Academic journal article Field Educator

Integrating Research and Practice in Baccalaureate Field Education through Collaborative Student/Faculty Research

Academic journal article Field Educator

Integrating Research and Practice in Baccalaureate Field Education through Collaborative Student/Faculty Research

Article excerpt

Social work students are expected to learn to be both consumers and creators of research. This article will describe the efforts of the Shippensburg University Department of Social Work and Gerontology BSW program to integrate research and practice in field education. In 2004, a large number of students had their final semester internships at child welfare agencies in the counties surrounding Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Four students also participated in the Child Welfare Education for Baccalaureates (CWEB) program, and collaborated with faculty to conduct qualitative and quantitative research at their placement sites. Benefits and dilemmas of the CWEB program are presented.

Integration of Research and Practice in Field Education

The Council on Social Work (CSWE) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) outlines the research competencies expected of graduating BSW students (CSWE, 2008). These competencies mirror the stages of learning described by Dietz, Westerfelt, and Barton (2004):

1. Acquire knowledge about research

2. Develop a critical perspective

3. Use knowledge to develop interventions

4. Evaluate interventions for improving practice effectiveness and building knowledge

5. Report results of research to others; contribute to the social work body of knowledge (p. 81).

Field education offers excellent opportunities for social work students to integrate research and practice. A number of social work schools have spearheaded efforts to collaborate with field agencies in teaching and applying research principles. Schools like Iona College in New Rochelle, New York have created social research centers. In addition to enhancing the school's visibility and multidisciplinary collaboration, the centers provide relevant teaching material and experiences for research classes and involve students in interviewing, data collection and analysis. Several schools, especially those involved with the Hartford Project, are working closely with field agencies on gerontology research (Dorfman, Murty, Ingram, & Li, 2007; Rosen, Zlotnik, & Singer, 2003).

The BSW program at Shippensburg University has been in existence since 1974. Following the completion of their coursework, BSW students begin their final semester, during which they complete a block field placement. In the spring 2004 semester, the BSW program launched a collaboration among students and faculty in research in field education. The four students in the Child Welfare Education for Baccalaureates (CWEB) program were interested in the legislative and policy changes affecting the placement of children in kinship care in the region (Stevenson, 2003). CWEB is governed by the federal Title IV-E regulations and implemented through a cooperative effort between the US Administration for Children and Families, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, and fourteen undergraduate social work programs in Pennsylvania accredited by CSWE (University of Pittsburgh, 2005).

Field education at the Department of Social Work and Gerontology at Shippensburg University takes place during the BSW student's final semester. The field course is taught concurrently with a Senior Seminar where course content, activities, and assignments are designed to facilitate the integration of previously acquired knowledge in the students' field practice experience. The major activity in the Senior Seminar is a weekly peer supervision experience facilitated by one of the three faculty assigned to the field and seminar courses. The major assignment in the Senior Seminar course is a student-led, agency-based research project completed by every field student in their practicum agency. Students receive a stipend for this research. This project includes the completion of a human subjects review by the university's review board and a poster presentation of the results during "Senior Presentations". Senior Presentations takes place in the student union building during the last week of class every semester. …

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