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Strategies for Remote Supervision of MSW Students | April 22, 2020

Thank you for offering to provide critical field supervision to an MSW student from the University of Toronto.  These are extraordinary times, and we greatly appreciate your ability to contribute in such a meaningful way.  This document is designed to provide you with:

    • an update on the status of field education;
    • details about learning opportunities your student may have engaged in; and
    • strategies to elevate the student’s experience into an MSW practicum.

Update on the current status of MSW field education: 

  • All U of T students are to engage in remote learning only until further notice.
  • The accrediting body for social work programs in Canada has reduced the minimum time requirement to 337.5 hours.
  • FIFSW is increasing flexibility regarding start dates for remote practicums.
  • Many FIFSW students are temporarily without field instructors due to COVID-19. To minimize disruption to their practicum, and to reduce demands on field instructors, FIFSW has provided students with a list of suggested remote learning opportunities.  To ensure a rich social work learning experience, supervision integrates social work values, ethics and theory into these remote learning opportunities.

Learning Opportunities

As noted above, the practicum office has been sharing available learning opportunities with all students to support them in completing their practicum. Some of these activities include:

  • Alberta Health Services – 6 online modules in Trauma-Informed Care –
  • Virtual Practice Fridays – participating in 10 online sessions where students will have an opportunity to enhance assessment and interviewing skills with simulated clients
  • Worldwide Therapy Online – Fundamental Ethical and Practical Considerations in Video Counselling with Lawrence Murphy, MA, the founder of Worldwide Therapy Online –
  • Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region – Responding to Disclosure Training –
  • Centre for Reseach and Education on Violence Against Women and Children – Improving Pathways to Safety for 2SLGBTQ+ Survivors of Violence –

For information about additional activities, please visit This site is being updated on a regular basis.

We also support field instructors to provide their own suggestions for learning activities. For instance, a field instructor for a year 2 practicum student has advised that they will both watch the weekly series hosted by Professor Tanya Sharpe titled “Covid-19’s impacts on vulnerable populations” The Field Instructor and student will debrief each episode during their weekly supervision hours. Field Instructors can also assign readings, reflections, presentations, etc.

The Practicum Office has also been advising students that as they draft a learning contract under these circumstances to try to think about a particular population group or area of practice that is of interest to them OR an area that they hope to pursue in Practicum II or future job opportunities. Learning activities and training can be focused on this area of practice to help with narrowing the scope and preparing for future opportunities.

Strategies for Remote Supervision

With some of these activities in mind, and considering remote supervision in general, the Practicum Office has drafted suggested questions to discuss with your student during supervision time that may facilitate the critical role you are playing in your student’s education:

  • The questions are organized by learning domains, to support your eventual completion of the student’s midterm and final evaluations.
  • You may wish to use these at intermittent times, or;
  • You may wish to ask the student to select a question from each domain
  • You may ask for responses in writing before the meeting or via telephone / skype.

Please encourage your student to e-mail you supervision meeting summaries, to which you can offer feedback on the quality and timeliness, important skills for MSW students to develop.

Learning, growth, and self care

  • How do you imagine that the skills gained from this experience will be beneficial to your future career as a social worker in a community and/or clinical setting?
  • Is there anything you learned from this training/webinar/podcast/reading that was new or different from other content in the MSW program?
  • Has your thinking shifted about your future career goals based on what you are learning?
  • What are some ways you plan to address self-care before, during, and after you complete the webinars, online modules, etc?

Behaviour in the organization

  • What unique skills/assets do you think you will be able to gain from this practicum experience?
  • Given how unique remote practicum learning is and considering that it could feel isolating, where might you be able to develop professional relationships during this remote practicum? Who are the social workers that you could reach out to for “coffee chats” (remotely) or other informal discussions?
  • How do you anticipate using our supervision time together? In what ways will you prepare for our meetings/conversations?

Conceptualizing practice

  • What social work values were practiced/demonstrated/addressed throughout the activity you participated in?
  • How was equity and diversity addressed (or not)?
  • How was person-in-environment addressed (or not)?
  • What therapeutic models are most relevant to informing your practice? Did you feel that these models were addressed in this activity?
  • What types of ethical dilemmas could you imagine arising from the type of practice discussed in the activity and what steps would you take in going about resolving them?
  • Were there approaches/tools/concepts that you learned that were new or different from what you’ve learned in your courses?  What was missing?
  • What was the most important thing that was shared in this activity?

Clinical relationships

  • How do you envision yourself building a therapeutic alliance with clients in a setting similar to what was described in the activity?
  • Considering the changing context during covid-19, how would relationship building differ if establishing alliance with a client through online/virtual practice?
  • What role would your social position play in your interactions with clients from the population described in this activity?
  • Which of the clinical practice skills that you practiced in classes (ie. empathy, validation, active listening, open/close-ended questions, self-disclosure, seeking clarification, use of silence, cultural sensitivity, etc) will be especially relevant and useful in the activity?

Assessment and intervention

  • How might you approach an assessment or intervention with a client in the population group described through this activity?
  • Based on what you are learning, are there specific skill(s) that you hope to have the opportunity to practice in future work/practicum? How will you prepare to use these skills? How would you evaluate how well you did?
  • How would you think about culture, equity and diversity when approaching assessment or intervention with the client population discussed in this activity/reading?

Professional communication

  • In a remote practicum such as this, you may not be representing an agency, but all of your communications reflect you as a future professional. How will you ensure professional communication with your field instructor, colleagues and other professionals?
  • How do you envision the online learning will impact your ability to communicate with others? In what ways will it be easier, and in what ways is it more difficult?
  • In this domain, it will also be important to invite your student to write reflections or document what they have learned from an activity in order to gauge their written communication skills. You may also ask that they come to supervision time prepared to present on a particular issue arising from an activity they participated in.