General Information About the Field Practicum
To lead towards a better society, through social work education, research and practice.
The mission of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW) at the University of Toronto (U of T) has an international perspective that is influenced by its position within one of the top universities in North America located in a global metropolis. As such, the Faculty is committed to:
- Educating and developing professionals who have the capacity to engage in and influence our changing world through social work practice, policy and research.
- Advancing research, practice, and policy that shapes the future of a profession that crosses national boundaries.
- Providing leadership by mobilizing knowledge that incorporates the range of expertise existing within the broader social work communities that exist internationally.
- Collaborating with our diverse partners to address social inequities at local, national and global levels.
The FIFSW is aligned with social work’s commitment to social justice and to the long-standing view of individuals as linked to and influenced by their environment. We draw on the synergies of diverse perspectives that advance systemic approaches and social justice, and encourage dialogue about their applications to the practice of social work. Accordingly, our discussions, teaching and research are informed by a range of theories and perspectives that call attention to the familial, social and political context of experiences of individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities. The diversity of ideas and perspectives informing professional work and social justice in social work is both our strength and our challenge. The FIFSW believes in:
- Understanding the individual in the environment; in thinking systemically; and in respecting distinct systems of beliefs and lifestyles of individuals, families, groups, communities and nations, without prejudice;
- Working with multiple systems – movement in one affects others; interdependence; interconnection; overlap and intersections;
- Promoting social justice;
- Creativity and innovation;
- Integrating research and practice;
- Fostering knowledge mobilization within our community;
- Creating a learning environment that is consistent with social work values;
- Promoting professional, competent and ethical social work practice.
The development of competence in the professional practice of social work is a primary objective of the Master of Social Work (MSW) Program. The practicum offers the student educational opportunities where:
- Knowledge can be integrated and applied to practice.
- Competence in performing practice skills can be developed.
Field education is an experiential form of teaching and learning that takes place in a service setting. Learning is achieved through the provision and/or development of services to clients, communities, organizations, or the society. Social service, health, and educational organizations voluntarily demonstrate their commitment to social work education through offering practicums. Experienced social workers provide field education to students.
Students learn to practice within the professional framework of social work values and ethics, developing a commitment to the profession of social work.
Social work practice competency behaviours provide the framework for the practicum. This model defines those behaviours believed to be necessary for competent social work practice. It serves as a broad framework for field settings in developing their practicum program. Using this model, materials have been developed to assist students and field instructors to describe learning opportunities, define how social work competencies will be addressed, and evaluate the student’s performance.
This manual contains information for use by, and has been developed from the experiences and feedback of, students, field instructors, and faculty-field liaisons (FFLs) in carrying out their respective roles in the field practicum. It is expected that students will be actively engaged in their own learning in the practicum and will take responsibility, with their field instructors, for designing a practicum that will meet FIFSW’s competency expectations. FIFSW is committed to ongoing feedback and redesign of the practicum course so that the goal of providing a high standard of excellence in teaching and learning may be achieved.
The practicum is based upon the cooperative involvement of the MSW student, Field Instructor(s), Faculty-Field Liaison, Field Education Coordinator (where applicable), and the Practicum Office, in the teaching and evaluation of students’ practicum experience. Each student has a teaching team comprised of the following persons:
- Field Instructor(s)
- Faculty-Field Liaison
- Educational Coordinator at University of Toronto-recognized Teaching Centres and/or other organizations – where applicable
Practicum Office staff:
- Assistant Dean, Field Education, Eileen McKee (416) 978-4338 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Practicum Coordinator, Mindy Coplevitch (416) 978-5664 email@example.com
- Practicum Coordinator, Miri Ben-Dat (416) 978-3267 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Practicum Assistant, Denise Russell (416) 978-3262 email@example.com
- Practicum Assistant, Catherine Connochie (416) 978-3259 firstname.lastname@example.org
- FIFSW Coordinator, Indigenous Initiatives, Melanie LeBlanc (416) 946-5079 email@example.com
- Fax number for the Practicum office (416) 978-7072 firstname.lastname@example.org
Activities of Each Member of the Practicum Team
The Practicum Student:
- Becomes familiar with the MSW Practicum Manual;
- Reads, understands, and adheres to the CASW Code of Ethics (2005), and all relevant U of T codes of behaviour and ethical performance;
- Participates in the practicum selection process;
- Completes all documentation required for the practicum;
- Meets practicum time requirements;
- Registers with U of T Accessibility Services if accommodations are required; Communicates with the Practicum Office, where applicable, when accommodations may be required in practicum.
