Role of field instructors
The field is where theory turns into practice.
Students have the opportunity to put what they have learned in class by working in community settings in service to others. Field experiences are intended to help students apply the knowledge and skills of social work practice. None of this is possible without the support and commitment of our field agencies and field instructors.
Access our field database
We organize and track our students and placements through the use of our field database,Tevera. It is important to keep this up to date as much as possible, especially with the appropriate contact person. The username for this database is the email address of the contact person and whatever password this person has selected. If the login information is lost, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your agency has a new employee who wants to be a field instructor for us, please have them email email@example.com. As part of a CSWE-accredited school of social work, the Office of Field Education must approve each new field instructor.
Working with students
As a field instructor, you will mentor students during their field experiences with an agency. You and the student will create a learning plan that will specify what the student will learn and how the learning will take place, and you will provide supervision to help the student stay on track.
Field instructor responsibilities
Describe and explain what is expected of the student during their internship with the agency. Within the first few weeks of fieldwork, the student will complete a working contract that will specify the agreement between the two of you regarding the student’s weekly schedule.
It's important to model ethical practice and refrain from any inappropriate or unethical behavior toward the student.
Provide the student with an orientation to the agency and its purpose, structure, policies, procedures and ethical standards of practice.
Assign duties and responsibilities that help the student develop a broad range of social work knowledge and skills at multiple levels that are appropriate to the student’s learning needs and that are progressively demanding and challenging. Within the first few weeks of fieldwork, the student, with your help, will need to create a learning plan that will specify what the student will learn and how the learning will take place and, specifically, how the student will practice the behaviors that are part of the core competencies of their level.
Throughout the field experience, work with the student to expand the their opportunities to learn.
Provide regularly scheduled supervision to the student, at least one hour a week. To encourage the student to own their responsibility for making these supervisions productive and bridge connections between experiences in the field and what they are learning in the classroom, students must prepare a list of topics or issues they wish to discuss in the form of a conference agenda.
Monitor the student’s work and progress and regularly provide feedback and constructive criticism. One integral method for doing this uses process recordings. Make sure to evaluate the student’s performance in a fair, respectful and thorough manner.
You will also meet with the student and field liaison regularly during each semester to discuss the internship and the student’s progress.
Note: It's important to also include the student in regular staff meetings and staff training whenever possible.
Student performance as a learner and a practitioner should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. Students are encouraged to ask for ongoing feedback during their weekly supervision conferences. Complete all evaluation forms and reports required by the school. We ask that you inform your field liaison immediately if significant concerns are noted. There are also two formal evaluation periods each semester (this varies with our ASP and block courses): The midsemester verbal evaluation and the final written evaluation.
About process recordings
Students are required to write at least one process recording each month and submit it to field instructors for written feedback.
Process recordings are an integral part of the learning experience in the field. They provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their work, build self-awareness and share their experiences and thoughts with you, and teach them how to relate theory to practice. The focus of any process recording could be work with an individual, family or couple; a small client group; a professional meeting; or a critical analysis of macro practice.
Process Recording 101 for Students has been developed as a resource to help students get the most out of this educational assignment; it might be useful for you to review this as well.
We are here to help
Each student and field instructor is assigned a faculty field liaison from the VCU School of Social Work who is primarily responsible for facilitating student learning that takes place in the field. The field liaison will monitor the student’s progress, advocate for appropriate educational opportunities and evaluate the student’s achievements.
In addition, the field liaison will meet with you and your student together periodically throughout the year to evaluate learning opportunities and the student’s growth. The field liaison is also available to you for support. Your field liaison is available for consultation regarding appropriate learning activities, to provide you with resources to further facilitate student learning or to problem-solve concerns about your student, agency or the placement situation.
Access the field education manual
The VCU School of Social Work field education manual is required reading for all students and field instructors and contains detailed information about the expectations and policies of field education.
Review documents and forms
Looking for a form or handbook? Access the following and more on our documents and forms page:
Find upcoming dates and deadlines
It is important to stay informed of important dates, which we post to the Office of Field Education field instructor calendar.