Field instruction is a major curriculum area utilizing experience-centered learning as its primary instructional method. It gives students actual problem-solving experiences at progressive levels of complexity, and a real world look at social work. Many students find that the field experience is one of the most significant and memorable aspects of their professional program.
All accredited social work education programs offer field instruction as a requirement for professional training. Some programs have invested a great deal of time and creativity in developing the field infrastructure, program administration, placement process, field supervision and range of placement opportunities for students. The field experience can be greatly enhanced when supported within the context of a well-developed field program.
Field instruction at the School of Social Work is a key component of the undergraduate and graduate programs. It involves actual work experience in the field, as well as instruction.
Historically, the School has received high marks from students for their field instruction experiences. These experiences have helped students validate the decision to make social work their profession of choice. The School has developed a wide range of placement opportunities and a strong administrative framework for the field instruction program.
In recent years, the Director of Field Education has expanded placement opportunities for students to more than three hundred locations, and use of technology assists students with the selection process. A sophisticated database program, unique to the School, allows students to learn about potential placement sites.
Many other enhancements have been incorporated into field instruction to help students solidify their learning experience through visual and qualitative expression. These creative advances have helped refine the supervision process between field instructor and student.
The School’s unique contribution to social work education is furthered through the development of field experiences directly related to social welfare needs and resources in the state of Missouri. Some of these needs are reflected in the social problems attendant to a population in rural-urban transition. Others are a result of issues facing children and families today. Many are centered around issues of mental health; physical health; and policy, planning and administration. The School works closely with those in state government with the state capitol, Jefferson City, only 30 miles away. Many placements are made within state government and political arenas.
Throughout Missouri, agency resources are utilized as well as the instructional services of highly qualified, experienced field faculty. Most field placements are in the state; however, national and international placements can be arranged.
Undergraduate Field Practicum is a six-credit hour (400 clock hours) course taken in the third (fall) semester of the Professional BSW Core. Students begin field instruction one week prior to the beginning of the semester and spend 24 hours per week (usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday) in a field placement agency assigned by the Director of Field Education. These placement assignments are generally made within the local area.
The field placement objectives are based on the generalist perspective of social work practice and include integrating social work theory and practice; reinforcing understanding of social work principles, concepts and values; developing social work practice skills; developing self understanding and a professional awareness of self; learning to use supervision and feedback constructively, developing a beginning knowledge of agency functioning and the community service delivery system, learning to perform a specific social work role in a human services agency, expanding concrete knowledge of social policy issues, refining personal work habits, time management, and communication skills, identifying personal strengths and weaknesses, and reinforcing identification with the social work profession.
Graduate Field Practicum I is a six-credit hour (24 clock hours per week) course taken in the spring semester of the first year of the graduate program.
Graduate Field Practicum II is a twelve-credit hour course taken in the spring semester of the second graduate year. The student’s Block placement is reflective of the chosen concentration area.
Within the graduate program, the specific learning objectives of field instruction are predicated on mastery of generic practice skills developed within the generalist framework. These include behavioral achievement and integration of the following components of skill: management of the social work process, including data collection, problem assessment, and implementation of phases identified with specific interventions; maintenance of professional relationships as this pertains to significant dynamics in working with clientele; mastery of communication skills in a variety of interventive and organizational contexts; knowledge and skill in the dynamics and use of organizational structure and behavior, both as it relates to the significance of agency policies and as it relates to relations with clients and the community at large.
The content of the individualized learning plan is created through collaboration between the student, the faculty section instructor, and the agency-based field instructor. The learning plan designates specific objective competencies and the learning experiences required to meet them within the context of student interest, concentration, the agency capabilities, and school standards of performance.
MSW students may be eligible to use their place of paid employment as the field practicum under certain conditions. A written request must be submitted to the Director of Field Education, who negotiates and directly monitors arrangements.
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