Overview of the MSW Program and Practicum

Definition of Levels of Intervention for the M.S.W. Practicum

Direct Practice (Micro) with Specific Clients

Indirect Practice on Behalf of Client Systems

Practicum Supervision Models

One-to-One Supervision Model

Co-supervision Model

Rotational Supervision Model

Year 1 Practicum: Information for Students and Field Instructors 

Competencies

Time Requirements

Practicum Assignments

Year 2/Advanced Standing: Information for Students and Field Instructors

Competencies

Time Requirements

Practicum Matching

Learning Contracts and Evaluation of the Student

Learning Contract

Evaluation of the Student

 

Definition of Levels of Intervention for the M.S.W. Practicum

Middleman & Goldman (1989)* provide a succinct framework for defining social work practice with and on behalf of client systems.

They note that direct social work practice is involved with individual or interpersonal change (couples, family, group) and can occur through:

  1. Work with a specific client system (roles might include counseling, psycho-education, emotional support, coach etc.);
  2. Work on behalf of the specific client system (roles might include making referrals; acting as a broker, mediator, or advocate on behalf of client with significant others such as family, school, work, peers).

Indirect social work practice is aimed at systemic changes in the organization, community or environment and can occur through:

  1. Work with clients that will benefit themselves and similar others (roles might include facilitation for patient councils, outreach to form a community coalition, advocacy through demonstrations, lobbying with clients for new or improved services etc.)
  2. Work with non-clients on behalf of all clients in a similar situation (roles may include research; fund-raising; policy analyses or development; grant-writing; social administration etc.).

* Middleman, R. & Goldberg, G. (1989). The structural approach to social work practice. New York: Columbia University Press.

Direct Practice (Micro) with Specific Clients

Direct practice with a specific client system (also referred to as micro practice) involves the application of basic social work knowledge to professional intervention with clients or receivers of service for the purpose of bringing about personal or interpersonal change in that individual, couple, family, or group in their own environment. This includes a range of practice modalities with these individuals, couples, families, and small groups. However, each practice situation includes some common features, such as:

  • An identified client system (although the composition may change over time due to assessment);
  • One or more interactions (e.g., telephone, face-to-face; written communication such as mail or email) with the identified client system;
  • Assessment and intervention is focused on that specific client system;
  • Direct practice intervention may impact change in other systems in the client’s environment.

In direct practice the field instructor will access student learning through a wide range of written materials (e.g., agency reports, tape analyses, process recordings and reflection logs).  Audio taping and direct observation are very important to assess interpersonal communication skills.

Indirect Practice on Behalf of Client Systems

Indirect practice on behalf of client systems (also referred to as mezzo or macro practice) involves the application of basic social work knowledge to professional intervention in the community, organization, or larger social systems for the purpose of changing structures, policy, or procedures on behalf of clients with similar issues. Activities include data gathering to assess needs, program planning, program implementation and administration; program evaluation; and policy formulation. Social work practice at this level involves participation and consultation with volunteers, client/consumer groups, or professionals. Work may involve individuals and groups such as committees, boards, task forces, community groups, and inter-agency networks or coalitions.

In indirect practice the field instructor will access student learning through a wide range of written materials (e.g., reports, process recordings, and reflection logs).  Direct observations are more likely to be used than taping to assess interpersonal communication skills. Where feedback from other staff will be purposively included in the student evaluation, procedures for obtaining this information should be clearly articulated amongst the student, field instructor, and other.

A community can be defined as: an interacting population of persons sharing a common geographical location; a body of persons with a common history or common social, economic, or political interests; a population of persons sharing certain characteristics (e.g., mental health issues/concerns, precarious housing/homelessness); a group sharing personal attributes (e.g., age, sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability); or a group sharing beliefs and practices (e.g., religion, professional associations). Student activities have included working with a group of mothers in low-income housing to develop a co-operative child care program, and working with tenants to enhance their physical neighbourhood and improve safety conditions (e.g., street lighting). Students have also worked with community groups (e.g., hospital consumers – patients and/or their families) to assist them in exercising power within institutions in order to ensure they have formal representation on organizational committees, and helping ethno-specific groups apply for – and access – government funding.

Practice in the organization to improve service delivery can involve a wide range of practice roles and activities. Students have learned to conduct needs assessments to determine gaps in client service or to participate in internal and external organizational committees working to develop needed resources. Students have learned to assess existing resources in respect to relevant criteria and prepare a handbook or computerized data bank for use by agencies, clients, and community members. Students have learned how to participate as active members on internal organization committees working on projects such as instituting quality assurance mechanisms, anti-oppression policy development and review. Students have also learned to represent the agency through participation on external working committees aimed at developing needed resources or inter-agency programs; this involves reporting back to the host agency and ensuring representation of the organization’s views. Students have learned to conduct needs assessments for planning educational activities for staff and volunteers and have been involved in developing and offering in-service training. Additionally, students have learned to develop reference lists or bibliographies and video resources for staff education and community education. Students have learned the organizational skills involved in large conference planning.

Practice in social policy development and social administration often takes place in municipal, provincial, or federal government settings (also referred to as macro practice). Through tasks such as social policy and planning, social administration and program evaluation students develop competence in committee membership and leadership, research, consultation, and writing. Students have the opportunity to work collaboratively with others, to write documents such as funding proposals, task force reports, policy statements, cabinet memos, briefing notes, and press releases. Examples of student assignments include: surveys of large organizations to determine perceived need for policy regarding day care or employee assistance programs; developing policy and procedures for implementation of equal employment opportunities within a large organization; and developing legislation for service providers in relation to specific issues such as long-term care.

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Practicum Supervision Models

A. One-to-One Supervision Model

  • One field instructor is assigned to one or 2 students for the duration of the practicum;
  • One learning contract is submitted electronically by the student to the field instructor(s), FFL, educational coordinator (where applicable);
  • Mid-term and final evaluations are completed by the field instructor;
  • Mid-term and final self-evaluations are completed by the student.

 B. Co-supervision Model

  • Two or more field instructors are assigned for the duration of the practicum
  • One learning contract is submitted electronically by the student to the field instructor(s), FFL, educational coordinator (where applicable);
  • Mid-term and final evaluations are completed jointly by the field instructors;
  • Mid-term and final self-evaluations are completed by the student.

C. Rotational Supervision Model

  • Two or more field instructors are assigned to the practicum in a sequential manner;
  • One learning contract is submitted electronically by the student to the field instructor(s), FFL, educational coordinator (where applicable);
  • The field instructor responsible for each rotation completes an evaluation at the end of the rotation;
  • Self-evaluations are completed by the student at the end of each rotation.

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 Year 1 Practicum: Information for Students and Field Instructors

The Year 1 practicum is regarded as an introduction to generic social work practice. The practicum is designed to provide students with beginning skills and competencies required for direct social work practice with diverse client systems. The practicum will provide the opportunity to apply theory to practice.

Competence is assessed through two linked activities: one is the observation of performance in work with clients/receivers of service and the second is reflection on, analysis and articulation of concepts and students’ internal processing and states that influenced their professional performance.

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Competencies

In order to achieve a sufficient and broad knowledge base in the Year 1 practicum, the student will demonstrate core knowledge and beginning practice competence in direct practice with a client system and on behalf of client systems in the context of programs and organizations for the delivery of social work services.

In the Year 1 practicum the student is expected to demonstrate competency in the following areas:

  • Function within the professional context: to develop and demonstrate his/her professional identity as a social worker in respect to commitment to and the provision of service to people;
  • Function within an organizational context: to develop and demonstrate the ability to function within an organizational context;
  • Identify/assess issues;
  • Develop a purposeful intervention/plan;
  • Implement intervention/plan;
  • Use effective communication skills.

The competency model also provides the basis for evaluation, and is reflected on the midterm and final evaluations under the six domain headings:

  • Learning and Growth
  • Behaviour in the Organization
  • Conceptualize Practice
  • Clinical Relationships
  • Assessment and Intervention
  • Professional Communication

Year 1 practicums are designed to offer students direct service learning opportunities.  Upon completion of the practicum, students will emerge with a beginning conceptual understanding of the key elements informing social work practice which includes:

  • The organizational context – agency mandate, social work purpose and role;
  • The professional context – values, code of ethics, regulation;
  • The inter-professional context – working collaboratively in teams
  • An understanding of the importance of self-awareness and reflection in social work practice;
  • An understanding of the beginning stage of direct practice with diverse clients and client systems;
  • An ability to develop a collaborative professional relationship with a client.

At the beginning of the practicum, Year 1 students will submit to their field instructor(s) a copy of their Lab Summary from the fall term. The purpose is to ensure that any identified “areas for development” are included in the Learning Contract.

The Learning Contract will include a plan for direct service.  By the mid-term evaluation (half way point), students are expected to be engaged in direct service with clients.

In order to evaluate students based on the competencies, it is required that field instructors directly observe students’ interventions. This may consist of:

  • The students work with individuals, groups and families;
  • Attending and contributing to team, community or inter-professional meetings;
  • Preparing and (co-)leading workshops and training.

Self-reflective journals and process recordings also serve as important tools through which to assess the student’s activities.

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Time Requirements

Total days in practicum:  between 67 and 70 days (confirmed at the start of each academic year)

Key dates and schedules are located on the FIFSW Practicum website.  Check regularly for updated information.

Students may make modifications to the practicum schedule under the following circumstances:

  • Changes are mutually agreeable to student and instructor;
  • There is no conflict with classes;
  • The field instructor is present on site, or has designated an alternate field instructor;
  • The FFL is notified.

Students who require significant modifications must obtain written approval from their field instructor AND the Assistant Dean, Field Education e.mckee@utoronto.ca. Minor modifications to the schedule can be mutually agreed upon by the student and field instructor.

Students are allowed a maximum of two personal days for the entire practicum. The intent is that this be used for religious observation, unforeseen illness or bereavement. As early as possible, students must inform their field instructor and FFL to mitigate impact on the organization. Absences from the practicum which exceed two days must be rescheduled.

Students are exempt from the practicum during the University’s reading week (February which includes Family Day) and any statutory holidays that fall during practicum time.

Some practicums require flexible hours, including evening or weekend attendance. In these cases, the field instructor and student should arrange time in lieu, within a reasonable timeframe. Overtime in the practicum should be avoided.

“Overtime” cannot be accrued and used to end the practicum before the scheduled end date.

Note:  FIFSW hosts professional development workshops for students which may occur during practicum time.  In May and June, students in the Year 1 practicum will be interviewing for their Year 2 practicum.  Students may request permission to attend the interview.

Liberating students from practicum for these activities is at the field instructor’s discretion.

Practicum Course Enrolment

All full-time Year 1 students are automatically enrolled in the Social Work Practicum course (SWK 4701H) from January to May.

Students who request enrolment in the Practicum Course commencing in an alternate semester must submit a completed Add/Drop Course(s) Form to Eileen McKee, Assistant Dean, Field Education.

January to May Practicum

The MSW program is designed with classes scheduled on Mondays and Tuesdays, and practicum attendance is scheduled as follows:

21 hours a week (based on a 7 hour day) – Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from January to early April;

28 hours a week (based on a 7 hour day) – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from early April to approximately the end of May.

Summer Session Practicum

The summer practicum is designed in conjunction with the required course, SWK 4605H – Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families.  Please refer to the summer timetable for scheduling.  To meet the total required days in practicum, students will attend practicum either 4 or 5 days per week, negotiated with the field instructor, and finishing no later than the end of August.  The Practicum Office formalizes the student’s schedule, and will forward a copy of the summer session practicum schedule to the student, field instructor(s), educational coordinator (where applicable) and FFL.

Students must declare in the Fall term whether they will be participating in a January or a summer practicum.  Students must drop the January – May SWK 4701H course and add it for the Spring/Summer semester.  Add/Drop Course(s) Forms are available through the School of Graduate Studies. Students are advised to be aware of the implications of full-course load requirements for OSAP funding. Ensure accurate information.

Labour Disruption Policy

FIFSW recognizes that for students in practicum in a unionized environment, a labour disruption during practicum is a possibility. Students who are applying for a practicum in a unionized environment are encouraged to speak to the agency about the potential for a labour disruption and the agency’s policy around students in practicum during a labour disruption. In the event  of a labour disruption students will develop an individualized plan in collaboration with their Faculty-Field Liaison (FFL).

Students who are in a practicum site where the field instructor or other professionals engaging in social work practice are on strike are not expected to cross the picket line in order to perform duties associated with their practicum.

Options available for consideration include:

  1. Delaying the practicum if completion is possible by the end of the semester;
  2. Undertaking alternate learning opportunities – the student must obtain approval from their FFL for alternate supervised practicum opportunities, document changes in the learning contract and submit the revised learning contract to their FFL.
  3. Postponing / withdrawing from the practicum until the following semester
  4. Changing to a new practicum.

Please note that every case is unique and may delay the graduation date.

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Practicum Assignments

Regardless of whether the student is enrolled in a combined program; or whether the student is considering a specific field or collaborative program in YEAR II, all Year 1 students are assigned to the practicum setting by the Practicum Office.  The matching protocol used most recently is described below.  Variations are made each year based on information obtained by the Practicum Office.

Year 1 Matching 

The Practicum Office begins recruiting YEAR I foundation practicums in the months before student matching begins. Field Instructors write full descriptions of the learning opportunities directly onto the PAS.  Year 1 foundation practicums are designed to offer direct practice opportunities that meet the competency requirements as set out by the FIFSW.  Practicums also offer an opportunity for students to undertake some indirect activities.

Students select 7 practicums from the PAS descriptions.  A computer algorithm is used to assign students to ONE of the seven selections.  Students contact the field instructor(s) for the interview.  Historically, the PAS algorithm matches the majority of students in the first run, however, not all students are matched at this stage.  The Practicum Office works with all students who are not assigned an interview.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE

January to May semester:  Interviews typically take place from mid-November through mid-December.

Summer session semester:  Interviews take place February through March.

The final practicum assignment is reflected on the Practicum Administration System (PAS).

