Experiential Learning

Field Instruction: The Convergence of Theory and Practice

The School of Social Work offers field education opportunities within in the Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) programs. The field placement experience is the signature pedagogy of social work education. Field experience is an integral part of a social work student’s socialization to the profession. “The intent of field education is to connect the theoretical and conceptual contribution of the classroom with the practical world of the practice setting” (CSWE, 2008). The challenge and excitement of applying knowledge, values and skills brings to life the multi-dimensional aspects of social work practice. Field education is critical for a student to attain the requisite competencies of the social work profession.

The office of field instruction values the relationships, collaboration and resources that are essential for creating a unique and educationally sound experience. This site is designed to assist both students and field instructors to navigate successfully through the field experience.

BSSW/Undergraduate Program

Field learning occurs in the fourth year with the 500 hour social work practicum and related field seminar courses. The practicum occurs across 2 semester of one academic year. Students are placed in social work settings for a minimum of sixteen hours a week, which meets the requirements for earning five credits per semester. Concurrently, students attend a campus-based field seminar, for which they earn one additional credit per semester.

The BSSW placement emphasizes generalist social work practice at the micro, mezzo and macro levels. This internship is intended to broadly provide exposure to different social work responsibilities and functions. The students, in their practice, work towards mastery of the program core competencies.

MSW/Graduate Program

Field learning occurs throughout the graduate social work curriculum, requiring two (2) separate internships, foundation level and concentration level. Each internship is a minimum of 500 hours and occurs across two (2) semesters of one academic year. Students are placed in social work settings for a minimum of sixteen hours a week, meeting the requirements for earning three credits per semester.

The foundation level internship emphasizes generalist social work practice at the micro, mezzo and macro levels. Students learn how to advance human rights and social, economic and environmental justice, using a range of engagement, assessment, intervention and evaluation methods in their practice with individual, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Students will develop their identity as a social work professional, while applying ethical principles and critical thinking in practice. Students will also learn how to engage in policy and research informed practice, while developing an understanding of the importance and influence of diversity and difference in shaping a person’s life experiences.

The concentration level internship, either advanced clinical practice (ACP) or advanced integrated practice (AIP), focuses on a deeper understanding of specific knowledge, values, skills, and cognitive and affective processes consistent with each concentration area.

ACP students learn to practice as clinical social workers. Students engage with individuals, families and/or groups to learn clinical assessment, diagnosis, research informed interventions and evaluation skills. Students will learn how to incorporate clinical practices compatible with a client’s culture and values, in addition to identifying barriers to treatment due to prejudice, oppression, privilege and power. Students also develop an understanding of mental health related issues and policies that affect and inform clinical practice settings.

AIP students learn to effectively navigate multiple levels of social work practice by engaging in varied professional roles and/or functions. Students develop advanced skills in engagement, assessment, research-informed interventions and evaluation at the direct and/or indirect practice level, by working on with multi-disciplinary teams in community-based settings. Students learn to incorporate social work practices compatible with client, organizational and/or community cultures and values, as well as, developing advocacy strategies that address and alleviate causes of oppression. Students also learn how to modify existing policy or develop new policy at the agency, local, state, or federal levels, in order to positively affect social work practice and delivery systems.