Field Standards, Assignments, and Learning Expectations

All bachelors students and Non-Advanced and Advanced Standing masters students are required to participate in a field placement their final semester and must be declared academically eligible by completing all coursework and attaining a minimum 3.0 grade point average in their social work courses. Students are interviewed individually by field faculty from one to two semesters prior to entering field, and careful efforts are made to match students with agencies based on the student’s area of concentration, quality and availability of MSW supervision, learning needs of the student, learning experiences of the agency, etc. Efforts are made to only utilize high-quality placements which provide a broad range of learning experiences in an agency environment that meets the standards of the social work profession. The strength of the practicum lies in the partnership established between the college and the field agency, and students are only placed in agencies in which this partnership has been formalized through the signing of an affiliation agreement by the dean of the college and the agency director.

Standards for Agencies

The following criteria have been established as necessary conditions for agencies to meet in order to be a field placement site for students. The agency must agree to:

  1. Provide opportunities for students of the college in accordance with the cooperative planning by the faculty of the college and the agency staff. This should include individual, family, and group experiences.
  2. Meet the expectations of the program in the provision of diligent supervision for students with a qualified field educator who is an MSW with at least two years post-graduate experience in the field.
  3. Assist in the orientation of the students to the agency policies and procedures, and provide access to equipment and records as necessary for teaching purposes.
  4. Provide work space for the students to the extent feasible through mutual planning and learning materials appropriate to the student’s responsibilities during the period of placement.
  5. Assist in the evaluation of students’ learning and performance.
  6. Provide students with experiences and supervision that meets the ethical standards of the profession and inform them of the ethical and legal requirements regarding confidentiality of communications and records with regard to the agency’s clients.
    Make provision of orientation of students and faculty members of the school to the facilities, philosophies, policies, and programs of the agency.
  7. Provide an interdisciplinary team experience, if possible.
  8. Allow the student to participate in social histories, progress notes, treatment plans, and other appropriate documentation.
  9. Assignments for students will be planned by the faculty of the college in cooperation with the supervisory staff at the agency.
  10. Faculty, supervisory staff, and students will work together to maintain an environment which provides quality patient care and student learning.
  11. Arrange for agency field supervisors and field students to meet with representatives of the school at least once during the term of the placement for a joint review of the student’s progress. These individuals will communicate more often as needed.
  12. Refrain from discriminating in the assignment of social work students to the internship program because of race, color, creed, national origin, disability, or gender.

Field Educator Standards and Activities

It is an expectation of the college that field educators will have the following necessary qualifications: an earned MSW from an accredited College of Social Work; two years of post-masters work experience in an agency setting; and an interest in students and willingness to accept the role of field educator. If a qualified MSW is not available, undergraduate field students can be supervised by a BSW field educator with extensive practice experience. Field educators are expected to be competent and ethical social work practitioners in one or more areas of service and to be willing to work within the program’s philosophy of social work education and general field learning objectives.

Students are expected to meet with their MSW field educator for a minimum of one hour of supervision each week. Part-time students are expected to meet with their MSW field educator for a minimum of one hour of supervision biweekly. In agencies where there is no MSW field educator on-site, the agency is expected to provide an external off-site MSW to supervise masters students. The agency then agrees to identify a task supervisor qualified to provide on-site guidance regarding appropriate assignments and agency policies and procedures. The task supervisor maintains close contact with the field educator and actively participates in the evaluation process. The roles and responsibilities of these supervisors are detailed in the Field Reference Manual, pp. 50-52.

In general, the field educator’s responsibilities include coordinating with the Office of Field Education to provide a field experience that augments and compliments classroom learning; orienting the student to agency policies, procedures, and population served; coordinating involvement with other staff members; scheduling weekly supervisory conferences; and assisting the student in developing professional work habits. In order to assist the student in the development of professional skills, knowledge and values, the field educator maintains an ongoing evaluation of the student’s progress, prepares a written evaluation of the student’s performance at the mid-term and at the end of the field practicum; and communicates regular feedback to the student about his/her performance. The field educator is also expected to keep the faculty liaison informed about the student’s progress and advise the liaison of concerns, after having first discussed them with the student. In addition, the field educator provides feedback to the Field Program about various programmatic issues involving curriculum, placement content and expectations, and field policies and procedures.

Student Learning Expectations and Responsibilities

The Office of Field Education encourages all students entering field to identify their individual learning needs and assume responsibility for shaping their educational process. Prior to beginning the field practicum, students are required to attend a Field Planning Meeting in which the expectations and responsibilities of the field program are communicated, both verbally and in written handouts. The content of the planning meeting includes field policies and procedures, the field application and interview process, deadline dates, expectations regarding supervision, the integrative seminar, field agency requirements, the role of the liaison and the MSW field educator, field placement objectives, the Educational Plan, termination policies, sexual harassment and safety issues, liability insurance information, and the field evaluation process.

Students are also given information on preferred placement content based on the learning objectives of their concentration. The following content areas are communicated to both students and field educators as minimum expectations when structuring the internship experience:

  1. Provision of a comprehensive orientation of the student to the agency staff, client systems, agency policies and procedures, safety concerns, supervision expectations and requirements, casework requirements, legal and ethical requirements, etc.
  2. Substantial amount of client contact with approximately 50% of the time at the internship involving direct work with clients. The student is expected to eventually begin carrying a small caseload of his/her own.
  3. Exposure to one or more theoretical practice frameworks (with individuals, couples, families, or groups), either directly or through observation.
  4. Experience with case management and networking responsibilities.
  5. Experience with case recording and developing intervention plans.
  6. Completion of a bio-psychosocial assessment, process recordings, and/or video or audio recordings with feedback from the field educator.
  7. Exposure to agency administrative meetings, policies and procedures, and case staffings.
  8. Exposure to inter-agency meetings or staffings.
  9. Exposure to a diverse client population.
  10. Exposure to advocacy experiences on a macro level, if possible.
  11. Completion of an educational plan outlining specific learning objectives and activities consistent with the objectives of the student’s concentration.
  12. Provision of open communication with the field educator and faculty liaison on the quality of field experiences and learning needs, in addition to areas of concern.
  13. Opportunity to participate in an agency-based research project, if possible.