Finding Your Way Through Field Work: A Social Work Student’s Guide

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Urania E. Glassman

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    Foreword

    As the editor of the SAGE series, Social Work in the New Century, I am delighted to introduce this latest book that focuses on social work’s “signature pedagogy,” field education. The series’ goal is to provide students, faculty, and social work professionals with the theoretical foundation, conceptual tools, knowledge, skills, and ethical principles required for effective practice in today’s rapidly changing local, national, and global context. Written with wisdom, insight, and humor by Ronnie Glassman, a leading social work educator, this volume provides expert guidance for undergraduate and graduate students to help them navigate the entire field work process and its many potential pitfalls.

    Although field education is widely proclaimed as the most critical component of a social work student’s training and the development of the profession’s core practice competencies, it frequently presents the most difficult challenges for students. While many students are well prepared for their academic coursework, they are often less able to handle the complex and ambiguous practice situations with which they are confronted at their internships. Students are placed in circumstances that are outside their previous life and work experiences and are required to work with people whose values, goals, lifestyles, and daily problems are far different from their own. To become effective practitioners, students are compelled to examine their underlying assumptions, resolve tricky ethical dilemmas, learn how to apply broad theories to a specific context, negotiate complicated organizational and community environments, and grapple with what it means to be a professional. Recent demographic changes, increased socioeconomic inequality, and the fiscal impact of policy developments on field agencies have further complicated this complex educational landscape.

    In her book, Dr. Glassman skillfully guides students through this landscape. She is sensitive to the issues students—particularly beginning students—face and to the multiple relationships that all students must develop to have a successful field placement experience. Through well-placed, pithy vignettes and case examples, she illustrates how many common student mistakes can be avoided and how inevitable missteps can be corrected. Glassman also distinguishes the specific issues faced by BSW, first-year MSW, and advanced MSW students as well as those that affect students who use their place of employment as an internship. She analyzes the roles of key players in the field education process (field instructor, task supervisor, faculty field liaison) and presents invaluable advice to students on how to maximize the educational opportunities their field agencies provide.

    Michael Reisch, PhD, MSWDaniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social JusticeUniversity of MarylandSchool of Social Work

    Preface

    This text is presented to reduce students’ stress and anxiety as you approach field work in the first and second years of the MSW program, and in senior year of the BSW program. Created from the perspective of a long-standing field director, it aims to achieve smoother field work experiences for student readers. The text gives practical approaches to students for succeeding in field work. It takes students through routes that bypass or navigate the typical obstacles they will meet. By escorting a student through the maze that is field work, the author maximizes a student’s ability to learn in field work.

    Field directors seek to groom students by highlighting favorable and undesirable actions and setting them on the path for maximizing the learning experience in field work. This text provides a field director’s insight about students’ successful and adverse approaches to field work. Its many real-life case illustrations and vignettes shed light on your role as student and the roles of those involved with you in field work. The goal is to prevent the numerous mishaps that occur down the road, which may lead to disruptions in field work or even failures.

    Yet this is not a how-to book simply because field work is not prescriptive. The book briefly describes experiential learning models for field work. It includes how to use supervision and coaching from a field instructor. It affirms your development of artistry in using yourself to perform the social worker role rather than to just read about it in a book.

    The book is organized in four major parts with several chapters in each.

    Part I: Understanding Where You Are Heading, describes the student’s direction. It includes an overview chapter on field work, a chapter on experiential learning in field work, and one on social work competencies that students will have to attain, with strategies for coping with your many concerns. Case illustrations further highlight coping.

    Part II: The Design and Structure of Field Work explains the structure and framework of field work. Chapters discuss ways of getting your relationships with clients started, how to best forge a productive relationship with your field instructor, facing your discomfort about being vulnerable or judged, and how to access insight and direction from your faculty field advisors. Interactions with field instructors and clients are found in many case illustrations.

    Part III: Transforming the Desire to Help into Professional Competence: From Caring to Learning How to Do shows how students enact professional skill. Included are chapters on how students acquire and apply social work competencies in the foundation senior year of the BSW program and first year of the MSW program. The attainment of competencies in the advanced second year of the MSW program is presented. Case illustrations of process recordings, in which competencies and practice behaviors are labeled, are used to provide clarity about practice, and to demonstrate the field instruction process.

