There is longstanding debate about the most appropriate progression between undergraduate and graduate social work programs. The continuum approach assumes a continuation from the BSW to the MSW without interruption, overlap or redundancy. Field educators and faculty identify inconsistent foundation knowledge, skills, and values between the BSW and foundation year MSW level. Moreover, there is a lack of uniformity across social work programs which creates inconsistencies in theoretical knowledge, skill, and preparation for practicum when students move from a BSW in one program to an AS program in another. In response to these gaps and concerns, some SW schools offer an elective or required course that â€˜bridgesâ€™ the undergraduate and graduate curricula.
In response to requests from students and field instructors, our school of SW developed an AS Practice Seminar for BSW students entering the MSW program. The three-day voluntary seminar runs prior to students starting MSW courses and practicum. The seminar uses a holistic competence framework aimed at strengthening procedural competencies (knowledge and skills), and metacompetencies (self-awareness, self-reflection, and emotion regulation). A core teaching method is simulation which is an experiential learning method using simulated clients/actors and carefully crafted case scenarios which allow students to develop or enhance assessment and intervention skills.
In the first year of the AS seminar, 15% of our AS students participated, growing to 25% in year two, and 46% in year three. We examined student evaluations to understand their perspectives on learning and teaching methods, as well as competency development. Student evaluations were gathered at the midpoint and end of the seminar. Thematic analysis identified the following themes related to student learning: enhanced knowledge of social work theories and models, increased ability to link theory and practice, greater understanding of alliance building with clients, improved interviewing and assessment skills, and increased self-awareness. In terms of teaching methods, students identified these approaches as impactful for their learning: practice through simulation, focused feedback on practice, and exercises where they learned to reflect on practice.
This roundtable will be an opportunity to convene and discuss opportunities to prepare AS students entering MSW programs. We will provide an overview of the AS Practice Seminar offered in our program. We will engage discussion on the benefits of such programs such as, preparing students for social change in direct practice by bridging the gap between a foundational macro focused BSW with a clinically oriented MSW. We will engage discussion on lessons learned through student evaluations and feedback from field instructors and faculty which subsequently informed seminar content. This will be an interactive discussion that will engage participants to discuss their programs and perspectives on AS programs.