Measuring International Service Outcomes: Implications for International Social Work Field Placements
Lough, Benjamin J., McBride, Amanda Moore, Sherraden, Margaret S., Journal of Social Work Education
FIELD EDUCATION IS THE signature educational and training pedagogy of the social work profession. In recent years, approximately 20% to 30% of all schools of social work in the United States and 40% to 50% of all schools of social work in Canada reported situating students in field placements outside of their home country (Caragata & Sanchez, 2002; Panos, Pettys, Cox, & Jones, 2004). These rates are believed to be much higher than in previous decades and, given the increased focus on globalization in social work curricula, researchers expect the rates to increase (Dominelli & Bernard, 2003; Johnson, 2004; Lyons, 2006; Rowe, 2000).
International field placements have the potential to contextualize course content in the international arena and to provide a venue for students to develop the skills they need for practice in a globalized world (International Association of Schools of Social Work/ International Federation of Social Workers [IASSW/IFSW], 2005; Krajewski-Jaime, Brown, & Kaufman, 1996; Nagy & Falk, 2000; Reisch & Jarman-Rohde, 2000). As they serve in international placements, students are expected to increase their professional knowledge and cross-cultural competence, their understanding of how global issues affect local social issues, their open-mindedness about others, and their use of knowledge from other traditions to enrich domestic social work practice (Abram & Cruce, 2007; Healy, 1990; Webber, 2005).
International placements may be particularly effective in helping students meet core competencies consistent with the new accreditation standards established by the profession, which are to "recognize the global interconnections of oppression and ... the extent to which a culture's structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create or enhance privilege and power" (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE], 2008, p. 5). With shifting demographic trends and increased cultural diversity in the United States and abroad, there is heightened concern about developing culturally competent practitioners (Sue & Sue, 1999). Schools of social work have responded by facilitating international field education, and by including international content in social work courses (Krajewski-Jaime et al., 1996; Lough, 2009; Reichert, 1998).
Despite the growing prevalence of international field placements, research on student outcomes is underdeveloped, and schools of social work have not made research on outcomes of international placements a priority (Caragata & Sanchez, 2002). Consequently, what specifically changes the student's experience--or if these changes are always beneficial--remains unclear (Wehbi, 2009). Although a handful of descriptive studies document students' experiences in international field placements--and the potential outcomes of these experiences, these studies are difficult to generalize to other placements (Abram, Slosar, & Walls, 2005; Barlow, 2007; Boyle, Nackerud, & Kilpatrick, 1999; Pawar, Hanna, & Sheridan, 2004).
During a recent roundtable discussion at CSWE's Annual Program Meeting (APM), scholars and field educators from multiple schools discussed central principles of effective practice in international field placements (Lough, 2009). These scholars emphasized the importance of understanding and empirically documenting effective principles and practices. Additional roundtables and papers at the APM were dedicated to the importance and growing relevance of this topic to social work education, including the need to measure the outcomes of international placements on students, host agencies, and communities.
To document and understand the outcomes of international field placements in social work, this study reports on a survey instrument that measures major outcomes of international service--the International Volunteering Impacts Survey (MS). Many of the items contained in the IVIS relate to competencies listed In CSWE's Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (2008).
First we summarize expected outcomes from international placements. Next we present the methods used to validate the IVIS, reporting the results of the factor analysis and reliability analyses of identified subscales. Finally, we discuss the overall validity of the findings and implications of using the IVIS to study the impacts of international placements on social work students specifically.
International field placements in social work education are considered international volunteer service in that they are designed to benefit both the host site and students, are not strictly compulsory, and are not well remunerated (Furco, 1996; Lough, 2009; Mooney & Edwards, 2001). As a matter of practice, international volunteer-sending organizations often partner with educational institutions to make international placements available to students--thus reducing the burden on schools of social work to set up and facilitate placement details. Partnerships between international service programs and social work pedagogy emphasize the importance of linking knowledge of international volunteer service (IVS) to international field placements.
In developing the concepts measured in the IVIS, we reviewed more than 65 empirical studies that encompassed a wide range of international assignments, including volunteering, service learning, study abroad, and other experiential-based international placements (Sherraden, Lough, & McBride, 2008). These measures were designed to encompass the full range of experiential-based international placements, including internships and field placements. Across these studies, outcomes on volunteers typically focused on changes in international or development-related life plans, civic engagement, international contacts, intercultural competence, and various other skills and abilities.
Internationally Related Life Plans
Intercultural volunteer experiences are often transformative, and frequently lead to significant educational, occupational, and life changes (Cooney, 1983; Hudson, 1996; Jones, 2005). These changes in life plans may include committing to language learning, working with immigrants and refugees, confronting human trafficking, or getting involved in education or occupations that focus on international or social and economic development issues. Such changes are an important goal of international field placements, which are designed to increase students' interests in global issues and affairs (Dominelli & Bernard, 2003). As one assessment of international placement outcomes demonstrated, more than 70% of students who worked or studied in a developing country were later employed in the field of international development (Farquhar, 1999).
Civic engagement is "the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation" to promote "the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes" (Ehrlich, 2000, p. vi). This broad construct includes a range of behaviors such as volunteering, voting behaviors, community participation, philanthropy, civic activism, and media attentiveness (Jennings & Zeitner, 2003; Putnam, 2000; Verba, Schlozman, & Brady, 1995). In the IVIS, we focus on two subconcepts: civic activism and community engagement.
Civic activism focuses largely on the political processes of civic engagement. It includes boycotting, petitioning, attending political meetings, discussing politics, and contacting others to promote an issue (Norris, 2002; Pattie & Seyd, 2003). Civic activism is considered an important component of an active and inclusive democracy, social justice, socioeconomic equality, and overall civic health (Skocpol & Fiorina, 1999). Civic activism is also an essential component of social reform and of the empowerment tradition in social work practice (Abramovitz, 1998; Simon, 1994).
Community engagement, as defined in this study, is comparatively nonpolitical, and focuses on local involvement and participation. For social workers to have a positive effect on society, they must learn the importance of engaging in local community activities such as volunteering and participating in local groups, clubs, and organizations.
International Social Contacts
Volunteers frequently find that international experiences increase their international social contacts (Davis Smith, Ellis, & Howlett, 2002; Universalia, Jackson & Associates, & Salasan, 2005). These contacts include the use of personal and organizational ties or connections with those in other countries. International social contacts, which can be considered a form of social capital (Portes, 1998; Putnam, 2000), offer a variety of social and economic advantages for international volunteers (McGehee & Santos, 2005). Establishing international contacts and partnerships is imperative for students who desire to practice international social work. Previous volunteers have used international contacts to coordinate humanitarian aid projects, exchange opportunities, research trips, internships, or return trips to the host country (Lough, …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Measuring International Service Outcomes: Implications for International Social Work Field Placements. Contributors: Lough, Benjamin J. - Author, McBride, Amanda Moore - Author, Sherraden, Margaret S. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Social Work Education. Volume: 48. Issue: 3 Publication date: Fall 2012. Page number: 479+. © 1999 Council On Social Work Education. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.