in supervision. Supervision of second year students was more flexible and collegial, and focused on clinical issues, because interns were seen as working on their professional identity. The developmental model of supervision helped field instructors discriminate between the needs of first and second year students, but specific training is needed to help them to respond also to students’ individual learning styles.

Forte, J. A., & LaMade, J. (2011). The center cannot hold: A survey of field instructors’ theoretical preferences and propensities. Clinical Supervisor, 30(1), 72-94. doi:10.1080/07325223.2011.522489

Integration of theory and practice is a central goal of social work education, but it is not certain that it is central in field instruction. 71 field instructors responded to a survey about preferred theories/theorists, and appraisal of the value of theoretical knowledge and attitudes toward teaching theory. Respondents identified a large number of theories as influential; cognitive behavioral theory was the most often cited. In terms of theorists, Erik Erikson received the most first-place votes for human behavior theorists and Carl Rogers and Aaron Beck the most for practice theorists. However, evidence pointed to field instructors’ reluctance to use and teach theory.

Harr, C., & Moore, B. (2011). Compassion fatigue among social work students in field placements. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 350-363. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580262

Learning in field placement can be stressful. The Professional Quality of Life Scale’s compassion satisfaction and fatigue subscales were administered to 258 BSW and MSW field students at a public university. Respondents had higher scores of compassion satisfaction than the instrument average. However, respondents’ scores on risk for burnout were slightly higher, and their risk for compassion fatigue was similar to more experienced helping professionals. The authors suggest adequate screening in admissions and field placement, strategies to prepare students for stress during internship, and training for field instructors in assessing and addressing compassion fatigue in interns.

Holden, G., Barker, K., Rosenberg, G., Kuppens, S., & Ferrell, L. W. (2011). The signature pedagogy of social work? An investigation of the evidence. Research on Social Work Practice, 21(3), 363-372. doi:10.1177/1049731510392061

The authors undertook a systematic review to explore the existing research in field education on four questions: Is field instruction superior to no treatment control condition? Is field instruction superior to established alternatives? Does the effect of field instruction vary across studies? Does the effect of field instruction vary as a function of certain moderators? No evidence was found regarding the four questions. The authors call for an acceleration of evidence-building in these areas.

LaPorte, H. H., & Sweifach, J. (2011). MSW foundation students in the field: Reflections on the nature and quality of group work assignments and supervision. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 239-249. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580240

Group work has always been central to social work practice; do social work students learn about it? 63 social work students in MSW programs across the US responded to a survey about group practice experiences and about field instructors’ knowledge, skills and interest in group work. 66% of respondents were assigned to facilitate at least one group during their first year. However, more than half of the respondents indicated that field instructors provided little information about group theory and practice and inadequate help to prepare them for group work. The findings underscore the need for schools of social work to support field instructors in teaching group work and to monitor their ability to integrate theory and practice in group work.

Lu, Y. E., Ain, E., Chamorro, C., Chang, C., Feng, J. Y., Fong, R., . . . Yu, M. (2011). A new methodology for assessing social work practice: The adaptation of the objective structured clinical evaluation (SW-OSCE). Social Work Education, 30(2), 170-185. doi:10.1080/02615479.2011.540385

Authors present an adaptation of the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) to social work. The first step was development of a clinical competence-based behavioral checklist (CCBC) to identify interview skills, cultural empathy, assessment and intervention strategies, comprehensive evaluation skills, and meta-cognition (self-appraisal). Six scenarios with simulated clients were designed to evaluate the practice competency of 101 students in an MSW course on practice with diverse populations. Suggestions to enhance feasibility, reliability and validity are presented; one finding was that clinical skills and cultural empathy are not synonymous.

Maidment, J., & Crisp, B. R. (2011). The impact of emotions on practicum learning. Social Work Education, 30(4), 408-421. doi:10.1080/02615479.2010.501859

Nine mature, experienced BSW students in Australia were asked about their response to the practicum requirement. Some were positive and “flourished despite disappointment”. However, the majority experienced frustration and anger because of concern about cost, performance anxiety and a sense that no new learning would be offered by a practicum. Practicum requirements for experienced students were subsequently modified.

Mooradian, J. K., Knaggs, C., Hock, R., & LaCharite, D. (2011). Opening options: Making field education work in a private practice clinic setting. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 341-349. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580261

Using private practice clinics as placements is controversial. Two MSW students and one field instructor were involved in a narrative self-analysis about their experience in an internship in a private practice clinic setting. Practical challenges included provision of resources like liability insurance and help from ancillary staff. Students were satisfied, saying that they felt valued in their role, developed a professional self and integrated theory and practice.

Root, L. S., & Choi, Y. J. (2011). Work in the lives of social work clients: Perspectives of field instructors. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 313-328. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580256

In this economy, employment is a major concern for Americans. Researchers sampled 203 field instructors in a large MSW program about their perceived importance of work-related issues in the lives of their agencies’ clients. A substantial percentage was concerned about low pay and poor benefits; lack of employability because of poor education or disability; problems juggling responsibilities; and work stress and discrimination. The authors call for work-related content in all social work courses, and development of field placements at agencies where employment is a focus.

Rosenthal Gelman, C. (2011). Field instructors’ perspectives on foundation year MSW students’ pre-placement anxiety. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 295-312. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580252

Is anxiety the norm for foundation year social work students? 39 field instructors responding to a questionnaire saw first year social work interns as anxious, but did not believe that anxiety had a significant effect on their learning. The major concern for respondents was that students often lacked a stance of curiosity and self-awareness in their learning.

Sowbel, L. R. (2011). Gatekeeping in field performance: Is grade inflation a given? Journal of Social Work Education, 47(2), 367-377.

Yes! A pilot study of the Vignette Matching Evaluation (VME) field performance tool used by 121 field instructors on first year students showed that a high number of students were rated as Exceptional. Nevertheless, the VME’s measure of meta-competencies may be an important adjunct to competency-based measures in establishing suitability for field.

Tuchman, E., & Lalane, M. (2011). Evidence-based practice: Integrating classroom curriculum and field education. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 329-340. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580258

Creating opportunities for students to learn and practice evidence-based interventions in field placement is an ongoing challenge. The article describes the attempts of one classroom instructor, who was also a field liaison, to integrate classroom and field learning in Evidence-based Practice. An assignment to integrate classroom and field learning on EBP was designed for a student in a mental health/substance abuse setting. The intern began by learning about and the evidence-based ITTP (Integrated Treatment for Dual Disorders) model. She then proposed services and, with the field instructor’s help, developed and evaluated an Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment group curriculum for clients with mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Ying, Yu-Wen. (2011). The effect of educational disequilibrium in field work on graduate social work students’ self-concept and mental health. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 31(3), 278-294. doi:10.1080/08841233.2011.580250

Learning in field can lead to disequilibrium; students need ways to cope with this stressful experience. In this study, advanced social work students reported a lower sense of accomplishment, explaining lower self-esteem and higher depressive symptoms than first-year students. The author suggests that equilibrium may not be restored until after graduation, and recommends students improve their well-being through mindfulness practice.