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: