Abstract: An Exploration of Field Instructors' Perspectives on Field Education Standards (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

218P An Exploration of Field Instructors' Perspectives on Field Education Standards

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Emma Sophia Kay, PhD, Doctoral student, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Allison Curington, MSW, Director of Field Education, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
 Background and Purpose: In its 2008 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) identified field education as the “signature pedagogy” of social work. This speaks to field’s fundamental role as a practice standard for the social work profession, which is fitting for a discipline which values practice experience as an essential educational component. Yet, successful field placement is increasingly challenging as educators strive to meet the needs of agencies as well as students. Field instructors, whose supervisory role is critical to the success of the field education model, are often absent from this dialogue. Thus, the purpose of this study was to learn more about field instructors’ perspectives on field education by eliciting their feedback on several key policies and standards.

Methods: Eligible participants included all current and past (within five years) MSW field instructors at one large Southeastern United States university. Both distance-learning and on-campus MSW programs were included. We sent eligible respondents (n=577) an email invitation containing a link to the survey, which could be completed anonymously through the Qualtrics survey platform. The descriptive, cross-sectional survey consisted of 24 multiple choice and short answer questions that elicited demographic information and feedback on field education policies and standards.

Results: 161 field instructors completed the survey. Over 90% characterized their agency’s working hours as traditional (Monday-Friday, 8 A.M.-6. P.M.) or mostly traditional with occasional non-traditional hours (on the weekends and/or occurring outside of 8 A.M.-6 P.M., Monday through Friday). Among field instructors who worked at agencies with occasional or mostly nontraditional working hours, while three-fourths (71.7%) stated that it would be feasible to have students complete some of their hours during the week before or after 8 A.M.- 6 P.M., fewer than half (45.2%) said it would be feasible for students to work on the weekends. Moreover, fewer than half of field instructors (46%) stated that they would be able to provide in-person supervision to students outside of regular business hours. Regarding the number of hours students should be in their field placement each day, while over half (59.1%) of field instructors felt between 5 and 7 hours of would be sufficient, just 32.2% felt that a full 8 hours was required for a comprehensive educational experience.

Conclusions and Implications: Although field instructors were willing to work with students to create field placements that accommodated flexible or nontraditional hours, most of them were unable to do so given agency constraints. The results of this study have important implications for field education, as it suggests field instructors are open to nontraditional field placements when feasible. As an increasing number of MSW students have additional employment- or family-related responsibilities, the need for alternative placements has grown. Future research should incorporate feedback from students, field liaisons, and field directors.