- Prepares the Learning Contract in consultation with the Field Instructor(s);
- Submits a copy of the completed Learning Contract electronically to the Faculty-Field Liaison (FFL), and Educational Coordinator, if applicable;
- Attends the FFL group meetings held at the FIFSW;
- Prepares for and actively participates in supervision with the Field Instructor(s)
- Contacts the FFL with any concerns regarding the practicum;
- Completes the mid-term and final self-evaluations on the PAS;
- Provides feedback through surveys/questionnaires to the Practicum Office (voluntary).
The Field Instructor:
- Adheres to FIFSW policies, procedures and practicum expectations;
- Becomes knowledgeable about the FIFSWs competency domains;
- Orients the student to the practicum setting, including;
- Safety and workplace policies and procedures (for rotational practicums, this will be provided at the start of each rotation),
- The overall organization (agency programs and services)
- Social work role expectations;
- Ensures the student is provided with a comprehensive orientation, a place to put their personal belongings, computer, telephone, private space for recording;
- Completes all required FIFSW documentation;
- Ensures the practicum profile on the PAS is accurate and current;
- Provides social work supervision including opportunities for the student to develop FIFSW competencies; (Year 1 competencies; Year 2/advanced standing competencies). Regular direct observation of a student’s work is essential for teaching and evaluation. Supervision is a protected confidential time within which the student can engage in critical self-reflection; question and analyze their interventions and progress; question and develop one’s identity as a future practitioner; and develop understanding of their relationship with colleagues. Supervision provides an opportunity for students and field instructors to develop mutually respectful relationships;
- Demonstrates and encourages the integration of social work theory and practice;
- Contacts the Faculty-Field Liaison (FFL) with any concerns regarding the student in the practicum;
- Completes the mid-term and final student evaluations on the PAS;
- Attends FIFSW Professional Development Workshop Series (recommended).
The Faculty-Field Liaison (FFL):
- Is the link between FIFSW, the student, the Field Instructor, and the Educational Coordinator (where applicable);
- Provides ongoing linkages with field instructors regarding the school’s academic curriculum;
- Receives the students’ learning contract, and contributes to its development;
- Reviews the midterm and final evaluations and submits the course credit to the Practicum Office;
- Consults and supports the students and Field Instructor(s) if requested;
- Facilitates group meetings with students at FIFSW;
- Selects and makes available educational resources upon request.
The Educational Coordinator, where applicable:
- Oversees that the student is provided with the necessary tools for the practicum (orientation, space, accommodations, to name a few);
- Is available to field instructor(s) and students in their organization for consultation and problem solving;
- Ensures the practicum descriptions and requirements on the PAS practicum profile are current and complete;
- Reviews student learning contracts, mid-term and final student evaluations.
The Practicum Office:
- Recruits, secures and monitors practicum opportunities;
- Matches students with practicums;
- Offers professional development workshops for field instructors;
- Hosts information sessions and student forums;
- Responds to feedback from stakeholders to ensure quality standards and implement ongoing improvements;
- Oversees all administrative tasks associated with FIFSW practicums;
- Meets with students to discuss private concerns.
As with other courses at FIFSW, the practicum is typically a Toronto-based course.
Settings represent a wide range of opportunities: health care organizations, educational institutions, social service agencies, associations and advocacy groups, and government ministries, to name a few. Agreements between U of T and the organizations are formalized through signed Affiliation Agreements.
From time to time, practicums may be arranged outside of Toronto on a case-by-case basis.
How practicum settings are confirmed by the Practicum Office:
The Practicum Office is the primary contact with organizations. The Practicum Office:
- annually invites organizations to offer practicum opportunities,
- provides the standards for field instruction,
- screens expressions of interest and assesses whether these practicums meet the FIFSW standards before confirming.
Students are NOT to initiate independent requests of any social worker or organization.
Students select practicums from the available offers on the Practicum Administration System (PAS).
To ensure as many students as possible have an opportunity to complete a field practicum at the following sites, social work students in the two-year MSW program are limited to one placement during the program, effective January 2018.
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
- Mount Sinai Hospital
- SickKids – The Hospital for Sick Children
In-person practicum interviews precede the practicum commencement. Many organizations/field instructors will only consider an in-person interview. As such, students are required to be available for practicum interviews.
For students who reside a significant distance from Toronto, the Practicum Office will try to facilitate alternate interview formats, i.e., Skype. However, this is at the discretion of the organization and field instructor(s).
YEAR I: Interviews typically occur in November and December.
YEAR II/Advanced Standing: Interviews typically occur May and June, but may extend into the summer.
