Role of field instructors
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 students have the opportunity to put what they have learned in class into finding their professional selves by being at an agency, in addition to learning and then applying the knowledge and skills of social work practice. In the classroom, they are learning to know and understand; in the field, they are learning to do.
It is only with your help that we can be a center of excellence for social work education. Thank you.
Role of field instructors
- Describe and explain what is expected of the student during their internship with the agency. Within the first few weeks of field, the student will complete a working contract that will specify the agreement between the two of you regarding the student’s weekly schedule.
- Provide the student with an orientation to the agency and its purpose, structure, policies, procedures and ethical standards of practice.
- Provide regularly scheduled supervision to the student, at least one hour a week. To encourage the student to own their responsibility for making these conferences productive and bridge connections between experiences in 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.
- Include the student in regular staff meetings and staff training whenever possible.
- 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 field, 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.
- Work with the student to expand the their opportunities to learn.
- Monitor the student’s work and progress and regularly provide feedback and constructive criticism. One integral method for doing this uses process recordings. See below for more information and links to templates and other resources.
- Evaluate the student’s performance in a fair, respectful and thorough manner.
- Meet with the student and field liaison regularly during each semester to discuss the internship and the student’s progress.
- 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 mid-semester verbal evaluation and the final written evaluation.
- Model ethical practice and refrain from any inappropriate or unethical behavior toward the student.
Students are required to write at least one process recording each month and submit it to you for feedback. Process recordings are an integral part of the learning experience in field. They provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their work, build self-awareness, 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
We are here to help you! 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. 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.
It is important to stay informed of important dates, and we will post them to the field calendar.
Field education manual
The Field Education Manual is required reading for all students and field instructors and contains more detailed information about the expectations and policies of field education.
Document and form access
To access any of the Office of Field forms or document, students and field instructors should check their email account. Forms and documents for all programs and offices are distributed biweekly by email.
For questions regarding Office of Field Education forms and documents, please contact your field liaison.
Information for agency contacts
We organize and track our students and placements through the use of our field database. 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 an updated resume with this resume cover sheet to email@example.com. As part of a CSWE-accredited school of social work, the Office of Field Education must approve each new field instructor.