Practicum Guidelines and Procedures

Encrypting Personal and Confidential Information

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

Procedures for Dropping the Practicum Course

Procedures for Terminating a Practicum

FIFSW Guidelines for Students Requesting Reference Letters

Encrypting Personal and Confidential Information

The policy of U of T requires encryption of all personal and confidential electronic information kept outside of secure U of T servers.

The Practicum Office recommends that NO practicum related information is removed from the setting – in hard copy, memory key, lap top, or smart phones.

Privacy protection of the practicum organization’s information and privacy of the people whom they serve is paramount.

When in practicum, familiarize yourself with the policy of the practicum setting: How the setting handles electronic and hard copy data.

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

The practicum is distinct from most other university courses in that field placement in the community entails not only educational objectives for the student and school, but also professional responsibilities to clients, social service, health and welfare agencies, and the community. When students engage clients and assume service responsibilities there are ongoing professional, educational, and ethical responsibilities and courtesies to be considered. It is important to recognize early and respond quickly to students’ performance issues, particularly those of a serious or repetitive nature.

Various kinds of limitations and external stressors may impede the performance of some students. When personal issues impact field performance and professional behaviour to the extent that client obligations and agency expectations are not being met appropriately, faculty and field instructors have the responsibility to intervene. When performance is marked by inappropriate or unethical behavior, excessive absences, non-compliance with agency policy, or competence and skill deficits a Stage 1 Review will be convened (see below). Serious ethical violations or breaches of integrity are however rare.

Early recognition and feedback regarding serious performance issues are especially important. Field instructors and FFLs should communicate their observations and concerns to each other as soon as they are identified. Students, as well as clients, are better served by early recognition of significant performance difficulties. It is important that any student personal information be treated confidentially by the practicum participants (i.e., field instructor, relevant agency staff, FFL and Practicum Office). Appropriate referral to campus and community resources can occur.

1. It is the responsibility of the student and field instructor to identify any problematic behavior pattern or major issue in the practicum. The student and field instructor are to document their attempts in the learning/teaching experience to address these difficulties. In practicum settings where there is an educational coordinator, their role is to become involved when the student and field instructor cannot resolve the issue. It is the role of the educational coordinator and the FFL to assist in supporting the field instructor and student in dealing with problems in the practicum. The FFL is to be contacted when questions or problems arise in the practicum. It is anticipated that the majority of concerns will be dealt with through identification and discussion of the issues. However, should the issues not be resolved through this process, a Stage 1 Review Meeting is to be arranged.

2. The FFL will set a Stage 1 Review Meeting with the field instructor, student, and other appropriate persons such as the educational coordinator to review the situation. In preparation for the meeting the FFL will review a sample of the student’s practice, which was selected by the field instructor and student. The FFL will assess the student’s practice and document this assessment. The student, field instructor, and Practicum Office representative will be given copies of this assessment. An Educational Review may also be recommended at this time

3. In direct service settings, it is the student’s responsibility to assure the availability of audio/videotapes, process recordings or another method of observation of clinical work for the field instructor and/or FFL review. In indirect settings students must provide written process records and/or reflection logs to the field instructor.

4. The Stage 1 Review Meeting will cover the following:

a) A clear identification of problems in learning and teaching. The FFL will establish whether:  a)  there is sufficient evidence of the student’s practice (e.g., tapes, reports, records) to arrive at an evaluation; b) regular procedures have been followed in field instruction as specified in the learning contract (e.g., number and nature of assignments; field instruction sessions; nature of specific feedback given to the student);

b) Specification of learning objectives to be achieved and behavior changes expected;;

c) Any necessary actions and procedures to be taken in field instruction;

d) A time frame for a review meeting and a schedule stating when a sample of the student’s practice (selected by student and field instructor) is to be reviewed by the liaison;

e) A review of the procedures involved including grading.

The FFL will document the process and outcome of the Stage 1 Review Meeting. A copy will be given to the student, field instructor, and Practicum Office.

5. Should the practicum concerns not be resolved through the above procedures, a Stage 2 Review Meeting will be convened. For a Stage 2 Review, the FFL notifies the Assistant Dean, Field Education that termination of the practicum may be necessary due to the serious nature of the concerns in the practicum. The Assistant Dean notifies the Dean and/or Associate Dean Academic and convenes a meeting with the student and appropriate field and faculty personnel. In accordance with FIFSW procedures for reviewing professional conduct, the student may invite a support person to the meeting, the identity of whom must be conveyed to the Assistant Dean before the meeting.

6. The Stage 2 Review Meeting will assess the degree to which the student has met the objectives set out in the previous meeting, the extent to which any activities in the field instruction have been useful, and any other relevant issues. Further specification of issues, objectives, actions, and a time-frame may take place if necessary. The FFL will document the process and outcome of the meeting. A copy will be given to the student, field instructor, and Practicum Office.

7. Should the student not meet the competency expectations a No Credit (NCR) will be recommended by the field instructor in consultation with the FFL. The FFL will assign the grade. The Faculty’s Assessment Committee has the authority to review the grade. No Credit (NCR) is the equivalent of a failure (FZ) grade in an academic course and is subject to the same regulations.

