Academic journal article Social Work

Changing Times: Understanding Social Workers' Motivation to Be Field Instructors

Academic journal article Social Work

Changing Times: Understanding Social Workers' Motivation to Be Field Instructors

Article excerpt

Social workers are essential to successful field education in their roles as field instructors. They link the student, the agency, and the school; teach practice knowledge and skills; and serve as mentors and role models (Bogo & Vayda, 1998). The field instructor and student relationship has the power to affect the student's learning positively or negatively and predicts satisfaction with field education (Alperin, 1998; Fortune & Abramson, 1993; Raskin, 1989). This important educational role, however, is rarely institutionalized as a formal part of a social worker's role. Rather, many social workers voluntarily provide field instruction while maintaining their regular workload. Two recent studies reported that in one-third of the field agencies surveyed social workers received no workload credit for student education (Bocage, Homonoff, & Riley, 1995; Bogo & Globerman, 1999). Furthermore, in the health field, with the shift to programmatic hospital organizations and the lack of professional departments, social workers must obtain the support of interdisciplinary teams. In these settings the social workers must negotiate their time allocations with their program directors and teams before they can volunteer to become field instructors (Globerman, 1999; Levin, Herbert, & Nutter, 1997).

Only a few studies shed light on the motivations of social workers to serve as field instructors, and all studies were conducted in an era of greater public support for social and health services. These studies found that intrinsic factors, such as enjoying teaching, contributing to the profession, and professional development and challenge through teaching, were primary motivators. Extrinsic factors, such as support, expectation, and recognition by the university and the agency, although significant, were less important to the social workers studied in the 1980s (Bogo & Power, 1992; Lacerte, Ray, & Irwin, 1989; Rosenfeld, 1989).

During the past decade, massive changes have occurred in the funding and organization of social and health services, such as decreased funding for welfare and human services, downsizing and restructuring in health services, increased privatization, and the proliferation of managed care. Social workers are expected to increase productivity and accountability in their practices while handling their own anxieties about their professional careers (Globerman, 1999; Jarman-Rohde, McFall, Kolar, & Strom, 1997). The commitment of agencies and the motivation of individual social workers to continue to collaborate with schools of social work in field education occur in this complex and unsettled context. Concerns exist about the likelihood that social workers will be able to continue to offer field instruction in this climate, but factors that contribute to their decisions to continue are not known. The purpose of this study is to understand the nature of social workers' motivations in the context of current organizati onal pressures. The findings can help agencies, schools, and the profession to better support those contributing to the preparation of the next generation of social work practitioners.

Method

To ensure the maintenance and development of quality field education programs in the context of current dramatic and significant changes to organizations, we undertook a multimethod exploratory study. The study tested our analytic framework for studying interorganizational relationships (Bogo & Globerman, 1995) and identified the significant components of these relationships for field education (Bogo & Globerman, 1999). Field instructors' and educational coordinators' experiences of relations between the university and the field were explored. One of the objectives of the research was to identify the factors that motivate field agencies to collaborate with universities. This article reports on an aspect of this research--the motivations of social workers to offer field instruction. …

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