Academic journal article Field Educator

Introducing FIELD: Field Instructors Extending EBP Learning in Dyads

Academic journal article Field Educator

Introducing FIELD: Field Instructors Extending EBP Learning in Dyads

Article excerpt


Equipping current and future social work practitioners with skills to engage in and deliver evidence-based practice (EBP) can be a significant challenge. One underutilized mechanism of disseminating and implementing EBP in social work is field education: specifically, through field instructors. Field instructors serve as primary mediators of student learning, with the ability to support, extend, or extinguish what students understand about EBP from the classroom. Given the social justice of bringing evidence-based interventions to vulnerable populations common to social work practice, we present a justification for the necessity of innovative curriculum models that consistently include field instructors. Herein, we present the rationale for the timeliness of such models informed by obstacles, opportunities, and varied perspectives on EBP within the social work profession, many of which are tied to the belief that EBP exclusively refers to manualized interventions. To address this state of affairs as well as the confusion about the meaning of EBP, we were compelled to craft a curriculum model for the field instructor and social work student dyad. FIELD capitalizes on current impetuses for EBP while simultaneously educating students and field instructors on both aspects of EBP: a process of decision-making (verb of EBP) and designated, well-specified, empirically supported interventions (noun of EBP). Within this paper, we offer a rationale for FIELD, explicate the model components, and present a preliminary qualitative assessment of the feasibility of the model.

Current State of EBP Implementation in Social Work

Workforce Lacks Capacity to Deliver EBP

In spite of the many EBP interventions available, many practitioners have not developed the capacity to implement innovative technologies and recent evidence-based practices (Fixsen, Naoom, Blasé, Friedman, & Wallace, 2005; Stirman et al., 2012). Training strategies and implementation efforts to advance the use of EBP in the social work workforce have trailed behind the creation of interventions (Beidas, Edmunds, Marcus, & Kendall, 2012; Lyon, Stirman, Kerns, & Bruns, 2011). Research has illuminated the societal costs associated with the inability to implement evidence-based practices in a timely fashion. For example, the astounding delay of an average of 17 or more years for EBPs to infiltrate practice settings has been well documented (Balas & Boren, 2000, 1999; Institutes of Medicine, 2001; New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003). Evidence related to the dissemination of EBPs in social work settings increasingly indicates that few educational programs succeed in equipping students with the necessary skills to effectively deliver EBP (Grimshaw et al. 2001; Hoge, Huey, & O'Connell, 2004), though a competency-based curricula adopting evidence-based practice education methods may systematically improve the workforce (Davis, O'Brien, & Freemantle, 1999; Hoge et al., 2009; Mazmanian & Davis, 2002).

Developing proficiency in the delivery of EBPs requires integrated didactic and experiential training methods, yet well over half of U.S. schools of social work do not offer this approach (Hoge et al., 2009; Mullen, Schlonsky, Bledsoe, & Bellamy, 2005; Weissman, et al., 2006). By design, the majority of social work programs offer incomplete training in EBP (Bledsoe et al., 2007) since they often "outsource" the experiential teaching component to community-based field instructors who may lack familiarity with EBP concepts (Mullen & Bacon, 2004).

Rationale for EBP Implementation

An Ethical Imperative for Social Work to Offer EBP

Social workers are the nation's main provider of mental health, substance abuse and child welfare services to vulnerable populations (Heisler & Bagalman, 2014; Insel, 2004), and offering services guided by EBP is more likely to demonstrate improved client outcomes (APA/CAPP Task Force on Severe Mental Illness and Severe Emotional Disturbance, 2007; McHugo et al. …

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