4 Ways to Make Field Placements Easier for Field Instructors and Students

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Field education is the signature pedagogy of your social work program and a central form of instruction and learning for your students. This is their first hands-on experience and has a lasting impact on their career as well as being necessary for them to achieve gainful employment and or licensure. As their academic program partner, it’s your responsibility to find qualified sites that will provide a valuable educational experience to your students.

How your students perform at their field placements reflects on your program, making it a key investment not just from a relationship-building view but also from a competitive one. However, programs don’t have much control over what actually happens during a student’s field placement and rely on field instructors who are willing to go above and beyond their normal responsibilities to help your students.

Luckily, there are a few simple ways that you, as the academic program, can make field placements easier for both your students and the all-important field instructors. Keep reading to learn more!

What Success Means to Schools, Sites, and Students

Before diving into what makes field placement easier, it’s important to understand what makes one successful and what can harm one. By understanding what programs, sites, and students want to achieve and avoid during the experience, it will benefit everyone involved and lead to a fruitful relationship between your program and the site. Without a clear picture of what success and failure mean to each party, misunderstandings and frustrations will arise that can harm the relationship.

First, it’s important to understand what all parties want out of the experience.

  • Programs want solid relationships with sites that offer a high-quality experience for students which will help them achieve gainful employment and in some cases, licensure.. Ideally, these sites will offer a wide variety of experiences that align with your students’ professional identity goals. 
  • Sites want students that are well-matched to their specialty and programs that are easy to work with.
  • Students want a hands-on experience that not only counts towards their hours needed for graduation but also confirms their passion for the field of social work. .

Next, understand what each party wants to avoid.

  • Programs want to avoid partnering with sites that do not help prepare their students for their careers in social work and struggle with communication.
  • Sites want to avoid working with programs that have high demands without providing resources or solutions to frustrations.
  • Students want to avoid missing out on needed hours for graduation and subpar educational experiences.

With this in mind, it’s also important to understand that at the heart of the partnership are the field instructors. They’re the ones managing your students and making the placement a success. Equipping them with tools to make their lives easier will reap dividends for your program, your partnership, and your students. Field Instructors play a crucial role in shaping the career trajectory of social work students. However, managing the various administrative tasks such as completing evaluations and signing off on hours can be overwhelming and put additional stress on other aspects of their job.

Here are three challenges that can arise and solutions to each to make sure programs, students, and sites all achieve a successful outcome from their shared experience while making work easier for the field instructors:

Challenge 1: Managing administrative tasks

Field Instructors take on the task of managing students on top of their regular day-to-day activities. Make their lives easier and strengthen your relationship with that site by giving them a tool that streamlines their administrative tasks by keeping them all in one place.

By reducing the amount of time they spend on managing your students, they’ll have more time and energy to make the experience a valuable one. Plus, they’ll have their nights and weekends back and will thank you for it.

Solution:

Streamline administrative tasks by keeping everything in one place. To make it even more effective, choose an online solution that will help automate processes like approving hours, filling out evaluations and completing tasks.

Challenge 2: Helping students keep track of their hours

Simplify your Field Instructors lives by empowering students to manage their path to graduation with tools like time-tracking. When students can visualize their own progress without having to keep track of papers or clunky spreadsheets that are easily lost or erased, they’ll feel more confident and be better equipped to reach their next milestone: graduation.

Solution:

Empower students with valuable tools such as time-tracking so you don’t have to manage their hours and ensure accountability across stakeholders. 

Challenge 3: Communication between Field Instructors and programs

One of the most difficult parts of field placements is communication. Emails are easily lost, phone calls turn into phone tag too often and paper is inefficient and difficult to aggregate. Yet good communication is vital for all parties involved to succeed and find the experience beneficial. Think beyond regular email and phone services to better keep track of communication and for future reference. Tools like online chats that are easily connected to what each student is doing will make reporting and communication easier.

Solution:

Make communication with the student’s field site easier and eliminate redundant emails and calls. Use a tool that can be done online, on mobile devices, and is part of the same system where field instructors approve hours and time to make it even easier for them to learn and use.

Challenge 4: Having visibility into the performance of your partner sites

You need to partner with sites that perform. However, how can you tell how your sites stack up against each other? Do you know when one is underperforming or if your students are happy with their experience? If you don’t, or if you spend too much time building reports to tell you how they’re doing, you’re missing out on valuable information and time.

Solution:

Use a tool that keeps track of students’ performances and experiences during their field placement so you can reference the data even after they’ve finished and without having to track them down and interview them.

When you can simplify the lives of your field instructors, they will appreciate it. You’re freeing up their free time and helping to reduce the stress of managing your students during their site placement. Helping field instructors will strengthen the relationship between your program and your site partners. Turn them into long-term educational partners and together, actively create a better experience for your students. And when your students are successful, your gainful employment will be positively impacted and your alumni will be more engaged with your program.

Schedule a product overview with one of our specialists to see how we can help you make field education a strength of your program and a delight for your field sites!

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