Following the interview: If the field instructor or the student does not believe the practicum would be a positive learning experience, the Practicum Office is to be contacted immediately.  In these circumstances, the student is assigned to another practicum interview. The field instructor interviews another student.

Things to keep in mind – Field instructors:

Before the interview:

Update the PAS: Students rely on the descriptions provided on the PAS by the field instructor in making their interview selections.  It is important that the information on the PAS is complete and current.

One student will be matched with one interview.

During the interview:

Please remember – this is not an interview for the purpose of employment. Instead it is an interview to explore with the student how the practicum learning opportunities may offer foundation social work learning.

Following the interview:

The Practicum Office will assume the match is confirmed.  You need not confirm.  Contact the Practicum Office only if there are concerns.

Things to keep in mind – Students:

Before the interview:

Update the PAS: Ensure contact information on the PAS profile is complete and current;

Read the practicum profiles: Review the practicum descriptions on the PAS, with particular attention to REQUIREMENTS.

Prepare information and questions for the interview: The purpose of the interview is to determine whether the practicum opportunity will provide the opportunity to develop social work competencies.

During the interview:

Use the interview to learn about the setting and ask questions about the learning opportunities.

Following the interview:

Communicate with the Practicum Office by way of email or telephone if you have concerns or reservations about the practicum.

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Year 2/Advanced Standing: Information for Students and Field Instructors

The MSW Year 2/Advanced Standing program prepares students for advanced social work practice competence.  This includes the development of critical professional judgment, systematic inquiry, and ethical responsibility in one of five fields:

  • Children and their Families
  • Human Services Management and Leadership (formerly Social Service Administration)
  • Gerontology
  • Mental Health and Health
  • Social Justice and Diversity

Students must select a practicum setting that complies with their declared field.

Students in a combined or collaborative program must ensure their practicum meets the specific requirements of their program.

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Competencies

In the Year 2/Advanced Standing practicum the student is expected to demonstrate competency in the following areas:

  • Function within the professional context: to develop and demonstrate his/her professional identity as a social worker in respect to commitment to and the provision of service to people;
  • Function within an organizational context: to develop and demonstrate the ability to function within an organizational context;
  • Identify/assess issues;
  • Develop a purposeful intervention/plan;
  • Implement intervention/plan;
  • Use effective communication skills.

The competency framework provides the basis for evaluation, and is reflected on the midterm and final evaluations under the six domain headings:

  • Learning and Growth
  • Behaviour in the Organization
  • Conceptualize Practice
  • Clinical Relationships
  • Assessment and Intervention
  • Professional Communication

Year 2/Advanced Standing practicums are designed to offer students the opportunity to practice a direct service, indirect service or mixed (direct and indirect) learning opportunity.

Year 2 students are expected to provide their field instructor(s) with the summary of their year 1 final evaluation.  Students entering the program with advanced standing may provide their field instructor(s) with a copy of their final BSW practicum evaluation or a recent employment review. It is also beneficial for field instructors to have knowledge of the work students are experiencing in classes. In this way, field instructors may develop assignments that are compatible with class projects.  Students may benefit from sharing their course syllabi with their field instructors.

For students in the two year MSW program, successful completion of the Year 1 practicum is required prior to commencing the Year 2 practicum.

In order to evaluate a student’s performance based on the competencies, field instructors are required to directly observe the student. Observation can include:

  • The students work with individuals, groups and families;
  • Attending and contributing to team, community or inter-professional meetings;
  • Preparing and (co-)leading workshops and training
  • Completing activities and tasks in an indirect service setting.

Self-reflective journals and process recordings also serve as important tools through which to assess the student’s learning activities.

Supervision is an integral component of student learning and evaluation in practicum.  Field instructors are expected to provide a minimum of one hour of direct supervision per week.

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Time Requirements

Total days in practicum:  approximately 75 days (confirmed at the start of each academic year)

Key dates and schedules are located on the FIFSW Practicum website.  Check regularly for updated information.

Students may make modifications to the practicum schedule under the following circumstances:

  • Changes are mutually agreeable to student and instructor;
  • There is no conflict with classes;
  • The field instructor is present on site, or has designated an alternate field instructor; the FFL must be notified.

Students cannot attend practicum during the holiday break in December/January, while the University is officially closed.

Students who require significant modifications must obtain written approval from their field instructor AND the Assistant Dean, Field Education e.mckee@utoronto.ca.  Minor modifications to the schedule can be mutually agreed upon by the student and field instructor.

Students are allowed a maximum of three personal days for the entire practicum. The intent is that this be used for religious observation, unforeseen illness or bereavement. As early as possible, students must inform their field instructor and FFL to mitigate impact on the organization. Absences from the practicum which exceed three days must be rescheduled.

Students are exempt from the practicum during the University’s reading week (mid-February) and any statutory holidays that fall during practicum time.

