You are about to embark on a challenging course of study that will encourage you to think beyond yourself, to ask the most complex questions, and to try out your knowledge and skills in the arena of practical experience. As you struggle with ideas and test them in the real world, you will have the opportunity to explore, to grow, and to become well educated for a career in social work. The College of Social Work Faculty, Field Instructors, and Practicum Professors form a partnership that will support you, challenge you, and help you become a professional social worker who acts compassionately, thoughtfully, and in keeping with the NASW Code of Ethics. You will apply principles and standards as you encounter ethical dilemmas and, in good faith, seek to make reliable ethical judgments. The Faculty, your Field Instructor, and your Practicum Professor are prepared to guide you in all these efforts.
Philosophy of Field Education
Field education is an integral and necessary part of social work education. It is every bit as important as other parts of the curriculum and its purpose is fundamental to a sound education in social work. Field education, the field placement, is the opportunity for students to “try out” or “practice” the practice of social work. Under the direction of a well-versed and competent social worker who enjoys working with students, student social workers are given the opportunity–sometimes forced to seize the opportunity–to try out their ideas and skills, to test themselves, to find out how to practice social work, how to “be” a social worker. Through the field education partnership, the right opportunities must be found for student learning, assuring that students have a variety of experiences and that there is some growing depth to what students do and to what is expected of them.
One of the real components in a successful field education program lies in something simple but often very hard to do–and that is for Field Instructors, Practicum Professors, and students to engage in on-going, candid, meaningful dialogue about the educational process, about professional social work practice, about community agencies, about research, and about the social work curriculum.
One axiom must be kept in mind–that field education is about the education of individual students, one-by-one. The very essence of field education involves the individual student’s goals, learning style, history, aspirations, fears, worries, intelligence, and energy. This is not to say that students are not expected to conform to some group norms, to agency policies or to the agreed upon standards for ethical conduct and professional behavior. But rather to underscore the fact that each student will approach field education experiences in very different ways, will process experiences differently, will see different things, and will ask different questions of their field instructors and practicum professors. And so, the process of learning in the field is both highly individualized and highly idiosyncratic, even while group expectations and norms are set and students are expected to abide by those.
The College of Social Work wants to educate students in the most up-to-date and fitting ways in order for graduates to take their places along side Field Instructors across the Commonwealth. Complex social problems compel the College to graduate not only social workers who can effectively puzzle through issues and whose ethical conduct is irreproachable, but also social workers who are willing to take some bold risks to make their communities better places for everyone.
Pamela Weeks, J.D., MSW
Director of Field Education
641 Patterson Office Tower