Field education is integral to the social work curriculum in preparing students for professional practice. Many graduates and practicing professionals say that it was their field experience they valued most during their program. Field is where theory turns into practice, and you have the opportunity to put what you have learned in class into finding your professional self while being at an agency, in addition to learning and then applying the knowledge and skills of social work practice. In the classroom, you are learning to know and understand; in the field, you are learning to do.
For more information and assistance with school policies or technical standards, refer to the Student Policy Handbook or the Technical Standards and Essential Functions for Social Work Students.
What to expect
You will be assigned to an agency in the field, and you will have a field instructor at this agency who is responsible for assigning you tasks that provide appropriate learning opportunities and who provides you with ongoing feedback about your performance. You will meet with your field instructor at least every week for an hour to review your work, professional development, and growing knowledge and skill in applying social work concepts to practice in the field. To own your responsibility for making these conferences with your field instructor productive, you must prepare a list of topics or issues you wish to discuss in the form of a conference agenda. Within the first few weeks of being placed at an agency, you will develop a working contract that specifies the agreement between you and the field instructor regarding your weekly schedule in field.
Each student is also 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 your progress, advocate for appropriate educational opportunities and evaluate your achievements. You will meet with your liaison with a group of your peers at the beginning of the academic year to learn about expectations and then periodically throughout the year with your field instructor to evaluate your learning opportunities and growth.
Due to the nature of field education, the actual learning activities at each agency vary widely. However, there are general objectives, or core competencies, that you are expected to meet by the end of the internship. These competencies are demonstrated through your practice, as well as through several standard written assignments. Within the first few weeks of field, you will develop a learning plan with your field instructor that will specify what you will learn and how the learning will take place.
You will also be required to write at least one weekly process recording, which is an integral part of the learning experience in field. These recordings provide you the opportunity to reflect on your work, build your self-awareness, share your experiences and thoughts with your instructor, and teach you 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 you get the most out of this educational assignment.
During your time in the field, your performance as a learner and a practitioner will be evaluated on an ongoing basis. If you are not receiving ongoing feedback from your field instructor, you are encouraged to ask for it during your supervision conference. You should also have a formal, verbal mid-semester evaluation with your field instructor and a written final evaluation that you will complete with your field instructor and submit to your field liaison for final grading.
Field education manual
The Field Education Manual is required reading for all students and contains more detailed information about the expectations and policies of field education. It is important to check this first to see if your question has already been answered before asking your field liaison.
When you are ready to apply for your next field placement, submit your completed field application online.
Stay up to date by checking the VCU School of Social Work student calendar.