Field Instructors

"Field placements are invaluable. Students have the opportunity to apply theories learned in class to the day-to-day operations of an agency, gaining invaluable real-world experience. It's an opportunity for them to put into practice what they've learned and to see how it really works in their field."

William Woolrich
Program Manager
Regeneration Housing and Support

Field Instructors mentor next generation of community leaders

The School of Social Work collaborates with Field Instructors from a wide range of social service settings to provide effective and responsive social work education. Field practicums engage students in supervised practice, allowing them to complement theory and knowledge learned in the classroom with real-life social work challenges.

Both students and Field Instructors benefit from practicum placements. Field Instructors contribute to the ongoing development of professional, competent social work practice; while students share with them up-to-date academic knowledge that often directly impacts the workings of their organization.

Field Instructors work in a number of different social service settings, including community justice programs, hospitals, child and youth services, shelters and mental health agencies. The School is continuously developing links with a wide range of placement settings to provide diverse learning experiences for our students. Placements will vary from large to small organizations and grassroots agencies where the value and expertise of staff are recognized.

Organizations selected for field instruction are chosen based on the following guidelines:

Criteria for Field Instruction Settings

  • The agency should be interested in participating in social work education. This includes the board, the executive, professional and clerical staff.
  • The agency's philosophy of service should be compatible with the values and ethics of the social work profession, and with the School's mission statement.
  • The setting and organizational structure should be such that students are allowed a fairly wide range of learning experiences and social work functions.
  • Agreement that time allocated to the Field Instructor shall be sufficient for selection of assignments, individual supervision and instruction, preparation for and conferences with the student and Faculty Advisor (BSW), completion of an evaluation of student performance, and participation in field instruction training and development. Depending on the learning objectives of the student and structure of the agency, field instruction responsibility may be shared between more than one instructor.
  • Suitable space and working facilities should be available for students. These include desk space, privacy for interviewing, phones and any dictating equipment as needed, office supplies, transportation costs for out of office travel to interviews, meetings, etc., where such compensation is indicated. The School recognizes that students may have to share space and sometimes desks because of the lack of space and stringent cutbacks in some settings.
  • The availability of a qualified Field Instructor is essential. The School of Social Work values the expertise of Field Instructors and also welcomes the participation of many multicultural and other 'non-traditional' agencies where the opportunity for grassroots work and other experiences are plentiful. The professional qualifications and field experience of potential Field Instructors will be assessed on an individual basis.
  • Recognition of the relevance and importance of the placement supervisory role.
  • Recognition of the importance in attending the Field Instructors' Seminars that are held at the School of Social Work (approximately twenty hours over the Fall and Winter terms).

Criteria for Selecting of Field Instructors

The role of the Field Instructor is critical to the development of the placement and ultimately the student. The Field Instructor must have demonstrated competency as a social worker and, of course, must have an interest in students and social work education.

Generally, Field Instructors of BSW students hold a Bachelor of Social Work degree and a minimum of two years of relevant experience and sufficient experience in the specific setting to be able to interpret the work of that agency. Field Instructors of MSW students normally hold a Masters in Social Work and a minimum of two years of relevant experience and sufficient experience in the agency to be able to interpret the work of the that agency.

In the absence of the above specified criteria, educational background and field experience is considered for persons wishing to supervise students in a placement. We recognize that there may be people with a variety of backgrounds, levels of enthusiasm and field practice who would be interested in providing field instruction. We encourage those people who are interested in supervising student placements to contact the Field Education Office.

Responsibilities of the Field Instructor

Field instruction is a branch of social work practice with its own conceptual base, special skills, and unique process. It is more than an apprenticeship.

