Types of Field Practicum in Social Work

Types of Field Practicum in Social Work

In social work field education, the most common approaches to field placements are block field work or concurrent field work. During block field work, students devote full time learning in the field under the experienced and qualified social worker. On the other hand, under concurrent placement, students’ time is divided between classroom learning and field work experiences. (Essentially, students are expected to be in the agency for two or three days per week and to take classes for two or three days.) However, Generally, there are two forms of Field Practicum on the basis of nature and the participation of the students.

Concurrent Fieldwork Placements

Concurrent fieldwork includes placements of students with different organisations (mostly voluntary) that work on different issues in the society, or in communities directly. The institutional settings include: organisations working on human rights issues, organisations working with the homeless and street children, organisations working with the disabled, hospitals, etc.




For concurrent fieldwork, students visit the agency or the community, where they are placed, twice (or thrice) a week and spend a minimum of eight hours per visit. In most of the institutions of Social Work, concurrent fieldwork is compulsory in both the years of the master’s programme. In the institutions that follow a generic curriculum in education and training, the students are usually placed in an open community for one year and in an institutional setting for another so that they are able to develop skills of working in both the settings. In the institutions that follow a curriculum that is based on specialisations, students are placed in a setting that is different from their field of specialisation for the first year and in their specialisation field in the second year. Lately, some institutions of Social Work have also started the practice of placing students for a continuous period of one full month in the second year of concurrent fieldwork instead of weekly visits.


In Bangladesh, the students participate in classroom learning and field work practice simultaneously. In concurrent field work, students participate in at least 15 hours a week. Here, it is mandatory to participate in field work and classroom learning. Classroom learning and field work are arranged at a concurrent basis where 100% attendance must be in. The broad objectives of the concurrent fieldwork as highlighted by the educators are:

To provide purposeful learning experiences of working in real life situations in which social work interventions may be required by individuals, groups, and communities.
To develop attitudes and values in the students that commensurate with the requirements of social work profession, increasing self-awareness and appreciating both the capacities and limitations of social work practice.
To understand and make a commitment to humanistic values and principles of social work practice. 
To develop a holistic view of social work and related interventions in the community, with special emphasis on the agency’s role in human services.
To develop an understanding of the problems and opportunities in working with diverse populations.
To develop necessary skills in social work methods to help people in need.
To enable students to develop and enhance the capacity to translate theory into practice and vice-versa. 
To develop the professional self of the students for providing leadership in developmental pursuits

The concurrent fieldwork that students undergo is continuously supervised by the administrators. Fieldwork supervision (discussed in-depth later in the chapter) is one of the essential features of the fieldwork practicum in Social Work.




Advantages and Disadvantages of Concurrent Field Practicum

Although research comparing concurrent and block placements is limited, the advantages and disadvantages of each model have been addressed in multiple publications. Concurrent placements are typically completed over two semesters. Agencies, where “long-term counselling is done on a traditional once-a-week basis”, may prefer a concurrent format so that students have longer to work with clients and for the field instructor to observe progress (Wilson, 1981, p. 9). Another advantage of a concurrent placement is a greater integration of classroom and practice, because the student can immediately apply classroom learning in a practice setting and can, in turn, also bring learning from the field into the classroom (Wilson, 1981). Also, because of the part-time status in the agency, the student is seen as a learner, and there is less of a chance the student will be treated as an employee (Hamilton & Else, 1983). Disadvantages of a concurrent format include fewer placement sites available to students, especially in rural areas with fewer agencies available in a concentrated area (Hamilton & Else, 1983). Additionally, concurrent placements can be less flexible, especially for part-time students. This seems contradictory, but many programs are designed for courses to be taken after normal work hours are completed until the student begins fieldwork, and then work hours are typically interrupted or changed, so it is easier for students to interrupt or change their work time for only one semester of block placement, as opposed to the two semesters required in the concurrent format. Related to this is the fact that finances can also be strained over a two-semester period (Hamilton & Else).



It is sometimes the field instructor that experiences the most disadvantages of a concurrent placement, especially in a fast-paced setting, such as medical, crisis, or inpatient settings (Wilson, 1981). Particularly in these types of settings, on days when the student is absent from the practicum site, the field instructor has to cover the student’s caseload, and the client has to work with two different providers. This can fragment work for the field instructor, learning for the student, and services for the client.



Advantages and Disadvantages of Block Placements Practicum

Advantages of block placement include a total-immersion learning experience with excellent continuity with clients and exposure to learning opportunities. There is no distraction of coursework, missed experiences, or other classroom responsibilities interrupting the field experience (Wilson, 1981). Thus, learning is rapid and intense (Hamilton & Else, 1983; Henton, 1995; Wilson, 1981). Additional advantages include more time in the agency to develop a mentorship relationship between the field instructor and student and an increased ability for students to complete practicums in locations away from the school and even internationally. This is especially important for more rural programs, where there might be fewer local professional agencies available to offer practicum experiences (Wilson, 1981).

The major disadvantages of the block model include less opportunity for the integration of classroom learning and practice and less time to develop relationships with clients (Henton, 1995). The disconnection between classroom and theory can be substantial and difficult to overcome, although assignments and faculty interactions can help. Because of the separation of the field- and coursework, students have fewer interactions with faculty and, thus, less opportunity for support and advisement.

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