Academic journal article Field Educator

Social Attitudes of Field Instructors

Academic journal article Field Educator

Social Attitudes of Field Instructors

Article excerpt


As practitioners, social workers need to develop strong practice skills and be culturally competent to work effectively in cross-cultural settings. The Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE, 2008) emphasizes that social workers should "understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination; advocate for human rights and social and economic justice and engage in practices that advance social and economic justice" (p. 5). The National Association of Social Workers (National Association of Social Workers, 2001, 2007a, 2007b) provides standards and guidance to deliver culturally competent social work services. However, despite the social work professional standards for cultural competence, information and strategies to guide educators are often limited (Colvin-Burque, Davis-Maye, & Zugazaga, 2007).

Both practicing social workers and students need to be aware of the different forms of oppression and their own social attitudes that may influence their work with clients (Cross-Denny & Heyman, 2011). The field placement is a unique and critical component of social work education and facilitates students' development of competency in practice with diverse populations (Kadushin, 1991; Litvack, Mishna, & Bogo, 2010). Field instructors play a crucial role in educating social work students in the field setting by preparing them to practice without discrimination. Therefore, field instructors must also have self-awareness of their own social attitudes. The purpose of this study is to examine attitudes of field instructors in training with respect to racial and women's equality, as well as their preparedness, experience, and education.

Literature Review

The EPAS (CSWE, 2008) focus on competency-based development for professional social work through 10 competencies with 41 corresponding practice behaviors. In accordance with the Educational Policy 2.1.4 (CSWE, 2008) of "engaging diversity and difference in practice," the educational process for students incorporates the understanding of difference and the intersectionality of varying social identities that impacts a client's life experiences (Murphy, Hunt, Zajicek, Norris, & Hamilton, 2009). The NASW (2001) defines cultural competence as "the integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services, thereby producing better outcomes" (pp. 11-12). Through social work education, not only do students learn about and understand difference and develop cultural competency, but they also gain a deeper sense of their own worldviews and how their socialization process has impacted them.

As the signature pedagogy of social work education, the field setting provides social work students with socialization to the profession (Holden, Barker, Rosenberg, Kuppens, & Ferrell, 2011; Homonoff, 2008; Lyter, 2012; Miller, 2010, 2013; Shulman, 2005; Wayne, Bogo, & Raskin, 2010). The field instructor serves to model for students effective practice skills and behaviors and to instill the values and attitudes of the profession, including content on diversity and social justice (Barretti, 2007; CSWE, 2008; Mumm, 2006; Murdock, Ward, Ligon, & Jindani, 2006).

According to Weiten (2001), attitudes can be defined as "positive or negative evaluations of objects of thought" (p. 670). The link between attitudes and behavior has been underscored in earlier studies (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Allport, 1935; LaPiere, 1934; Rosenberg & Hovland, 1960). Ponterotto, Potere, and Johansen (2002) describe social attitudes and discrimination in terms of negative behaviors towards certain social groups with underlying attitudes driving discriminatory behaviors. To assess social attitudes, Ponterrotto et al. …

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