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Procedures for Dropping the Practicum Course

As with other course, students have the option to drop the practicum courses SWK 4701 or SWK 4702. When a Course Add/Drop form is submitted to drop a practicum course, no course credit from the terminated practicum will be applied to future practicums.

The student must complete the School of Graduate Studies Course Add/Drop form and submit to the FIFSW Registrar. The final date for submitting the form without academic penalty for students in “F” course (SWK 4701) is nine weeks after the practicum has begun, and for the “Y” course (SWK 4702), the end of February. See the School of Graduate Studies Manual of Grading Policies and Procedures for exact dates.

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Procedures for Terminating a Practicum

Should a student wish to terminate a practicum, or should an agency request that the student terminate the practicum, the following procedures are to be followed:

Please note: Only when students have terminated their practicum using the procedures outlined below can they begin to pursue other practicum opportunities.

  1. The FFL is to be contacted by the student or the field instructor.
  2. The FFL is to hold meeting(s) with the student, the field instructor, and/or other appropriate persons such as the educational coordinator, to clarify the reasons for requesting termination, the nature of the student’s learning needs, and the setting’s resources and ability to meet those learning needs. The FFL is to document the process and outcome of these meetings.
  3. If the outcome of the meeting with the FFL is to prematurely terminate the practicum, a written request for termination is to be made by the party initiating the request to the Practicum Office. The FFL will complete the required paper work, signed by the student, the FFL and the Practicum Office.
  4. The FIFSW recognizes the right of the practice setting, after consultation with the agency director/educational coordinator, and the Practicum Office to terminate the practicum if the student’s behavior is unacceptable and/or client service/patient care is compromised. In such circumstances the Practicum Office must be advised in writing of the reasons for this decision and action. (See the University of Toronto Standards of Professional Practice Behaviour for all Health Professional Students).
  5. The FFL and Assistant Dean will establish any necessary conditions to be met before the student can renegotiate a practicum. Students who terminate the practicum will normally defer their next practicum until the next semester. The replacement practicum must comply with SGS registration time lines to commence in September, January or May and cannot begin outside of those time lines. This may result in additional registration fees.

In some circumstances, after termination, the Practicum Office will negotiate a replacement practicum for the student. The Practicum Office cannot guarantee when a replacement practicum will be located. To complete the practicum course requirement and receive a credit for the practicum the student must complete the usual required number of practicum days including any practicum days missed in the interim.

At the discretion of the Assistant Dean, Field Education and Associate Dean Academic, some of the student’s time in the terminated practicum may be credited to the student’s next practicum.  (See section on “Grading” for further clarification.)

  1. In exceptional circumstances, the Practicum Office may pre-empt some of these stages. In keeping with the University of Toronto policy on Human Rights and the Mission Statement of the FIFSW all students are expected to be treated equally. This applies to the interview and selection process as well as the practicum. Students who believe they may be subject to harassment or oppression (see below) might want to consider issues regarding disclosure. Agency personnel and students are instructed to read and respect the Human Rights Codes and students are encouraged to discuss arising concerns with their FFL.

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FIFSW Guidelines for Students Requesting Reference Letters

A student may ask an agency employed field instructor to be a referee but such a reference will not be considered an official University reference.

Under no circumstances may an academic letter/numerical grade be stated or copies of practicum evaluation be issued by the referee.

Any member of the University teaching faculty, including field instructors, may write and sign reference letters. Unless requested to compose an official reference on behalf of the FIFSW, the faculty member would indicate the reference is based only on his/her personal knowledge of the student. Usually, official FIFSW references are delegated by the Dean’s office to the student’s program advisor. This letter is based on the student’s total program of study (including the practicum evaluation) as documented in the student’s docket. In providing FIFSW authorized letters the following should be considered:

No verbal references are given; only written references should be issued in response to a written request. (No letters “To Whom it May Concern”)

Reference letters may be sent from the FIFSW only if there is consent by the student which can be provided by e-mail or in writing. If there is no written request, a reply should be sent to the inquirer saying that we have no consent from the student.

Typically, references are provided for students who have been out of the program for the first three years. After this period, the reply merely provides the basic information as to the time the student was registered and that he/she did or did not complete the program.

References for students still in the program/practicum should be brief, indicating that a full evaluation can be provided only after completion of the academic year.

References for students who have finished one year and are not planning to return for the second year should be concerned only with the performance of the student and should make no statement that the student is ready for professional practice.

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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


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


Student Professional Behaviour and Ethical Performance

Sharing of Information

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

A.  Traditional Supervision Model

B.  Co-supervision Model

C.  Rotational Supervision Model

Year 1: Information for Students and Field Instructors


Time Requirements

January to May Practicum

Summer Session Practicum

Practicum Assignments

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


Time Requirements

September to Early April Practicum

Human Services Management and Leadership Practicum (formerly Social Service Administration Practicum)

MSW Combined Program Practicum

“Block” Practicum

Practicum Matching

Learning Contracts and Evaluation of the Student

Learning Contract

Preparing the Learning Contract

Evaluation of the Student in the Practicum

Midterm and Final Evaluation


Evaluation and Feedback of the Practicum Process

Evaluation of Field Settings

Evaluation of the FFL

Evaluation of the Practicum Office