Some practicums require flexible hours, including evening or weekend attendance.  In these cases, the field instructor and student should arrange time in lieu, within a reasonable timeframe.  Overtime in the practicum should be avoided.

“Overtime” cannot be accrued and used to end the practicum before the scheduled end date.

Note:  The FIFSW hosts professional development workshops for students which may occur during practicum time.  Students may request permission to attend.  Liberating students from practicum for these activities is at the field instructor’s discretion.

All full-time Year 2 and Advanced Standing students are automatically enrolled in the Social Work Practicum course (SWK 4702Y) from September to April.

Students who request enrolment in the Practicum Course commencing in an alternate semester must submit a completed Add/Drop Course(s) Form to Eileen McKee, Assistant Dean, Field Education.

September to Early April Practicum

The MSW program is designed with classes scheduled on Mondays and Tuesdays, and practicum attendance scheduled as follows:

21 hours a week (based on a 7 hour day) – Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from September to early April.

Field of Human Services Management and Leadership Practicum

The time requirements for students in the Human Services Management and Leadership field are the same as the cohort, with the exception that students are required to attend classes on 5 Thursdays in each semester. Students negotiate a plan to reschedule practicum attendance with their field instructor.

MSW Combined Program Practicum

Students in the Combined Law and Social Work (JD/MSW) Program or the Combined Health Administration and Social Work (MHSc/MSW) Program must ensure their practicum meets the specific requirements of their program.

Students enrolled in year 1 of the MSW program follow the same practicum matching process and schedule as all year 1 students in the MSW program.

Students enrolled in the JD/MSW Combined Program: In year 2 of the MSW program students attend practicum for 50 days. The usual schedule is two days per week from September to early April. Students are required to have their practicum approved by the Co-Director of the MSW/JD program.

“Block” Practicum

The purpose of a “block” practicum is to accommodate students’ individual circumstances.  The time requirements remain the same, approximately 75 days; however, practicum attendance is typically 4 or 5 days per week.  This option requires that the student notify the Practicum Office a minimum of 4 months in advance of their intended start date.  “Block” practicums must coincide with a university semester –  September to December, January to April, or May to August. The practicum must be completed within one academic year.

Students who request enrolment in the Practicum Course commencing in an alternate semester must submit a completed Add/Drop Course(s) Form to Eileen McKee, Assistant Dean, Field Education.

Part Time Students

Enrolment in the Practicum course is not automatic for part-time students.  The practicum course must be added in the academic term in which it is to be completed.

Labour Disruption Policy

FIFSW recognizes that for students in practicum in a unionized environment, a labour disruption during practicum is a possibility. Students who are applying for a practicum in a unionized environment are encouraged to speak to the agency about the potential for a labour disruption and the agency’s policy around students in practicum during a labour disruption. In the event  of a labour disruption students will develop an individualized plan in collaboration with their Faculty-Field Liaison (FFL).

Students who are in a practicum site where the field instructor or other professionals engaging in social work practice are on strike are not expected to cross the picket line in order to perform duties associated with their practicum.

Options available for consideration include:

  1. Delaying the practicum if completion is possible by the end of the semester;
  2. Undertaking alternate learning opportunities – the student must obtain approval from their FFL for alternate supervised practicum opportunities, document changes in the learning contract and submit the revised learning contract to their FFL.
  3. Postponing / withdrawing from the practicum until the following semester
  4. Changing to a new practicum.

Please note that every case is unique and may delay the graduation date.

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Practicum Matching

Year 2/Advanced Standing Students take an active role in selecting their Year 2 practicum.

The PAS is used in assigning practicum interviews and final practicum setting. Please refer to the section on the PAS for technical instructions.

Things to keep in mind – Field instructors:

Before the interview:

  • Update the PAS: students rely on the descriptions provided on the PAS by the field instructor in making their interview selections.  It is important that the information on the PAS is complete and current;
  • Reflect on the learning opportunities: the purpose of the interview is to determine whether the practicum will provide the opportunity to develop social work competencies and has potential as a complementary teaching and learning relationship.

During the interview:

  • Feedback to the student is strongly discouraged, as there are many variables associated with the PAS matching algorithm.

Following the interview:

  • Both the student and field instructor input a response on the PAS;
  • A ranking of “no” is assumed to indicate major incompatibility issues or other concerns;
  • If a response is not entered on the PAS post-interview, the PAS assigns a response of “yes” for each student interviewed by the field instructor.

Things to keep in mind – Students:

Before the interview:

  • Update the PAS: Ensure your profile information on the PAS is complete and current;
  • Read the practicum profiles: Review the practicum descriptions on the PAS, with particular attention to REQUIREMENTS.
  • Prepare your information and questions: The purpose of the interview is to determine whether the practicum opportunity will provide the opportunity to develop social work competencies. To this end, preparation for the interview is expected.