NOTE: Before selecting practicums from the PAS, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the entry-to-practice requirements/application for registration set out by the social work regulator in the jurisdiction where you intend to practice social work. The criteria set out by the social work regulator may have a direct impact on your practicum selections.
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.
Specific requirements may be expected at individual practicum settings. Some examples are described below. Requirements are identified on the PAS practicum profile. A delay in a student meeting any of the requirements may cause a delay in the start, or result in the cancellation of a practicum. Costs may be associated with some requirements. (For example, in Toronto, a police reference/vulnerable sector check will cost $20; mask-fitting can cost $40. There may be charges for immunizations / form to be completed. Students are responsible for their transportation costs to and from practicum interviews and practicum.)
Police Reference/Vulnerable Sector Check
Students should assume that their practicum will require a current police reference/vulnerable sector check prior to commencing. Costs may be associated with the application process. The written results are to be provided to the practicum as requested. A delay in obtaining results or failure to pass the check may jeopardize entry to the practicum.
For residents of Toronto: The Toronto Police Services’ Police Reference Check Program offers the service. Application forms are available in the Practicum Office. Students must bring photo identification. The application and fee by certified cheque or money order must be MAILED to the Toronto Police Services.
For residents outside of Toronto: Each jurisdiction will inform students of its application process. If needed, the Practicum Office will provide students with written confirmation of their enrollment in the MSW program.
All students placed in a Public Hospital (Public Hospitals List) are expected to have their immunizations up-to-date in order to comply with the Public Hospitals Act (1990). Students are required to have an Immunization Health Record Form completed in its entirety by a healthcare provider (e.g. Physician, Nurse Practitioner, Occupational Health Nurse). Failure to comply may jeopardize your practicum.
Effective December 1, 2014, The University of Toronto requires all students completing a practicum in Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network-TAHSN-hospitals to follow “Vaccinate-or-Mask” protocols during the annual flu season. This means that all students who are placed in TAHSN hospitals are required to either be vaccinated against influenza or wear a procedure mask during influenza season in areas where patients are present and patient care is delivered.
If your practicum is being completed within a non-TAHSN healthcare facility, we encourage you to inquire about the organization’s influenza policy during your interview and follow their established practices.
Some settings require a mask fitting. Arrangements can be made through the mask-fitting clinic located at St. Michael’s Hospital. (Mask Fitting – N95 Questionnaire).
Evening or Weekend Expectations
Some settings expect employees and students to work flexible hours, including evenings and weekends.
Student safety is of paramount concern. The FIFSW, MSW students, and our partners in field education have collaborative roles and responsibilities to ensure safety in the practicum.
- Communicates to all agencies that appropriate safety policies and procedures are established prior to MSW students commencing the practicum
- Practicum Office staff will be available to support all stakeholders to enhance safety
- Documents, assesses, and works to resolve any incidents that threaten the student’s physical and emotional well-being while in practicum
- Faculty-Field Liaisons will be available to conduct site visits to discuss safety issues upon request
The Field Instructor/Placement Agency will:
- Establish, and review on an ongoing basis, comprehensive safety policies and procedures that address protocols for preventing, assessing, and responding to risk
- Orient students to policies and procedures regarding risk management and staff/student/client safety, including fire procedures
- Advise students of any known risks associated with the practicum setting and/or population served
- Complete the Checklist I Practicum Safety and Learning and Checklist II Practicum Learning and Reflection
The Practicum Student will:
- Be aware of any safety risks associated with their practicum
- Inquire about the practicum site’s formal and informal methods for assessing and handling risky situations
- Notify and discuss safety concerns with the field instructor(s), educational coordinator (if applicable), FFL, or the Practicum Office. In exceptional circumstances, if none of the above can be reached, the student will consider the risks and act in a manner that ensures their safety
- Immediately report any incidents of threat or harm to the field instructor and the Practicum Office
- Complete the Checklist I Practicum Safety and Learning at the start of the practicum/rotation and Checklist II Practicum Learning and Reflection at the practicum mid-point.
- Provide all relevant information on Home/Community Visiting in their Learning Contract
Home and community sessions are cited in the literature as providing invaluable information about clients and their environments. Inherent in home and community visits, there are a number of challenges which protocol and safety practices in the field can address.