A successful placement is dependent on the quality of the relationship between the Field Instructor and student -it determines whether optimum learning occurs. Learning is maximized in a climate that encourages openness and the freedom of both student and Field Instructor to look critically at their work and to teach and learn experientially.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Orienting the student to the agency, clientele and community. This includes providing an introduction to students on the agency's mission statement, the structure of the agency, the agency's policies (e.g. health and safety, harassment, working with clients), any legislation that governs the operation of the agency, to persons who they will be working with, to procedural systems such as preparing and writing reports, maintaining case files, and issues around interviewing or meeting with clients. It is expected that the student will become aware of the structural organization of the agency, the decision making process, policy and procedures, funding sources, and relevant legislation.
  • Developing a learning contract with the student within the first three weeks of the placement. The learning contract should include the learning objectives of the student during the placement, the days and hours the student will be at the agency, the nature of the workload and the expectations of the Field Instructor, including setting aside time for field instruction, usually at least one hour per week.
  • Selecting and making available to the student practice experiences in the agency that reflect the range of activities possible in that setting. Assignments should be made within the first week of placement with discussion and guidance in order to decrease anxiety.
  • Integrating the student's work with that of other agency personnel, where applicable.
  • Holding regularly scheduled supervision sessions with the student, focused on direct observation of the student's performance or written or taped material. This time should be established at the beginning of the placement and included in the Learning Contract as an ongoing appointment that will only be changed through mutual negotiations between the student and the Field Instructor. For example, supervisory meetings will be held on Tuesdays, 10-11am.
  • Providing opportunities for the student to observe the instructor's work and to engage in follow up discussions based on the observation.
  • Facilitating observation of and work experience with other workers.
  • Continuous discussion with the student around progress and performance, in addition to formal evaluations. Evaluation should always be a joint endeavor between the student and Field Instructor.
  • Conferring with the Faculty Advisor or the Practice Research Seminar Course Director, attending and participating in educational activities. For BSW students, it is recommended that there be a minimum of one conference at the placement setting with both the Faculty Advisor and the student during the course of the field placement.
  • Reporting to the Faculty Advisor (BSW) or the Practice Research Seminar Course Director (MSW) any difficulties that may arise in the student/instructor relationship or in the placement at the earliest possible date so that a mutually agreeable resolution may be found. In the absence of either the Faculty Advisor or the Practice Research Course Director, the Field Education Director may be contacted.
  • In consultation with the student, prepare mid-point and final evaluations. These evaluations are to be written and signed by both the student and the Field Instructor.
  • Attending Field Instruction Seminars held at the School during the Fall and Winter terms.

Field Instructor Seminars

The Field Education Manager will convene two or three seminars per term, and hold appropriate educative forums relating to the field. The content of these educational seminars will differ from term to term, since they are tailored to address issues that may arise from placements in each term.

These seminars serve as an orientation for first time Field Instructors, as well as provide opportunities for networking. In addition, they allow for Field Instructors to have direct input into the education process, thereby influencing and helping to shape field education. Field Instructors are recognized as valuable sources of knowledge and expertise.

University Privileges for Field Instructors

Some of the privileges granted to Field Instructors include:

  • a library card granting full access to York University library resources
  • option to purchase an athletic facilities pass which will permit use of York University athletic facilities, programs, and services
  • representation on the Practicum Committee
  • continuing competency credits for registration with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers for participating as a field instructor and attending field instructor seminars
  • Adjunct Faculty Appointment (after 3 consecutive years of providing student placements for York University School of Social Work)

Legal and Ethical Requirements

  • Agreement between the School and the AgencyA general Agreement for Practicum Experience for the BSW program and the MSW program has been developed and will be sent to placement sites. The Agreement stipulates the contractual requirements of the Field Instructor(s) and/or placement site and the School. The Agreement is included in the confirmation package that is sent to Field Instructors. The Agreement is accompanied by a copy of York University's Certificate of Insurance. One Agreement is issued to each placement site regardless of the number of students who may be placed with an agency. Each agreement is valid for 6 academic terms or three years.
  • Health and SafetyYork University assumes coverage for students involved in university education that takes place off campus under normal circumstances. Immediately upon starting a placement, students must complete a Ministry of Education Work Education Training Agreement Form. Field Instructors will also sign the completed form. A copy of the form will be kept by the student, a copy retained by the Field Instructor and a copy returned to the Department of Occupational Health and Safety at York University.For specific information regarding Practicum Policies and Procedures, Field Instructors are directed to consult the BSW or MSW Practicum Manual.

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