    Part IV: I Feel Like Spaghetti—All Strung Out presents chapters dealing with the feelings and challenges students encounter in the intricate relationships that have to be sustained with clients, field instructors, and faculty advisors. Strategies for dealing with the many conflicting demands of family and friends are presented, along with ways of managing the effects of personal history on your field work. Added focus is provided for students in moving on to the next stage—whether it is heading to a job or further education. Included are many case illustrations.

    The case illustration method in this book represents a unique field work learning tool that brings students’ accomplishments and dilemmas to light, thereby igniting your understanding and catalyzing learning.

    Students look forward to field work with eagerness and expectation. With the passing of time, social workers have asserted that field work was the most memorable experience of their social work education. It is my hope that this book will influence your effectiveness with clients and stimulate the achievement of your fullest potential in field work.

    Acknowledgments

    The path of my career has always seemed to be propelled by the good advice and fabrications of friends and colleagues. This project is one more opportune happening.

    My sincere gratitude goes to SAGE—to Kassie Graves, associate director and publisher, and Dr. Michael Reisch, Social Work Series editor, for enticing me to craft a field work book for students. Kassie has never failed me in her unwavering support of this and my earlier work. Michael’s stalwart commitment to and understanding of my approach to this text has been heartening.

    I also must acknowledge Leah Mori for so capably copyediting the knots and Megan Markanich for her meticulous review.

    What fun—sharing my views directly with students. My indebtedness to them can never be fully rewarded. I hope I have paid tribute to their lives, their need to earn a living, or just the fact of the limited life experience of their youth.

    The field educators’ network, especially the New York Area Directors of Field Instruction and NANFED (North American Network of Field Educators and Directors) are all part of the village that emboldens me and stimulates the scholarship in field education. I thank them for this.

    The late field directors, Dr. Helene Fishbein and Dean Schneck, and educator, Dr. Catherine Papell, were grand visionaries and prime movers whose legacy sustained my work.

    My gratitude to Dr. Charles Garvin for his generosity is infinite. Bart Grossman, Jane Hassinger, Len Kates, Ellen Sue Mesbur, Marvin Parnes, Virginia Cook Robbins, and Louise Skolnik have been significant partners in my work.

    I am privileged with the collegiality and friendship of my coworkers. The ensemble at Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University is unrivaled. I am particularly grateful to my talented field department team: Raesa Kaiteris, a field work genius with students and field instructors who has been with me unconditionally for well over a decade; my support Gloria Marin; and to the recent members who have graciously and ably assisted me in the tumult of the work—Jill Becker Feigeles, Frances Montas, and Heleena Van Raan. I could not have asked for a better cohort to be proud of every day.

    My thanks go to Nancy Beckerman, Joan Beder, and Michele Sarracco for expertly steering students and agency staff through many field work intricacies. Charles Auerbach, Jade Docherty, Lynn Levy, Susan Mason, Jay Sweifach, and Wendy Zeitlin have always given me their unqualified help. It is quite a boost that our dean Carmen Ortiz Hendricks is a field work author and former field director; I deeply appreciate and value her staunch support. Agency field educators Heide Rosner, Rebecca Szmulewicz, and Karen Zuckerman have contributed greatly to my reflections for this volume.

    Valued friendships with Erika Sanchez, Gloria Scorse, and Pat Strasberg have been central to my life.

    My life partner and husband, Ron, and our sons, Dan and Alex, have lovingly endured the endless time frame of field work. Ron is a captivating teacher and prolific writer about democracy, equality, and social institutions. Dan, an astute economic and social observer, uses his research skills as a financial analyst and journalist. Alex, a philosopher theologian, employs his social work insight to write about the concept of a person. They are magnetic and draw people to them. I am extraordinarily proud of them. They contribute to my social construction of reality as I try to reflect upon what I do through their unique lenses.

