Field Practicum in Social Work

Social Work Field Practicum/Work in Bangladesh

What is 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 a theoretical component taught in the classroom and field-based education involving the integration of the educational aspect and practice. Fieldwork, also known as field instruction, field placement, field education, practicum or internship, is an integral component of social work education.

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"Social Work is the dual focus on person and environment, emphasising interactions and transactions, setting social work apart from other helping disciplines" (Sarker, A. Hakim, 2009). Social work addresses the multiple, complex transactions between people and their environments in their various forms. 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 the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve. Social work is an interrelated system of values, theory and practice. Fieldwork is the way of getting social work students used with the diverse fields of social work interventions. Fieldwork 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. Field education aims to promote practice competence through students' learning to integrate and apply social work's knowledge, values, and skills while also offering services to individuals, families, groups, and communities. Students can also do fieldwork 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 faculty field liaison or field seminars. Field education is expected to be systematic, with educational objectives or outcomes specified as practice behaviours, the provision of relevant learning activities, and the 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 the most valuable and significant part of their social work education. Students are allowed to learn to think systemically and develop 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, contributing 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 integrating the agency's aim, objectives, and activities.


Scholarly definitions of fieldwork by different authors

According to M. A. Momen (1970), “Fieldwork 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), “Fieldwork 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.”

W.A. Friedlander (1963) stated, “Fieldwork 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, “Fieldwork 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 supervising 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 organisational and community context. Field Practicum is a vital dimension of students' undergraduate and graduates social work education. The hours of field practice prepare students to enter the workforce as professional social work practitioners. In 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 use 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 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 direct practice methods, 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 systems, including work with individuals, families, small groups, and communities within an organisational 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 a breadth of learning and establish a broad base for practice.

In the fields of learning, it is expected that theories and practices should be complementary and interdependent. History has shown that most theories are developed from practice, precisely from closely observed people's experiences with their environments over time (Ebue & Agwu, 2017). The essence of practice is to further validate theories and improve on them. Social work discipline is no exception to this development, hence the introduction of fieldwork practice as a prerequisite for the fulfilment of the award of a diploma or higher degrees in the discipline. Fieldwork practice helps students integrate theoretical classroom learning with practical experiences to clarify the realities of theories in real-life experiences. Littrel (1980) asserted that fieldwork practice helps us sharpen and develop skills that 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 in classrooms. To engage an orphan, a vulnerable child, or a prison inmate and have their welfare met, the social worker must physically and not just stay in a class telling stories and reading up on such experiences. In fact, the more field experiences social workers have, the more they can tell how competent they are. Thus, practice wisdom has become a significant source of the knowledge base (Teater, 2010). By practising wisdom, one implies experiences gotten over time through first-hand engagement with several cases of clients. All of these have contributed to why social work learning and studies all over the globe lay particular emphasis on fieldwork experiences.


Social work is a helping profession that aims to help individuals, groups, and communities cope with their problems by enabling them to solve their problems by themselves. It, in modern times, is a professional subject that has two facts- theoretical and practical. Academic education is confined to the classroom only, whereas the practical side rings students out of the classrooms and engages them in the actual practice field. This practical side of social work education it's called fieldwork practice. This orientation takes place at various social services agencies where students become engaged with multiple 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 a critical component of social work education. In the field, 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 fieldwork is a well-organised and consciously and purposely structured training program of both the institutions offering professional social work education and agencies providing some sorts of social services which provide 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.


Major five objectives of Social Work Field Practicum

Fieldwork provides students with genuine experiences in applying social work methods, enabling them to become familiar with actual work practice. The primary objectives of the fieldwork are to provide planned observations and a practical demonstration in the selected fields of social work, which are being analyzed in the classes.

In social work, fieldwork 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 use his knowledge and skills of social work in the real sphere under a supervisor. Practical training allows the students to realize how social problems are influencing individuals, groups, families, organizations, and communities. It also aims to enable the student to test themselves to develop a sense of professional discipline to gain self-confidence and feel themselves social workers with beginning competence. (University of Dhaka, 1996) 

On the other hand, According to the American Social Work Council, the objectives of practical training are:

§  Making a contribution to getting students acquainted comprehensively with all types of social work profession
§  Creating a due environment to make students self-conscious.
§  Along with studies, the students' attitudes and skills should have a balanced display in the classroom.
§  Making opportunities available to the students to apply social work methods and be experienced.
§  Taking necessary steps so that students can acquire primary experience in the social work profession.


Major (4) objectives of Field Practicum

R.R Sing (1985, 44-45) in Field Work in Social Work Education has mentioned the following objectives:
§  To offer a purposeful learning experience to students through interaction with life situations under supervisory guidance for professional growth in terms of knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
§  To foster attitudes in the student toward professional self-development, increasing self-awareness appreciation of both capacities and limitations.
§  To develop in the student the required skills in helping the needy through organizational work, use of social work methods, listening, participating in communication, and so on.
§  To enable the student to develop and deepen the capacity to relate theory to practice and relate the experience to theory.

The view committee on social work education in India has mentioned the following objectives:

§  Development of skills in problem-solving at the mean and macro mentioned
§  Integration of classroom learning with field practices
§  Development of skills for professionals' practice at a particular level of learning
§  Development of professional attitudes, values and commitments
§  Development of self-awareness and professional ideas.


Core seven objectives of Social Work Field Practicum

§  To acquire fundamental knowledge by applying all theoretical knowledge;
§  To help students learn how to think critically, analytically and evaluative, so that their talent can be developed;
§ To help students develop the capacity to establish and maintain professional relationships;
§ To help students develop a high degree of social awareness and a deeper understanding of the democratic process;
§  To help students develop their professional selves, including some ability to evaluate their own capacities to help people. This is seen as including identification with the profession and is understood in terms of progress the students make in identifying with the school and with their fieldwork agency;
§  To develop skills in helping, involving the disciplined use of knowledge in thinking about analyzing and understanding professional problems and in the helping process; and
§  It tries to develop professionalism and professional discipline among social workers.


Limitations of Social Work Field Practicum in Bangladesh

There are various types of problems, and shortcomings of social work field practicum in Bangladesh based on client-oriented, agency oriented and students' oriented. These three types of limitations are discussed in the following.

Client-oriented limitation

Client and client systems are the most essential part of fieldwork practice. The common problem of fieldwork practice related to clients is given below.

·        Lack of knowledge about social work
·        Delivering fake information
·        Client unconscious

Agency related limitation

The agency plays a vital role in fieldwork practice. There is no scope to ignore the agency's role in fieldwork practice. Though agency plays an important role. It has some limitations. These are given below.

·        Lack of social work knowledge by the agency supervisor
·        Lack of training
·        Lack of facilities (e.g. honorarium)
·        Absence of supervisory conference
·        Involvement of students in office work
·        Lack of proper supervision

Student related limitation

·        The placement problem (haven't chance of choosing agency)
·        Long-distance
·        No scope of concurrent fieldwork
·        Adaptation problem


Recommendations for Field Practicum in Bangladesh

To overcome these limitations, some necessary steps can be taken. Such as
Professional recognition of social work

·        Provision for Training
·        Establishment of a separate social laboratory
·        Specific working hour
·        Formulation of universal guidelines for field practicum
·        Arrangement of joint supervisory conferences.


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