During the interview:

  • Use the interview time to learn about the setting; ask questions about the learning opportunities which will develop social work competencies.

Following the interview:

  • Submit rank ordered responses regarding the interviews into the PAS.

Field Instructors and Students:

A tentative schedule of the recruitment and matching process is included below. The schedules are posted on the FIFSW website:

January through March: Field instructor recruitment.

April: Student information sessions.

May: Students select their interview choices.  The PAS is run to determine interview matches.

May and June: Students initiate interviews and both students and field instructors submit their post interview responses on the PAS.

June: The PAS is run to confirm practicum matches.  Not all students will be confirmed with a practicum at this stage.

June through August: Students who have not been matched through the PAS work with the Practicum Office to secure a practicum placement.

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Learning Contracts and Evaluation of the Student

Learning Contract

A learning contract is a document developed by the student and field instructor to focus and structure the practicum within a competency framework. It specifies what and how a student will learn within a given period of time. The contract describes the structure of the practicum with respect to:

a) Learning objectives;

b) Learning assignments and activities to achieve objectives; and

c) Indicators of success and methods for evaluation.

Based on a competency framework, the contract is unique to the practicum setting, ensures the student’s learning is meaningful and clarifies expectations, assignments, resources, and evaluation procedures. .

Modifications can be made throughout the practicum process.  The learning contract is a “road map” for the student’s learning.

The social work practice competencies define the learning expectations for students in the practicum. These expectations are defined in behavioral terms. The competency behaviors can be used to clarify the student’s learning objectives.

To assist the student and field instructor in developing specific tasks and objectives for contracting the following methods are suggested:

  1. Observation of the field instructor by the student (e.g. client interview, committee meeting), followed by a discussion of the student’s observations. In this way field instructors can begin to develop some idea about the student’s ability to conceptualize and assess the interaction.
  2. Observation of the student by the field instructor through such means as co-participation in a client interview or meeting, observing through a one-way mirror, listening to an audio tape, watching a video tape, attending a presentation etc. Through discussion about the situation and the student’s practice behaviors, field instructors will have an opportunity to assess the student’s ability to conceptualize and their level of interpersonal skill. From observation and discussion sequences, field instructors and students will be able to develop specific learning objectives, which can then be formalized in a written contract. It is likely that new learning objectives will be established as the student continues to be observed and practice. These objectives may be added to the contract.
  3. Observation of the student by others may be mutually agreed upon by the student, field instructor, and designated other. Collateral information can best be sought by offering concrete suggestions of what types of activities should be observed (e.g., frequency of meeting participation, use of specific communication skills).

The Integration of Theory and Practice: The ITP Loop Model (Bogo and Vayda, 1998) 
(Printed with author’s permission), from;  Bogo, Marion & Elaine Vayda (1998). The Practice of Field Instruction in Social Work: Theory and Process.  Second Edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

  1. Reflective Journals

“Experience of work is not enough in itself.  It is the learning that comes from it that is important.”  Harvey, Geall & Moon, Work Experience: Expanding opportunities for undergraduates (1998)

Reflection, Evaluation And Documentation

Reflection and evaluation, the consideration of evidence, the determination of its validity is the central ingredient of scholarship. Scholarship has been described as

  • Searching out evidence and analyzing it,
  • Reflecting on it, teasing out the meaning,
  • Drawing conclusions based on the evidence,
  • Evaluation in order to make a pronouncement about value,
  • Providing constructive comment about each other’s work,
  • Making changes to improve student learning.

These are the elements that enable us to exercise scholarly judgment, to evaluate a proposition, to test the merit of a hypothesis, to judge the logic of an argument. We do these things all the time, about other people’s work and about the product of our own research what we do not do as commonly is apply these processes ourselves to our own teaching practice.

Engaging in open and collaborative discussion about one’s work with a peer or supervisor, and regularly writing up one’s learning in a journal or log book, is a process that will assist students to become reflective practitioners. The journal is parallel to the field book or laboratory notes of the scientist. One not only records what happened or what was observed; but in addition a tentative hypothesis or the development of new understanding can be added to try to make a new sense of phenomena. Reflective writing has the potential to provide a systematic approach to one’s development as a reflective, critical and constructive learner.

Donald Schon in Educating the Reflective Practitioner writes about reflection-in-action. He describes a process of learning by doing with the help of a coach. To maximize learning one can question and challenge the coach, ask for clarification and together build new understandings. In this way one learns to be reflective with our coach (or field instructor).

Another helpful way of understanding the process of reflection is described by Stephen Brookfield in Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Brookfield describes the process of hunting out one’s assumptions and critically examining them. Look for the assumptions that underpin practicum experiences and then play devils advocate and develop a contrary argument. There are now two sides of an argument to evaluate. This is engaging in personal critical reflection.

