Field education graduates to new levels

Mar 3, 2015

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Field education in social work has reached a new level of importance, says Jo Ann McFall, associate director of Field Education and Community Programs at Michigan State University School of Social Work.

Social work field education helps lay the groundwork for students to create their professional identities, experts say. Field education was elevated in significance after the Council on Social Work Education named it the signature pedagogy of social work education. / Thinkstock/Getty images

“Field education is in the most exciting place it has been in the 35 years that I have been involved since I was a student,” said McFall, who also is chairwoman of the Council on Social Work Education’s Council on Field Education.

“One significant change is that field education was named the signature pedagogy of social work education as part of the CSWE 2008 Education Policy and Accreditation Standards,” she said.

CSWE uses the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards to accredit baccalaureate- and master’s-level social work programs. These standards support academic excellence by establishing thresholds for professional competence.

Field education integrates the theoretical and conceptual contributions of the classroom with the practical world of the practice setting. As the signature pedagogy, field education is the way in which students are educated for and socialized to the profession, McFall explained.

The two interrelated aspects of the curriculum, field and classroom, stand on equal ground. And because field education is the signature pedagogy, competence is measured, she said.

“This transformation has elevated the value of field education in the minds of not only social work educators, but also for the organizations and agencies that are responsible for student’s field experience,” she added.

Accredited schools of social work have been determining their curricula based on the new standards since 2009.

As of this year, all accredited social work schools are using the competency-based education standards, which ensures consistency in the social work curriculum regardless of the size or location of the school.

“In my day, the field education component was more an apprenticeship model,” McFall said. “You learned as you went and did whatever your field instructor assigned. Now, we have a defined curriculum with consistent professional competencies.”

From the March 2015 NASW News. Read the full story here.