Field Practicum in Social Work

Field Practicum in Social Work

             Social work is an international profession and similarly, social work education internationally has always embraced both academic and practical components. Social work education comprises of a theoretical component taught in the classroom and field-based education involving the integration of the academic aspect and practice. Fieldwork, which is also known as field instruction, field placement, field education, practicum or internship is, therefore, an integral component of social work education.

            “Social Work is the dual focus on person and environment, with the emphasis placed on interactions and transactions between them, that sets social work apart from other helping disciplines” (Sarker, A. Hakim, 2009). Social work in its various forms addresses the multiple, complex transactions between people and their environments. Its mission is to enable all people to develop their full potential, enrich their lives, and prevent dysfunction. Professional social work is focused on problem solving and change. As such, social workers are change agents in society and in the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve. Social work is an interrelated system of values, theory and practice. Field work is the way of getting social work students used with the diverse fields of social work interventions. Field work may build a bridge between the community and academic education.

                Field education in social work is a component of social work education programs where students learn to practise social work through educationally focused service experiences in agency and community settings. Field education is also referred to as field instruction and field practicum, and earlier it was known as fieldwork or student supervision. The term “practice learning” is used in the United Kingdom to refer to field education. The aim of field education is to promote practice competence through students’ learning to integrate and apply the knowledge, values, and skills of social work while also offering services to individuals, families, groups, and communities. Students can also do field work in administration, planning, or policy development activities. An experienced social worker, usually an employee of the service setting, provides educationally focused field instruction and is accountable for services provided to clients. Schools of social work provide orientation and training for field instructors and linkage to the program through some form of faculty field liaison or field seminar. Field education is expected to be systematic, with educational objectives or outcomes specified as practice behaviours, the provision of relevant learning activities, and assessment of students’ mastery of practice competencies. (Bogo. M, 20005)

            “Field practicum is an integral part of the social work curriculum. Most students consider their practicum fieldwork to be the most valuable and significant part of their social work education. Students are given the opportunity to learn to think systemically and to develop skills of a professional social worker” (University of Alaska). The beauty of fieldwork arrangement lies in the simultaneous and immediate application of theory learnt in the classroom into practice. An added advantage of this form of fieldwork is that students can share and readily discuss their placements while at the training institution and this can contribute to the effective integration of theory and practice. Field Work Practicum is achieving the practical learning of social work method by which scope is created to evaluate social work knowledge, experience and skill with the integration of the agency’s aim, objectives and activities.

§  According to M. A. Momen (1970), “Field work program is designed to help and guide a student to develop his skill and competence for his independent professional functioning and carrying out appropriate responsibilities.”
§  In the words of R.R. Singh (1984), “Field work is an educationally sponsored attachment of social work students to an agency or a section of the community in which they are helped to extend their knowledge and understanding and experience the impact of human needs.”
§  In the words of W.A. Friedlander (1963), “Field work is designed to integrate the academic knowledge, practical understanding and personal skills of the student by personal contact and to direct the clients”.
§  According to the International Encyclopedia of Social Science, “Field work come to mean learning as far as possible to speak think to feel and act as a social scientist from a different culture”.
§  Commission on Accreditation of CSWE (1994) states that “The field practicum is an integral component of the curriculum in social work education. It engages the students in supervise social practice and provide opportunities to apply classroom learning in the field settings”.

                Field Practicum is a dynamic course that challenges students to apply social work practice knowledge, skills, and values within an organizational and community context. Field Practicum is a vital dimension of students’ undergraduate and graduates in social work education. The hours of field practice prepare students to enter the workforce as professional social work practitioners. In the field of social work, Field Work is such a way through which the apprentice social workers get the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge acquired in the class. For this, an apprentice social worker has to apply his knowledge and skills of social work in the real sphere under two supervisors. One supervisor is from the institute and one is from the agency.

              Field Practicum affords experiential assessment and evaluation of students’ development in the process of becoming a helping professional. Students are provided opportunities to apply their academic and practice experiences in the reality of the agency-client-service matrix. Through the supervised field experience, students participate in and become familiar with, the many components of the social work profession and its varied roles. The ideal field placement offers students a focus on the methods of direct practice, policy development and implementation, and other social work special projects and research activities.

             Field Practicum provides practice experiences in a continuum of modalities and varying sizes of systems, including work with individuals, families, small groups, and communities within an organizational and community context. It is expected that students will experience a diversity of client populations and intervention issues, relying upon a range of theoretical concepts and models to develop breadth of learning and establish a broad base for practice.

            In the fields of learning, it is expected that theories and practice should be complementary and inter-dependent. History has shown that most theories are developed from practice, precisely from closely observed experiences of people with their environments over time (Ebue & Agwu, 2017). The essence of practice is to further validate theories, and as well improve on them. Social work discipline is no exception to this development, hence the introduction of field work practice as a prerequisite for the fulfilment of the award of a diploma or higher degrees in the discipline. Field work practice helps students integrate theoretical classroom learning with practical experiences, so as to be clear on the realities of theories in real-life experiences. Littrel (1980) asserted that field work practice helps us to sharpen and develop skills which will make us more effective and efficient in dealing with our clients and helping to solve their various problems.

                   The profession of social work is too delicate. Becoming a professional social worker cannot just happen by only sitting in a class. The nature of the profession which is to engage human welfare does not permit such kind of training. Invariably, social workers in training spend more time in fields than classrooms. To engage an orphan or a vulnerable child, or a prison inmate, and have his or her welfare met, the social worker must have to do so physically and not just stay in a class telling stories and reading up such experiences. In fact, the more field experiences social workers have, the more they could tell how competent they are. Thus, in social work, practice wisdom has become a major source of a knowledge base (Teater, 2010). By practice wisdom, one implies experiences gotten overtime through first-hand engagement with several cases of clients. All of these have contributed to the reason why social work learning and studies all over the globe lay special emphasis on field work experiences.

              Social work is a helping profession which aims to help the individuals, groups and communities to cope with their problems through enabling them so that they can solve their problems by themselves. It, in modern time, is a profession subject which has two facts- theoretical and practical. Theoretical education is confined within the classroom only whereas practical side rings students out of the classrooms and engaged them in the actual practice field. This practical side of social work education it’s called field work practice. This orientation takes place at various social services agencies where students become engaged with a variety of actions and programs of these agencies, aiming at providing services to their clients. Worth motioning the activities of the students at their respective agencies are educationally directed and supervised by a professional social worker. It is considered as a critical component of social work education and it is in the field that academic knowledge, values, ethics and skills are integrated with real-world experience in a planned way to produce component social workers.

                So, It can be said that field work is a well-organized and consciously and purposely structured training program of both the institutions offering professional social work education and agencies offering some sorts of social services which provides students with some kinds of opportunities of applying, checking their theoretical knowledge; acquiring skills from actual practice field as well as showing and proving their ability as a beginner in professional practice.

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