    The extended family includes my bighearted niece Nancy Glassman Pasqual and her David and Noah, the Florida Glassmans, the Kyriakopoulos and Alatza units in Greece and in America, and the rest of the Kalamata cohort. By their side is the will of my parents, Denis and Magda Ernest (aka Anastasopoulos). All chronicle strength of character, a social ethos, and love of learning that is part of our shared heritage.

    I, along with SAGE, gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the following reviewers:

    Patti Aldredge, Virginia Commonwealth University

    Terrence T. Allen, North Carolina Central University

    Jane E. Barden, Valparaiso University

    Jennifer L. K. Boiler, Rutgers University

    Pamela Brodlieb, Long Island University Post

    Patricia Carl-Stannard, Sacred Heart University

    Nicole M. Cavanagh, University of South Carolina

    Bronwyn Cross-Denny, Sacred Heart University

    Sandra K. Edge-Boyd, University of Oklahoma

    Staci J. Jensen-Hart, Idaho State University

    Rachelle Kammer, Fordham University

    Mark Lamar, Rutgers University

    Katherine Perone, Western Illinois University

    Don Schweitzer, Pacific University

    Janet Tyler, Cairn University

    Mindy R. Wertheimer, Georgia State University

    Acknowledgements

    This book is dedicated to the students who undertake the challenge of social work

    because they have the insight to envision a rewarding future.

    About the Author

    Dr. Urania E. Glassman’s role as director of field instruction spans 30 years. Her social work specializations are field education, group work, and clinical practice. She is currently principal investigator of a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for Wurzweiler School of Social Work (WSSW), Yeshiva University, to train second-year students in clinical field placements with high-risk adolescents and transitional age youth. Her recent volume with SAGE, Group Work: A Humanistic and Skills Building Approach (2nd ed.), provides underpinning for the training design. Dr. Glassman maintains a long-standing clinical practice with individuals, families, and groups.

    She has written and presented papers on field education processes and experiential learning, training field educators, group work, and clinical practice. Dr. Glassman served on the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Commission on Educational Policy during the time when social work competencies were defined and field education as social work’s signature pedagogy was branded. She was instrumental in the development of the CSWE field education symposium (now the field education track) and of the NYC Red Apple Chapter of the International Association of Social Work with Groups as well as cofounder of NANFED (North American Network of Field Educators and Directors) and has served as chair of these initiatives.

  • Epilogue

    Whoever preserves a single life is considered

    by Scripture as if he preserved an entire world.

    —Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5

    So many situations presented in this volume are representative of students’ dilemmas, and all of their “perfect imperfections” (Legend & Gad, 2013). What has to be grasped upon completing a social work program with a bachelor in social work (BSW) or with a master in social work (MSW) is that everything is a perfect imperfection. Relationships are messy, and throughout, relationships require communication; reflection; and, most of all, commitment to the relationship. This holds true in relationships with clients, field instructors, faculty, and other students.

    To sustain the generosity and humanitarianism to preserve a single life, hold on to your wherewithal to reflect and to further your personal and professional growth—step by step.