Reflective journals:

  • Often form a substantial part of the assessment of the work experience, either directly or indirectly
  • Are a very useful self assessment tool if used well

Recording in the journal:

  • Journals are of limited value if one just records activities done while on placement. To gain the full benefit, one needs to reflect on the learning that has taken place
  • Spend some time each week on the journal
  • Use the opportunity to reflect on both the transferable skills developing, as well as the agency-specific skills being used in the practicum
  • Reflective practice takes time to learn. Get feedback from your field instructor. Use the journal as a starting point for discussion
  • Below are some guidelines as to questions to ask yourself when thinking about your experience.

Questions that can be considered which aid in reflection:

  • In what areas/ situations do you feel you have made progress?   Specifically what have you learned?  What strengths can you identify?
  • What has contributed to this progress?  What have you learned about the way you learn?
  • What would you do differently next time?  What other options were there in that situation?  What would have been the consequences of another action?
  • Has another similar incident arisen again and how did you react?
  • Think about some events/ situations that have taken place and how you felt at the time, e.g. confident, tense, frustrated, certain, doubtful etc.   Use these reactions to identify strengths, and areas that need development.
  • Have you identified any areas of weakness?  Are there potential situations where you can work on these?  How will you go about it?  Is more support needed to assist development?

Shaping a journal to suit oneself:

Learning occurs when one takes in information, thinks about it, makes sense of it, and fits it in with what one already knows. This may mean changing what is already known, or by rejecting the new information confirming the older knowledge. Learning also requires that one can see how to apply new information and where to apply it. This requires careful consideration before action. Writing about what one does and what one has learned disciplines us to become more thoughtful, reflective and analytic. The form your writing takes is up to you. These ideas may help you get started.

Ideas for getting started on reflective writing:

1. Use an Agenda

  • What is the current problem or issue? Describe the context
  • What additional information would be useful?
  • How is it related to other issues?  Who or what could help?
  • What are my assumptions? How can I test them?
  • What can I do to create a change? Be as adventurous as you can
  • What are the possible outcomes of these? What action will I take? Why?
  • List the outcomes you hope to achieve.
  • Reflection on the actual outcome What worked well?
  • What could I do differently next time.

2. Focus on the experience and think (not aloud) in writing:

Take something you have read, or take something that occurred as part of your practicum and use the following questions to guide your reflection:

  • How does this connect with an aspect of my practice?
  • What are the teaching and learning principles that are involved?
  • What could I change in relation to this?
  • What would happen if I did?

3. Focus on a critical incident that took place in the practicum.

  • Describe the incident as objectively as possible.
  • What were the assumptions that you were operating with?
  • Is there another way to see this event?
  • How would your clients/community group explain this event?
  • How do the two explanations compare?
  • What could you do differently?

4. Taking stock of learning

  • What is the most important thing you have learned in the practicum?
  • What is the most important thing I have learned about my practice/ work with or on behalf of others?
  • What is the most important thing I have learned about my clients?
  • How can I use my learning to improve my practice skills?

And from time to time…

  • What has using this journal confirmed that I already know about myself or my practice?
  • What do I need to do to improve the quality of what I do?
  • What might I do instead of what I do now?
  • What innovation could I introduce?
  • What professional development activities should I be seeking?

For more information on reflective practice see:

Ballantyne, R & Packer, J; (1995)Making Connections: Using Student Journals as a Teaching/Learning Aid, HERDSA ACT.

Boud, D; Keogh, R; & Walker, D, (1995) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning, Kogan Page, London.

Brookefield, S. D. (1995) On Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, Jossey Bass, San Francisco.

Schon, D; (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner; Jossey Bass, San Francisco.

 Preparing the Learning Contract

  1. The student is responsible for initiating and including their goals and objectives within the social work competency framework into the learning contract.
  2. The student and field instructor review a draft version.  This serves as a platform for discussion, taking into account the parameters of the setting/population.
  3. Final version is to be completed by the student, approved by the Field Instructor, and submitted electronically to the FFL fifteen days after the practicum start.  The educational coordinator is to be copied (where appropriate).

Learning Contract template (direct & mixed practice)

Learning Contract template (indirect practice)

The following worksheets developed by G. Pitt (2013) may be helpful in preparing the learning contract and organizing supervision.  These include a Student Learning Assignment Inventory, Possible Format for Process Recording, and Possible Format for Tape Analysis:

Resource Materials, (Gabrielle Pitt 2013)

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Evaluation of the Student in the Practicum

Midterm and Final Evaluation

Evaluation is a determination of the extent to which a student has achieved the objectives of the practicum. The social work practice competency behaviours model is used as a criterion framework. As an integrated whole the model is descriptive of social work practice.

