Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Supervising Students Developmentally: Evaluating a Seminar for New Field Instructors

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Supervising Students Developmentally: Evaluating a Seminar for New Field Instructors

Article excerpt

FIELD INSTRUCTORS PROVIDE STUDENTS with arguably the most sustained individualized educational experience of their social work education, yet they often receive little training for this vital role (Abramson & Fortune, 1990; Raschick, Maypole, & Day, 1998). Social work experts in field education continue to mention training for field instructors, especially in learning theories, as a major gap (Raskin, 1983, 1994). Although social work practitioners can transfer some of their practice knowledge and skills to the new role of field instructor, the role also requires specialized knowledge and skills, such as how to structure supervision, provide effective feedback, establish learning objectives, and help students develop a professional identity (Caspi & Reid, 2002; Hawkins & Shohet, 2000; Kadushin & Harkness, 2002). Borders (1992) describes learning to think like a supervisor as a cognitive shift from assuming a counseling role (focused on either facilitating the student's personal growth or indirectly treating the client through the student) to an educational role focused on the student's learning needs. Learning to become a field instructor entails developing a supervisory sell a process as complex as MSW students' development of a professional self (Reardon, 1988; Urdang, 1999).

Schools of social work typically offer new field instructors an orientation that addresses such areas as learning contracts, evaluations, the school's curriculum, and the transition from practitioner to educator (Lacerte & Ray, 1991). However, few models to train new field instructors have been fully developed and empirically tested. The only empirically tested seminar for new field instructors that was located included content on how to provide a learning environment, develop a learning contract, conduct supervisory conferences, utilize process recordings, and establish expectations for student performance and evaluation (Abramson & Fortune, 1990). The seminar was evaluated by comparing data from students whose field instructors took part in the 10-session seminar with students of those field instructors who did not. According to student evaluations, trained field instructors differed significantly from those who were untrained in providing feedback on process recordings, linking process recordings to practice models, generating discussion of students' learning needs, and providing a more structured learning experience.

Some training models target a specific skill. Rogers and McDonald (1992) taught critical thinking skills to field instructors to help them conceptualize supervision in critically reflective ways and model reflective practice for their students. Field instructors completing this 10-week course scored higher on a standardized measure of critical thinking than a control group, but the study did not measure field instructors' actual supervisory performance. Other models have been developed to teach field instructors how to use single subject research designs (Doueck & Kasper, 1990), and decrease avoidant behaviors in addressing diversity issues (Armour, Bain, & Rubio, 2004). Raschick et al. (1998) based their field instructor training on teaching Kolb learning theory to assist field instructors in recognizing various learning styles and determining which teaching methods would be most effective with a student's particular style.

The training model used in this study is based on teaching field instructors how to identify affective, behavioral, and cognitive changes that MSW students typically undergo during the course of their social work education and how to modify their supervisory approach to meet students' changing educational needs. The only previous model (Reardon, 1988) located that taught field instructors the stages of MSW student development was based on Saari's (1989) model of clinical learning. Using supervisory vignettes pre- and post training Reardon found that, following six training sessions, field instructors were better able to assess student behaviors using a developmental framework, generate learning goals and strategies appropriate to students' developmental needs, and meet students' learning needs, rather than attempt to indirectly treat students' clients. …

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