The heart of learning to become a social worker involves field education.
SSA continues to improve an intensive field education model that began taking shape a decade ago thanks to a seed donation from alumna Mary Green, AM ’49. An intensive study of field education with input from field instructors, students and faculty produced a model, nationally recognized by the Council on Social Work Education. The model, according to Dean Neil Guterman, who taught with it for several years is, “a much more tightly-knit field-classroom learning integration than is available at our peer institutions across the U.S., and our students are significantly advantaged by the intensive attention paid to their skill development and application of social work concepts in their field placements.”
Fortifying and enhancing the field education model will ensure that SSA students are rigorously prepared to begin careers in social work with confidence and with the capacity to make meaningful contributions to their clients, communities, organizations, and social welfare policies.
A Model that Invests in Social Work's Future
The field education model at SSA employs highly qualified and experienced field consultants who teach field seminars, monitor the quality and rigor of field placements, and provide individual mentoring and support for their students. Both first and second year students use their seminar to discuss their field experiences with seasoned practitioners. Students reflect, challenge, problem-solve and integrate class and field material in the seminar.
At the same time, SSA invests in the development of field instructors. Through workshops designed to illuminate the master's curriculum content, we enhance field instructor professional development. This contributes to their capacity to teach, problem solve, and evaluate their students' competencies for practice.
Endowment for Excellence in Field Education will provide designated funds to guarantee resources that will be available to provide students with high quality field education.
Enhancing the Field Education Model
Enhancing the model to the optimal level will require program expansions for both first and second year students. It would increase the number of seminars in the first year, reduce the number of students in the second year seminars, and build field instructor capacity by offering intensive training, consultation groups, and distance learning opportunities.
Exploring New Frontiers
This will involve collaborating with faculty and agencies to pilot innovative field-based learning and develop research-informed field placements that yield evidence to support and update interventions in agency settings. As the practice world changes, we want our students to anticipate and shape those changes.
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