Competency ratings are indicative of the student’s demonstrated ability in this particular context. The ratings should be supplemented by written comments and an overall summary. The model should be individualized and applied in relation to the nature of practice assignments, the practice approach(es) in the agency, and the learning contract.

Preparation

Several weeks before the evaluation is due, the student and field instructor should discuss the procedures, format, and content of the evaluation, clarifying expectations and respective responsibilities.

The instructor and student each;

  1. Review the learning contract, identifying any additional learning needs;
  2. Review the social work practice competency behaviors and the rating scale;
  3. Review the practice data / evidence which will be used in evaluation;
  4. Independently complete and submit a midterm and final evaluation on the PAS.

The mid-term and final evaluations follow the same procedures, with the addition to the final evaluation of a written summary regarding the student’s strengths, development during the practicum, areas that need additional focus in the Year 2 practicum or continuing education and employment supervision, etc.)

Evaluation due dates for Year 1

Evaluation due dates for Year 2/advanced standing

Sample Evaluation – Direct Practice

Sample Evaluation – Indirect Practice

*Please note that students and field instructors assigned to rotational placements follow individualized timelines for the completion of their evaluations. An evaluation must be submitted at the end of each rotation by both the student and the respective field instructor.

Grading

The practicum is a credit/no credit course. A credit (CR) is given when a student meets the competency expectations of the practicum.

A no credit (NCR) is given when a student does not meet the competency expectations of the practicum. A no credit (NCR) is the equivalent of a failure (FZ) grade in an academic course and is subject to the same regulations.

If the student receives a NCR, the FFL and Practicum Office will review the student’s practicum work and recommend to the FIFSW Grades Assessment Committee any of the following:

1. That the student repeats the practicum in the next academic year. Students usually have only one opportunity to repeat the practicum. If the student receives a No Credit (NCR) in the repeat of the practicum, he/she may be asked to withdraw from the program and their registration will be terminated;

OR

2. That the student applies to repeat the practicum when specific necessary conditions or requirements, which will support the likelihood of satisfactory field performance, have been met. The student has four years to complete the practicum from the date of registration. Students in initiating a request for readmission to practicum must provide a minimum of three months’ notice to the Practicum Office and document their efforts to fulfill the required conditions, which were assigned. The Practicum Office will review the application to determine readiness to proceed:

Review criteria to determine a student’s readiness to proceed with a practicum repeat include:

  • Nature, severity, frequency and scope of the performance issues;
  • Ability to understand conceptual material in the practicum and develop behavioral skills to demonstrate this understanding;
  • Judgment of the students’ ability to hear and use constructive feedback;
  • Availability and use of educational resources (and therapeutic resources if needed) by the student to prepare for readmission;
  • Availability of appropriate practicum resources for a repeat;
  • The student’s ability to successfully present him/herself in a practicum interview in order to secure a practicum match.

OR

3. That the student’s registration be terminated.

In exceptional circumstances, the FFL and Practicum Office can recommend a supplemental to the Chair of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work Assessment Committee. Supplementals are granted only in situations where students have not met certain required competencies, but the field instructor and Faculty Field Liaison determine that the student may have the potential to meet these requirements within a specific extended time frame (maximum 8 weeks). A practicum supplemental is an extension with clearly negotiated learning objectives. The Practicum Office and Faculty Field Liaison will request a review of the NCR by the Chair of the Assessment Committee to initiate this procedure.

Student Records

The Practicum Administrative System (PAS) is a database to monitor practicum, field instructor, student and agency activities for the purpose of providing a practicum credit. The PAS is not a replacement for records / transcripts that may be required in the future by a potential employer, regulatory body, licensing organization or for other purposes. The Practicum Office is not responsible for  providing / verifying credentials of a field instructor after you have graduated.  It is therefore highly recommended that you keep your own records of your practicum details, as these may be required in the future.

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Quick links to:

General Information About the Field Practicum

Vision, Mission and Values

The Practicum Team

Activities of Each Member of the Practicum Team

The Practicum Student

The Field Instructor

The Faculty-Field Liaison

The Educational Coordinator

The Practicum Office

Practicum Settings

Field Instruction

Requirements

Police Reference/Vulnerable Sector Check

Immunization and 2-step TB Test

Mask Fitting

Evening or Weekend Expectations

Risk Reduction and Student Safety

Home/Community Sessions

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Coverage

Accessibility

Student Professional Behaviour and Ethical Performance

Personal and Confidential Information

Sharing of Information

Practicum Guidelines and Procedures

Encrypting Personal and Confidential Information

Guidelines for the Resolution of Problems in Meeting Competency Expectations in the Practicum

Procedures for Withdrawal from the Practicum

Faculty Guidelines for Students Requesting Reference Letters

Evaluation and Feedback of the Practicum Process

Evaluation of Field Settings

Evaluation of the FFL

Evaluation of the Practicum Office

Accreditation