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. (2012). Field supervision in countries ridden by armed conflict. International Social Work, 55(5), 704-719.

Field supervision is challenging when supervisor and students are affiliated with different sides in countries ridden by armed conflict –for example, Jewish supervisors and Arab students in Israel. The conflict may make it difficult for supervisors to provide feedback and evaluation, and, therefore, can impair the students’ development of professional identity. Since conflict is an “inevitable and even salient” feature of supervision, the authors recommend that supervisors raise the issue of differences early on, and create a space where students can bring up their experiences with clients. Politically-based rejection of students by clients cannot be avoided simply by assigning students to clients from their own group. Supervisors must be able to assign students clients from other groups, first ascertaining with the clients that they will accept the student. Supervisors and students need to reflect on and work through their own prejudices as well as their positive emotions like curiosity, pity, and enthusiasm. In this process, supervisors need training and support from schools of social work.

Bennett, S., & Deal, K. H. (2012). Supervision training: What we know and what we need to know. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 82(2/3), 195-215.

The authors present an overview of training models for clinical supervision and social work field instruction, and summarize research on the effect of supervision on supervisee competencies and client outcomes. They then describe their own Developmental-Relational Approach to Field Supervision (DRAFS), which views the development of student competencies over time in response to field instructors’ meeting of the students’ developmental needs and understanding of students’ attachment styles. The DRAFS training model was the subject of two research studies: one focusing on the association between student competencies, attachment and the supervisory working alliance. Field instructors who participated in the training reported a rapid increase in the supervisory working alliance and perceived their students as progressing more rapidly in client assessment, planning, and implementation. The attachment style of students was related to the development of their competencies; students with anxious attachment were more self-critical of their abilities, and students with avoidant attachment were slower than average to change. The findings support the importance of supervisor training in the developmental-relational approach. (See also: Deal, K.H., Bennett, S., Mohr, J. & Hwang, J. (2011). Research on Social Work Practice, 21 (6), 712-726. And: Bennett, S., Mohr, J., Deal, K.H., and Hwang, J. (2012). Supervisor attachment, supervisory working alliance and affect in social work field instruction. Research on Social Work Practice, 23, 199-209.)

Birkenmaier, J., Curley, J., and Rowan, N. (2012). Knowledge outcomes within rotational models of social work field education. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 55(4), 321-336.

The authors assessed knowledge outcomes of 231 students participating in concurrent, concurrent/sequential, and sequential rotation models through the aging-related HPPAE project. Post-test knowledge scores were higher for students who participated in the current rotation model, and for those whose placements were at a long-term care facility. In addition, students in programs with a high number of geriatric competencies in the curriculum had higher knowledge scores. The authors suggest that some concerns about rotational field experience may be unwarranted, and that the concurrent rotation model might be effective as well for students in other settings like schools and neighborhood settings.

Foley, V., Myrick, F. & Yonge, O. (2012). Generational clashpoints in nursing preceptorship. Journal of Nursing Education, 51(10), 556-562

In this study, seven students and seven preceptors (supervisors) from an undergraduate nursing program in Eastern Canada were interviewed regarding intergenerational conflict. Students saw their older generation preceptors as inflexible, set in their ways, task oriented, and viewing work as life. Preceptors described their generation as hard working, independent, forward thinking, patient and family centered, and career oriented. Preceptors saw their younger generation students as carefree, immature, naïve, over-assertive, having a lack of work ethic, and not committed to nursing. However, students saw themselves as open minded, outgoing, energetic, tech savvy, ambitious, and wanting multiple career options. Both students and preceptors stated that colliding generational worldviews make forming strong and positive working relationships challenging. The authors recommend that nursing faculty initiate conversations about generational diversity so preceptors and students can discover the strengths of each generation and cultivate mutual respect. It is with this foundation of respect that members of different generations can learn from one another and use their multiple points of view to enrich instead of constrict the clinical experience.

Lindy, J.G. (2012). Dynamics of the educational triad. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 82(2/3), 173-194.

The article describes the tensions that can arise in the educational triad of intern, supervisor, and advisor. Learning to be a social worker activates the student’s personal history and frames of reference, and interns’ emotions and coping styles are stirred through unconscious identification and projection. The article describes the normal developmental issues, attachment processes, relational maps, hopes and fears, and protective strategies of the student. The educational triad can become the carrier of these emotional issues; at best, it identifies these issues and promotes student growth. The author also describes and provides examples of issues that activate triadic dynamics, including struggles over authority, triangulation, the student’s developmental anxiety, cognitive style differences between intern and supervisor, and diversity dynamics. Trauma histories and personal transferences on the part of participants further complicate the situation. The field office must hear and hold problems and the effects associated with them. The author ends with helpful directions in sorting through these complex situations, stressing the importance of beginning with “the most experience-near, educationally normative level of problem formulation.”

Lovecchio, C., DiMattio, M.J. & Hudacek, S. (2012). Clinical liaison nurse model in a community hospital: A unique academic-practice partnership that strengthens clinical nursing education. Journal of Nursing Education, 51(11), 609-615.

The University of Scranton Department of Nursing conducted a pilot study on different models of field training. 35 baccalaureate level nursing students took part in the university’s traditional instructor-led field experience model in which students were supervised by multiple staff members of the clinical unit. 40 baccalaureate level nursing students participated in the Clinical Liaison Nurse (CLN) model, an academic-service partnership in which university faculty collaborated directly with staff nurses to provide education to students and all three groups together were responsible for total patient care. Faculty members were solely responsible for evaluating students’ performance. The Clinical Learning Environment Inventory (CLEI) was administered to all students to assess their perception of their field experience at the conclusion of the rotation. Students who participated in the CNL model had statistically significant higher scores than those in the traditional model on the subscales of Task Orientation, Satisfaction, and Individualization. The authors suggest that the results of this study support augmenting the clinical experience to better link theory to practice with the collaboration of academic faculty with staff nurses at clinical placements. However, to establish scientific credibility of the CLN model as best practice, more studies are needed with different populations of students and with randomized assignment of students to the experimental vs. control group.

Luke, M. & Gordon, C. (2012). Supervisors’ use of reinforcement, reframing, and advice to re-author the supervisory narrative through e-mail supervision. The Clinical Supervisor, 31, 159-177.

This study analyzed the required weekly e-mail communication between 38 master’s-level counseling supervisees and 4 supervisors at one accredited counseling program located in the northeastern United States. This e-mail supervision was provided concurrently with in-person instructor-led group supervision for 16-weeks. The authors used Discourse Analysis (DA) to survey both the content and format of the language used in the e-mails. This analysis revealed that supervisors often worked to co-construct supervisees’ conceptions of events in the field by reinforcing positive behavior, reframing situations with alternative explanations, and offering direct and indirect advice. The authors suggest that the use of e-mail in supervision may lead to more thorough and honest disclosures from supervisees, as they feel less intimidated in the absence of a non-verbal projection of authority by their supervisors. More detail and emotional description from the student then affords the supervisor the opportunity to more elaborately re-author the narrative that has been presented. Additional research is needed to assess how the medium of communication during supervision affects the perception of authority in the supervision relationship and supervisory goal attainment.

Regehr, C., Anstice, S., Bogo, M., Lim, A. & Donovan, K. (2012). Identifying student competencies in macro practice: Articulating the practice wisdom of field instructors. Journal of Social Work Education, 48(2), 307-319.

The authors devised a study in which 18 field instructors from a large graduate social work program were interviewed about supervisees’ competencies in community, organization, and policy practice settings. Selective coding was used to develop a theoretical understanding of competencies in macro social work practice as defined by these supervisors. First, the supervisors reported the qualities they would associate with an exemplary, average, and problematic/struggling student. Core competencies emerged from these descriptions in six categories that directly relate to macro practice. These categories were learning and growth, behavior and relationships, leadership, critical thinking and implementation, written and verbal professional communication, and values and ethics. The authors delineate meta competencies (personal characteristics and qualities) and procedural competencies (specific skills in practice) in each of these areas that are applicable to practicum experience in macro social work settings. The authors suggest that new assessment tools are needed that incorporate both of these types of competencies and give adequate weight to the different factors that constitute competent macro practice.

Scheyett, A., Pettus-Davis, C., McCarter, S., & Brigham, R.. (2012) Social work and criminal justice: Are we meeting in the field? Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 32(4), 438-450.

The authors surveyed 177 field education directors of MSW programs. They found that slightly fewer than 8% of field placements are in the area of criminal justice, and most of these are in community settings. The main barrier to creating criminal justice field placements was reported as lack of MSWs in the criminal justice system. The second barrier was lack of student interest; respondents said that only slightly more than half of their available criminal justice placements were filled. Other challenges included problems with bureaucratic regulations like security clearance, lack of interest in social work on the part of the criminal justice system, and financial barriers. The authors discuss the conflicting ideologies between social work and criminal justice regarding treatment versus punishment. In order to encourage more students to enter the field of criminal justice field and, therefore, provide a greater pool of supervisors in that field, the authors suggest the creation of criminal justice field units with a dedicated MSW supervisor.