Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Reciprocity of Community Field Work Practicum: The Case of Open Community Placement in Social Work Education

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Reciprocity of Community Field Work Practicum: The Case of Open Community Placement in Social Work Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

Field work practicum is the heart and soul of social work education. It is not merely the application of theory into practice as conventionally told and heard. It is a conscious effort to experience, explore and analyze the social work practice in the real life settings. It is an inevitable ingredient that molds a professional with the skills, competence and insights on the socio-economic and political happenings around them. Field work facilitates the inculcation of humanistic values and development of professional attitudes. In addition, it adds to knowledge, and imparts a perspective to deal with human problems which relate to the self, between the self and others, and between human being and their environment (R.R. Singh, 1997). Field work provides an opportunity for testing and validating theoretical underpinnings and practice modules in a pragmatic manner with different sections of the population and with diverse issues. The contribution of fieldwork placement is praised for its role in growing student skills, knowledge, and competencies as they learn to marry classroom learning with the realities of agency practice (Hanlen, 2011).

There are wide varieties of field work models being practiced in social work around the world. India too has different models of field work pr actice as the country still doesn't have a unified model of fieldwork and social work education. Generally field work practicum in India consists of observation visits, concurrent visits, and block placements. Concurrent fieldwork is the compulsory component of social work education in India, in which students are sent to an agency or placed in a community. Schools1 may select the type of agency or site for the field work, based on the nature of course (generic or specialization based), location and other institutional mandates. Most of the Universities and schools follow two day field work procedure in a week as the module for concurrent fieldwork. Open community placement is an Indian model of concurrent field work which is widely practiced by many schools in the country apart from the institutional placement. Open community means a village (in the case of rural areas) or an urban area (preferably backward areas) selected for the purpose of fieldwork. This selection of the open community will be done on the basis of certain criteria and it is different for school to schools, and region to region. Factors such as distance, scope of work, magnitude of social problems, availability of institutions and non-existence of significant threat may be considered. Rural villages are preferred to be the potential locations for student's placement for the concurrent field work as it facilitates the trainee to understand the magnitude of social context, rural problems, possible intervention strategies and working models. Usually a faculty member is allotted with 3-5 students for the supervision. Fieldwork supervisor and students plan and engage positively with the field work activities. The activity and intervention planning is done during the Individual and Group Conferences2. Open community placement provides a wide spectrum of avenues for the students to practice with multiple stakeholders and clientele in the real life setting. Twice in a week students engages with the community at least for 16 hours with a pre-planned set of actions.

As a social work educator and field instructor author has experienced and observed significant indications of positive changes in the three levels of group involved in OCP, i.e. students, social work educators and the community. Though many of these changes are qualitative in nature, the attitudinal and perspective changes which happened to educators and students need to be analyzed for wider dissemination and discussion. The preliminary assumption indicates that the communities in which the schools considered for the sites for OCP witnessed considerable alteration in the structure and dynamics; which is even visible in the quantitative aspects. …

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