To mitigate the specific challenges of practicum activities outside of the agency, consider the following:
Before a student is required to conduct an independent home/community session:
- The student will receive training on how to identify signs of agitation, de-escalate potentially dangerous situations, as well as how and when to enlist assistance
- The student will be provided with opportunities to observe and shadow the work of the field instructor in the home/community environment
- Clients/work assignments will be pre-screened to assess any history of violence, and will balance the complexity and the level of risk with the student’s knowledge, skills and experience
- Field instructors will introduce clients to the student and explain their role within the agency
- Learning objectives for the session will be clearly established
- A cellular phone shall be accessible so that the student can maintain contact with the agency at all times
- The student will provide the agency with their itinerary for the session, as well as their current address, phone number and emergency contact details
While in the home/community:
- Depending on the practicum setting, the option to have an escort shall be provided
- The student will contact the supervisor/designate when commencing and completing the session
- If upon arrival the environment is determined to be unsafe, the student is instructed to decline or terminate the session
After the home/community session:
- The field instructor and student will hold a debriefing session to address learning objectives
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Coverage
Students are responsible for reporting any accident immediately to the setting (Field Instructor, Educational Coordinator if applicable) and to the Practicum Office. Students must sign a “Declaration of Understanding – Workplace Safety and Insurance Board or Private Insurance Coverage for Students on Program Related Placements” prior to the start of the practicum. This declaration states “I understand that all accidents sustained while participating in an unpaid work placement must be reported to the Placement Employer and my University of Toronto, FIFSW Practicum placement coordinator. A Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) Postsecondary Student Unpaid Work Placement Workplace Insurance Claim form must be completed in the event of an injury.”
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities provides students with coverage through either WSIB or Chubb private insurance while registered in the practicumcourse. Coverage does not include classroom instruction or orientation that is held outside of the scheduled practicum.
Protocol Regarding Closures Due to Inclement Weather
The University of Toronto protocol regarding closures due to inclement weather can be found at https://www.provost.utoronto.ca/planning-policy/cancellation-of-classes-university-closure-adverse-weather/ . Practicums may be in locations experiencing different weather conditions with different agency responses. Students are advised to consult with their field instructor should they wish to heed weather alerts provided by the University or by other sources.
FIFSW is committed to providing accommodation to support students with documented disabilities to facilitate academic and co-curricular success. The Practicum Office will make reasonable efforts to ensure that appropriate supports are in place. Students requesting accommodation must be registered with Accessibility Services. Information on how to register with Accessibility Services is available online: https://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/as/register-accommodation. Students requesting accommodation for practicum should discuss this with their assigned Accessibility Advisor as soon as possible prior to the practicum matching process. An Advisor can confirm practicum accommodations by providing a letter directly to the Practicum Office.
The professional and ethical performance of students is a highly valued component of the MSW program. Competence will be assessed in accordance with:
Standards of Professional Practice Behaviour for all Health Professional Students, University of Toronto (2008)
Student Professional Conduct Agreement in Practicum Breaches of the ethical and behavioral standards are serious and represent failure to meet standards in a professional setting.
FIFSW adheres to:
Other U of T policies, including but not limited to: Statement on Human Rights, (2012); Code of Behavior on Academic Matters, (1995); Code of Student Conduct (2002); Policy and Procedures: Sexual Harassment (1997)
Federal and Provincial Criminal Codes
Standards set by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW).
Privacy protection is a legal, professional, and ethical responsibility.
When in practicum, you are required to comply with applicable professional standards (see CASW, OCSWSSW and University of Toronto links below) as well as legal requirements and policies of your practicum setting for privacy, and security standards for personal and other confidential information.
Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics (2005) Value 5: Confidentiality in Professional Practice
The OCSWSSW, Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice (2018), Paragraph 6
University of Toronto requires encryption of all personal and confidential electronic information that is kept outside of secure U of T servers. Please review the “Policies and Guidelines” section of the Manual Encrypting Personal and Confidential Information and refer to the University of Toronto FIPPA Guidelines Regarding Security for Personal and Other Confidential Information.
The University of Toronto respects student’s privacy.
Personal information that you provide to the University is collected pursuant to section 2(14) of the University of Toronto Act, 1971. It may be used and disclosed as necessary for official university purposes and shared within the university on a need-to-know basis.
Information about you will also be shared as necessary for your classroom or field education in the program, to support your success in the program, and to provide letters of reference in the future.
The field practicum is an integral part of the program. Information about you will be shared with agency representatives, field instructors, field liaisons and educational coordinators as necessary to support and evaluate your progress.
The University will protect your information in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Direct Practice (Micro) with Specific Clients
Indirect Practice on Behalf of Client Systems
A. Traditional Supervision Model
B. Co-supervision Model
C. Rotational Supervision Model
January to May Practicum
Summer Session Practicum
September to Early April Practicum
Human Services Management and Leadership Practicum (formerly known as Social Service Administration Practicum)
MSW Combined Program Practicum
Preparing the Learning Contract
Midterm and Final Evaluation