    Notes and References

    • Diverging Learning Style Concrete Experience/Reflective Observation (CE/RO): The learner who is focused on concrete experience and reflective observation
    • Assimilating Learning Style Abstract Conceptualization/Reflective Observation (AC/RO): The learner tending to favor linking abstract concepts with reflective observation
    • Converging Learning Style Abstract Conceptualization/Active Experimentation (AC/AE): The learner using abstract conceptualization to create action.
    • Accommodating Concrete Experience/Active Experimentation (CE/AE): The learner using experience to guide the development of future action.
    Bogo, M., & Vayda, E. J. (1998). The practice of field instruction in social work: Theory and process (
    2nd ed
    .). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
    Dewey, J. (1963). Experience and education. New York, NY: Collier Books. (Original work published 1938)
    Gardner, H., & Shulman, L. S. (2005). The professions in America today: Crucial but fragile. Daedalus, 134(3), 1318.
    Goldstein, H. (1993). Field education for reflective practice: A re-constructive proposal. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 8(1, 2), 165182.
    Honey, P., & Mumford, A. (2006). The learning styles questionnaire, 80-item version. Maidenhead, UK: Peter Honey Publications.
    Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
    Luft, J., & Ingham, H. (1955). The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness. Proceedings of the Western training laboratory in group development. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA.
    Reynolds, B. (1948). Learning and teaching in the practice of social work. New York, NY: Farrar and Rinehart.
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    Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 5259.
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    4th ed
    ., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
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    5th ed
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    Work Ethic. (2015). In Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. Retrieved from http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/collegiate/work%20ethic
    Council on Social Work Education. (2015). Educational policy and accreditation standards. Alexandria, VA: Author.
    Gardner, H., & Shulman, L. S. (2005). The professions in America today: Crucial but fragile. Daedalus, 134(3), 1318.
    National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics. Washington, DC: NASW Press.
    NYU Silver School of Social Work. (2015). Field learning evaluation: Advanced concentration (second year). Retrieved from http://socialwork.nyu.edu/content/dam/sssw/academics/msw/pdf/Advanced%20Concentration%20Mid-Year%20%26%20Final%20Evaluation.pdf
    Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 5259.
    Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University. (2014). Field instruction manual (pp. 34, 37, 42, 43, 51, 52). Retrieved from http://www.yu.edu/uploadedFiles/Academics/Graduate/Wurzweiler%20School%20of%20Social%20Work/Fieldwork/FIELD%20MANUAL%20REVISED%20FEB2013.pdf
    Bogo, M., & Vayda, E. J. (1998). The practice of field instruction in social work: theory and process (
    2nd ed
    .). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
    Luft, J., & Ingham, H. (1955). The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness. Proceedings of the Western training laboratory in group development. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA.
    Reynolds, B. (1942). Learning and teaching in the practice of social work. New York, NY: Farrar and Rhinehart.
    Schon, D. (1990). Educating the reflective practitioner. New York, NY: Wiley.
    American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (
    5th ed
    .). Washington, DC: Author.
    New York State. (2014, July). NYS OMH single point of access (SPOA) care coordination/ACT Program application. Retrieved from http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/mental/spoa-urf.pdf
    New York State. (n.d.). Global assessment of functioning. Retrieved from https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/childservice/mrt/global_assessment_functioning.pdf
    Shulman, L. (2011). The skills of helping individuals, families, groups and communities (
    7th ed
    .). New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
    National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics. Washington, DC: NASW Press.
    American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (
    5th ed
    .). Washington, DC: Author.
    Reynolds, B. (1942). Learning and teaching in the practice of social work. New York, NY: Farrar and Rhinehart.
    Shulman, L. (2011). The skills of helping individuals, families, groups and communities (
    7th ed
    .). New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
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    2nd ed
    .). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics. Washington, DC: NASW Press.
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    8th ed
    .). Independence, KY: Cengage Learning.
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    National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics. Washington, DC: NASW Press.
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    8th ed
    .). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
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    Appendix A: Process Recording Outlines

    Process Recording Narrative Format

    Part I Pre-Engagement

    Student’s preparation includes what information you gleaned about the client’s situation and circumstances, and preparatory empathy—your ability to put yourself in the client’s shoes.

    Part II Narrative: Tell the story of interaction with client(s).

    The longest portion of several pages includes description, observation, dialogue, and summary of session themes.

    Part III Impressions

    Describe reactions to the session. How do you feel it went? What highlights were important?

    Part IV Plans for Future Action

    Part V Questions for Field Instructor

    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Process Recording Column Format

    Part I Pre-Engagement: Describe your cognitive preparation for the meeting and your preparatory empathy.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Part II Client Session (longest section—continues for several pages)

    DialogueStudent’s FeelingsYour IntentionsRelevant TheoryField Instructor Comments

    Part III Impressions

    Part IV Plans for Future Action

    Part V Questions for Field Instructor

    Process Recording Format for Group Work

    Name of Group:

    Session Number:    Meeting Date:

    Group Members Present: Give every member a disguised name, and maintain these throughout.

    Group Members Absent: Disguise the names.

    Pre-Engagement

    Include issues from prior sessions and your preparation for addressing these.

    Narrative

    Use quotes, summarize interaction, and give each member a disguised name.

    In summarizing, identify session themes. Clearly present your interventions. Include your observations and understanding of group dynamics, participation and communication patterns, and group norms.

