Agency Field Manual
The Placement Process
The field practicum experience from beginning to end is seen as a six-step process:
- SW 443 - Pre-Practicum
Students enroll in this class the semester prior to their field practicum. The Department Field Coordinator is the instructor. By the end of the semester all students are finalized into a field practicum placement in an agency.
- Engagement with Agency
That following semester the field practicum begins. During the engagement phase of the field practicum, the student and agency Field Instructor begin to build the foundation for a positive and successful field practicum. To relieve student anxiety, an orientation experience introducing the agency, policies and procedures and the field practicum role is undertaken. Field Instructors also ask students to suggest orientation topics.
- Learning Contract
Each student comes to the field practicum with a draft Learning Contract that lists student's objectives for the experience. During the first two weeks of the field practicum, the student and the Field Instructor work together to review the draft Learning Contract, incorporate additional learning objectives, and complete the tasks/strategies, timeline, and evaluation columns. During the Faculty Liaison's first visit to the agency, (approximately the third week of the placement) the Learning Contract is reviewed and discussed.
The Learning Contract:
- Serves as the plan for the student's learning during the field practicum;
- Provides a basis for accountability and minimizes the possibility of misunderstandings;
- Provides the student with a sense of progress and professional accomplishment as portions are completed; and
- Is the focus for ongoing conversation between the student, the Field Instructor, and the Faculty Liaison.
The Learning Contract has a page for each of the nine departmental competency objectives.
Throughout the field practicum the Field Instructor and the student review progress toward achieving the objectives of the Learning Contract. There may be modification of the contract, addition of other tasks and deletion of tasks that are no longer possible or desirable to meet. The contract is a working document used to facilitate the professional development of the student.
Evaluation of the student's performance is conducted both formally and informally throughout the field practicum. Informal evaluation is done on an ongoing basis as the Field Instructor provides feedback to the student on his/her work in the field practicum. Generally this occurs during the weekly supervisory sessions between the Field Instructor and the student. Students also discuss their field practica in their Senior Seminar (SW 445).
Written evaluations are done at mid- field practicum and at the end of the field practicum. The evaluation form provided by the University serves as the formal evaluation tool. A copy of the evaluation is then given to the Faculty Liaison at the end of the semester.
SW 444 (the 12-credit field practicum experience) is graded "S", satisfactory or "U", unsatisfactory. The Faculty Liaison, with input from the agency Field Instructor, is responsible for the final grade turned in to the Registrar. If there are indications that the student is not performing at a level necessary to receive a satisfactory grade, the Field Instructor and Faculty Liaison must talk with the student as soon as possible allowing an opportunity for improved performance. SW 445 (the 3 credit Friday seminar) is graded "A - F", with grades based upon participation and assignment output.
- Termination of Placement
A student's field practicum terminates when the student has completed 480 hours over a one-semester period of time. The student however must continue their field practicum through the fifteenth week of the semester. The goal is to have practice experience over a sixteen-week period of time, not to "get hours in" so as to terminate the field practicum early.
As stated in the contract between the placement agency and the Department of Social Work, the Faculty Liaison, the agency Field Instructor, or the student has the option of terminating a field practicum with due cause and notice to all three parties. Due cause is considered a breach in the provisions outlined in the Learning Contract, a significant problem with the student's learning, a breakdown in the supervisory relationship that is hindering student's learning, inadequate performance on the part of the student, or other problems that make it advisable for the student to discontinue his/her field practicum.
If there are problems or concerns on the part of the student or the Field Instructor that are irresolvable through discussion and negotiation, the Faculty Liaison should be notified as soon as possible so that a meeting can be held to discuss the situation and take action as necessary.