Field Education

Field instruction is an integral part of the total educational process that prepares students for beginning level professional social work practice. This experience allows students to assess their aptitude and motivation for a career in social work. It also provides students with the opportunity to apply the theoretical concepts learned in coursework to generalist practice. In effect, field instruction makes the learning come alive and moves students from textbook examples to real life situations in which they must intervene in order to provide professional social work services to actual clients. For most students this is an exciting process that represents the true beginning of professional development and training. It allows social work majors to use their acquired knowledge and skills and to demonstrate their developing commitment to social work values and ethics. In addition, field instruction helps students explore their interests in particular areas of practice, and this exposure can help them decide whether they wish to seek employment following graduation or pursue graduate studies.

The roles of student, field instructor, and faculty liaison are all vital components of the field education process. The student must make a full commitment to the necessary time that is required for the field practicum and will need to devote his/her energies to the integration of theory and practice. The role of student may feel awkward at times because so much is new, but this discomfort is usually alleviated within a few weeks after the practicum begins. The role of field instructor also requires an additional expenditure of time and energy over his/her normal responsibilities in the agency. The faculty liaison serves as coordinator of the field instruction experience and will make visits and telephone contacts with the agency throughout the semester. He/she will also hold field instructors' meetings at the University for the purposes of orientation, training, and problem solving in the supervisory process. In summary, the student, the field instructor, and the faculty liaison will work together as a team to effect positive and satisfying results from the field education experience.

Description of the Field Practicum

The Field Practicum component of the BSW Program consists of three semesters of field instruction and related seminars taken in conjunction with the practicum in each of the semesters. A one semester Junior Field Practicum is taken during the second semester of the junior year following completion of SW275 Social Work Practice I. The Senior Field Practicum is a two-semester sequence, the first semester of which is taken concurrently with SW375 Social Work Practice II.

Students are placed in community social agencies with professional agency field instructors for two full workdays per week in each of the three semesters. Designed as a continuum of educationally directed, agency-based experiences, field practicum enables students to apply, integrate, and operationalize classroom learning in the development of increasing professional competency over the three semesters.

A broad array of agencies is available for student placement, including child welfare settings, nursing homes, correctional settings, drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation, shelters for the homeless, specialized services to children in foster care, mental health services for children and adults, school social work, alternative educational settings, services to persons living with disabilities or persons living with AIDS, domestic violence agencies, community-based services, and others. Students with special requests are encouraged to talk with the Coordinator of Field Education, who may be able to develop a placement to meet the specific needs of the student.