    Describe any activities of the group and the interactions that occurred.

    (Longest section)

    Impressions

    Briefly share your reactions to the meeting.

    Plans for Future Action

    Questions for Field Instructor

    Appendix B: Field Placement Planning Form

    Second Year

    Please complete this three-page form in order to begin the placement process for second year of field work. This form will be used to plan your field placement experience and will be sent to your field placement agency.

    MSW DEGREE PROGRAM

    Check off all that apply:

    Field Placement at Place of Employment ( )

    School-Assigned Field Placement ( )

    CONCENTRATION ________________________________________

    FIRST-YEAR FIELD PLACEMENT DESCRIPTION

    Agency Name ____________________________________________________________

    Type of Agency ____________________________________________________________________

    Student Assignments (List):

    Client Population:

    Practice Methods/Modalities Used:

    WORK EXPERIENCE IN SOCIAL WORK AND OTHER FIELDS

    Please provide information on the last two jobs you have had, starting with the most recent one.

    Dates  Agency or Firm  Position and Duties

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES (welfare, educational, civic, political, etc.):

    Dates  Agency or Firm  Position and Duties

    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    REQUESTED OPPORTUNITIES FOR SECOND-YEAR FIELD PLACEMENT

    Please indicate a range of special interests you have. If you are employed and will be doing your field placement at your job, take into account the available opportunities that your agency can offer.

    Type of Populations:

    Practice Methods (individual work, family, groups, and community social work):

    Other Learning Opportunities:

    STUDENT’S LEARNING GOALS FOR SECOND YEAR

    • Identify some professional roles and skills you wish to develop. Discuss their relevancy to your chosen concentration.
    • Describe the types of assignments that should help you meet these goals.

    Special Factors:

    Please list any factors/circumstances that should be taken into consideration when planning your field placement: geography, time, physical condition, religious observance, family commitments, etc.:

    Are you dependent on public transportation? Yes _________ No __________

    Driver’s License: Yes __________ No _________ Availability of Car: Yes _________ No _________

    Appendix C: Sample Résumé

    Quiche Lorraine

    1422 Boulevard St. Michele

    Paris, France

    (342) 290-xxxx quiche.lorraine@xxx.fr

    EDUCATION

    Paris School of Social Work   Master in Social Work May 2016

    Paris, France

    London School of Economics   Bachelor of Arts 2012

    Major: Philosophy, Magna Cum Laude

    FIELD PLACEMENTS

    Second Year – Specialization in Clinical Social Work September 2015–May 2016

    Institute for Psychosocial Therapy

    Lyon, France

    • Individual counseling of clients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other diagnoses
    • Group work in day treatment program—conducted activities therapy group, creative writing group, and women’s group with patients in day treatment program
    • Crisis Mobile Unit—ACT team member
      • Conducted outreach and crisis intervention with team to provide medication for patients, monitor their well-being, and prevent rehospitalization
    • Received individual supervision from licensed social worker weekly
    • Prepared and submitted weekly process recordings for supervisory review

    First Year – Generic Social Work   September 2014–May 2015

    Odeon Community Center

    453 Boulevard St. Germaine

    Paris, France

    • Worked with immigrant mothers of children in early intervention program. Populations were primarily from African and Middle Eastern countries. Met weekly in group. Saw individual mothers.
    • Focus on children’s French language development skills to prepare them for school
    • Worked with education staff in teaching parenting skills and child development for mothers
    • Facilitated adolescent group of girls to focus on issues related to school, culture conflict with parents, and friendship and other relationships

    EMPLOYMENT

    French Language Teacher   September 2012–May 2014

    Manchester High School

    Manchester, UK

    • Teach beginning and advanced French classes to ethnically diverse high school students
    • Create innovative program inviting native French speakers to classroom
    • Develop anti-bullying program and curriculum for the school

    Camp Counselor and Unit Head   Summers 2009–2012

    Orchard Street YMCA Settlement Camp

    New York, NY, USA

    • Theater director for French language production

    VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE   September 2010–2012

    Intergeneration Projects

    Seniors and high school students

    Manchester, UK


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