The Field Educator, an online journal produced by the Simmons School of Social Work, promotes knowledge exchange among the social work field education community.

Volume 8.1 | Spring 2018


Hope in Movements

We are living in a time of political tumult and moral disgrace. Political leanings aside, there is no way to reconcile our social work values with the behavior of those who lead us. Integrity has yielded to moral brokenness; truth is elusive; and our basic sense of safety is challenged. We ask our students to raise their voices for social justice, and we aspire to be their role models in so doing. In this recent chapter in our history, the task at hand is the proverbial boulder to be pushed up a mountain.

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Field Scholar

Admission of Master’s Degree Students with Criminal Backgrounds: Implications for Field Directors



This study was designed to explore Master of Social Work programs’ policies when admitting students with criminal backgrounds and the implications of this practice for field directors. The issue of students with criminal records is a challenging one for social work programs and the responsibility is often left solely to the field director. In this study, field directors participated in an online survey related to perceived challenges, gate-keeping practices, and policy development. Findings and recommendations are discussed.

Keywords: criminal background checks, field director, social work field education
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Using a modified version of an existing documentation review worksheet, researchers conducted an exploratory study that examined the quality of documentation among senior BSW social work majors in their last semester, in which they complete a 500-hour field practicum. Results showed that one percent of students documented a client strength and 45.9 percent of students did not sign the document. Additionally, 96 percent of the documents were legible, and 81 percent of students included service provision in their documentation. Recommendations for further research and suggestions for replication are included.

Keywords: documentation, BSW students, writing skills standards
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wheat thrips



This study describes the development and implementation of a Vignette-Based Skills Assessment (VBSA) tool to provide a holistic evaluation of social work student skill development and demonstration of competency in field education. Study participants consisted of 58 foundation-year students from the full-time and part-time cohorts. Students were administered the VBSA at the onset of the academic year in the beginning phase of their field practicum and at the end of the year in the late phase of the field practicum. Results demonstrated statistically significant increases in students’ mastery of seven of the nine social work competencies. Score were also compared to field instructor annual evaluation of student progress but showed inconsistent correlation. Vignette-based assessment methods have demonstrated merit to effectively measure student practice skill progression over time, augmenting field instructor ratings on student practice behaviors. Secondary benefits include early detection and intervention with students who are not meeting minimum standards of practice. Challenges and limitations of the study include the length of time involved in scoring VBSAs and the need for additional research to establish validity and inter-rater reliability of the tool. Implications and opportunities for VBSA use in field evaluation and social work program outcomes evaluation are discussed.

Keywords: field education, social work, competency, student assessment, evaluation

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Practice Digest




Historically, social work practice has occurred within the confines of what can be described as a bidirectional flow of social justice. Along with great strides forward, setbacks occur. Nevertheless, the unrelenting call for social workers to fight for social justice and to educate others for this fight remains the same. A deeply rooted commitment within the Grand Challenges of Social Work stems directly from the profession’s fundamental principle of promoting social justice and equal opportunity for all (Uehara et al., 2013). Schools of social work strive to not only educate students to understand the ways in which privilege, oppression, marginalization, and powerlessness contribute to systematic inequalities, but also to fulfill the profession’s mission by equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed to promote social justice (Finn, 2016; Reisch & Garvin, 2016). Whereas classroom instruction can successfully teach the concepts of social justice, translating this theoretical knowledge to practice in real-world settings is an essential component of social work field education (Battle & Hill, 2016). Given the experiential, hands-on nature of the field practicum, field education programs are uniquely positioned to shape students’ self-identities as social work professionals and enhance students’ understanding of social justice work in action. During the field practicum, students gain firsthand experience in applying a social justice lens to their practice of social work through direct interactions with field instructors, client systems, field advisors, and other social work students.
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In the last few years, there is increasing awareness that race and racial disparity continue to persist in significant ways in many, if not all, areas of society. This awareness was heightened, in large part, due to police shootings of unarmed African-Americans as well as current political rhetoric. Social workers can be leaders in bridging the racial equity gap in our field and in the larger society. The profession has a history of addressing macro-level issues and understands how systems impact individuals. This manuscript explores one project that has been developed and implemented over the past two academic years in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area and that can be used as a model for other programs interested in addressing issues of racial inequity.
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Laying the Foundation for a Competency Based Remediation Process: Lessons Learned

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In 2008, the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) identified field education as the signature pedagogy of social work education. As social work educators, we are charged with providing students the opportunity to learn and to be successful in the field, while also acting as gatekeepers of the social work profession. Currer (2009) suggests that it is critical to find a balance between “allegiance to individual learners” and protecting the profession of social work and its future clients. However, current literature provides little guidance as how to best assist students who are not successfully demonstrating the competencies in their field placements. This paper will discuss how the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) School of Social Work Field Education Office developed a remediation process for addressing (and preventing) placement issues and assists students in connecting the competencies with their performance in field.
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Spiraling Organizational Change: A Campus Conversion to Online Programming

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Educational institutions face many social, political, and environmental influences that affect their operations. For example, higher education programs have remained competitive by launching online educational opportunities. As a result, institutions are now able to reach a maximum audience, increasing both accessibility for students and profitability for education providers. Social work has embraced online education in part to respond to the increasing demand for master’s level social workers (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE], 2017) and as a way to increase the number of social work professionals in previously underserved rural and remote communities (Cummings, Chaffin & Cockerham, 2015; Reinsmith-Jones, Kibbe, Crayton & Campbell, 2015). As with most businesses, schools of social work must be aware of the external environment and act nimbly if they wish to maximize quality and minimize barriers for students. As social work education relies heavily on the goodwill of community-based agencies to host students for their 900-hour internship requirement (CSWE, 2015), social work administrators need to pay attention to the impact of their own internal organizational changes on external agency partners. Additionally, change in the structure of external agency partners necessitates change in the social work program (Rothwell, Sullivan, Kim, Park, & Donahue, 2015).




[Editor’s Note: This issue’s conversation features an interview with Suzanne Sankar, MSW Executive Editor of Field Educator, and Leila Wood, PhD, LMSW, Research Assistant Professor at the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work. Dr. Wood discusses her research with Dr. Carrie Moylan on sexual harassment experienced by social work students in field placement. A summary of their article on this topic is in this issue’s What We’re Reading section.]

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What We're Reading

Recent Articles of Note

Staying current with scholarship enriches the work of field educators: it teaches us innovative ways to solve perennial field problems, suggests new readings for field seminars, keeps us abreast of current debates in social work education, and even inspires us in our own writing on theory and research. “What We’re Reading” presents our brief summaries of the findings of recent publications in field education. Our emphasis is on implications for practice. Readers are encouraged to suggest articles or books for future review.
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[Editor’s Note: Theresa Kelly McPartlin was named winner of the 2017 Heart of Social Work Award at the Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting in Dallas, TX on October 21st, 2017. The award is presented annually by the North American Network of Field Educators and Directors in recognition of a field instructor that has made exemplary contributions to field education and the social work profession. What follows is taken from the remarks made by Carey Winkler, Director of BSW Field Education for the School of Social Work at St. Catherine University & the University of St. Thomas, at the award presentation and in her nomination submission in support of Ms. McPartlin as an excellent candidate for the award.]



The Field Educator is an online journal published by the Simmons School of Social Work that promotes knowledge exchange among the social work field education community. (615) 729-7263