Academic journal article
By Sherer, Moshe; Peleg-Oren, Neta
Journal of Social Work Education , Vol. 41, No. 2
FIELD PRACTICE IN SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION is the central mechanism for transmitting theoretical knowledge into the practical level of work (Euster, 1999; Schneck, Grossman, & Glassman, 1991; Vayda & Bogo, 1991). What social work students do during their fieldwork is a crucial issue for social work education. This study deals with the extent to which academic teachers (teachers), field instructors (instructors), and students agree on what social work students do in their fieldwork and how they rank the importance of these activities.
In social work, field experience has largely been studied as it relates to the level of practice methodology, the description of relationships with clients, the supervision process, or the agency (Fortune, McCarthy, & Abramson, 2001; Henderson, Stringer, Cawyer, & Watkins, 1999; Itzhaky & Eliahu, 1999; Knight, 2000, 2001). While fieldwork is a critical component in the social work educational process, the issue of what students actually do during their fieldwork has been only minimally studied in a systematic and scholarly way (Cuzzi, Holden, Chernack, Rutter, & Rosenberg, 1997; Fortune & Abramson, 1993; Knight, 1997, 2000, 2001; Reisch & Jarman-Rohde, 2000; Vayda & Bogo, 1991). Thus, Kadushin (1991) indicated that although field instruction is the most significant part of social work education, it has not had the benefit of sufficient studies by social work researchers.
Little documentation concerning student perceptions of their own training exists, a puzzling circumstance in light of research showing that students perceive their field instruction as the most important part of their studies (Raskin, 1989). Students' degrees of satisfaction and the variables affecting this are the main areas that have been examined (Cohen & Cohen, 1998; Fernandez, 1998; Fortune & Abramson, 1993).
The typical social work program is based on the premise that preparation for professional practice requires a core of knowledge and practical experience that is achieved through supervised training in the field. Teachers, along with field instructors, ensure that social work students will successfully integrate theory into their practice (Knight, 2000; Schneck, 1991; Tolson & Kopp, 1988). Several approaches exist concerning the philosophy and goals of field instruction and its design (Ramsey, 1989). The approach articulated by Brauns and Kramer (1986), by Spiro (2001), and by Spiro, Sherer, Korin-Langer, and Weiss (1998), wherein theoretical studies exist alongside professional studies in the field, is accepted in Israel. The field experience promotes a synthesis between academic forces and practical work in the field via investigation and the performance of interventions in a guided process with the aim of ensuring proper and controlled development of the student (Zastrow, 1994).
Each side of the learning triangle--teachers, field instructors, and students--plays its own part in developing the professional social worker. The academic teachers are at the center of the triangle. They teach intervention areas and play a major role in advancing theory: They convey skills and attitudes, teaching and learning styles in the classroom and in the field, and the goals of supervision in the field. Teachers are expected to direct and monitor student field education (Fernandez, 1998; Fortune et al., 1985). They work in coordination with field instructors in developing student study habits and the desired form of instruction. Together teachers and field instructors rate and evaluate students' professional development.
A few studies have investigated the roles field instructors play in socializing students to the profession and in transmitting key knowledge, values, and skills (Abram, Hartung, & Wernet, 2000; Bogo & Vayda, 1987). Instructors (usually part-time employees of a local agency) act as field teachers and evaluators, imparting theory and skills and assessing student progress (Schwaber, 1994). …