How apropos it is, and what an honor for the Field Educator, to have Dr. Darla Spence Coffey, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Social Work Education, engaged in an interview by Dr. Bill Fisher, Director of Field Education and professor at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, and a leader of the task force that developed a first ever-survey of field directors in the United States for the purpose of learning about the state of field education.

In a period of about two years, a Field Summit was held at the 2014 APM of CSWE, Social Work Field Directors was published in 20151 and the field directors’ survey was conducted (data currently being analyzed and interpreted). This attention to our “signature pedagogy” signals something. What is that “something?”

In an era of growing competition, burgeoning enrollments in a growing number of graduate social work programs (now including a large number of online programs), field educators are bumping up against a “stuckness” that I suspect led Dr. Spence Coffey to invoke the image of “moving the needle.” The number of students is growing, but the number of quality placements is not keeping pace. With growing numbers, the ability to properly monitor the learning of our students suffers when resources don’t accelerate at the same rate. Alongside the increasing number of students are new models of care that are emerging as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The implications for social workers are exciting to say the least. In such a dynamic practice environment, and such a changing world of social work education, there is much work to be done by field educators to keep up. But the day-to-day operations of field departments don’t slow down to allow for this discovery; new funds don’t magically appear; and new internship sites don’t fall out of the sky. In the midst of this collision of needs and resources, we do find ourselves “stuck.” We need new models of training, a new look at our curriculum and its competencies, and innovations to answer our dilemmas. It is so hopeful to know that we have a leader like Dr. Spence Coffey to listen and take the lead in these efforts. Please read the Conversation to read more of Dr. Spence Coffey’s thinking on these matters.

I smiled at the reference to “moving the needle” as it is a reference that only those of the vinyl record age would recognize. Yet, the metaphor is fitting. Field education in its vintage form must be looked at to accommodate the changing world around us; and resources must be allocated for this purpose. My thanks to those like Dr. Spence Coffey and Dr. Fisher for leading the charge.


[1] Hunter, C., Moen, J., & Raskin, M. (Eds.). (2015). Social work field directors. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.