In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Field Education

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Collected Works
  • Journals
  • Supervision and Field Education
  • Historical Development and Current Context
  • Texts for Instructors
  • Manuals
  • Counseling and Educational Psychology
  • Teaching and Learning in Group Field Instruction
  • Field Education for Students in Macro Practice

Social Work Field Education
Marion Bogo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0079


Field education in social work is a component of social work education programs where students learn to practice social work through educationally focused service experiences in agency and community settings. Field education is also referred to as field instruction and field practicum, and earlier it was known as fieldwork or student supervision. The term “practice learning” is used in the United Kingdom to refer to field education. The aim of field education is to promote practice competence through students’ learning to integrate and apply the knowledge, values, and skills of social work while also offering services to individuals, families, groups, and communities. Students can also do field work in administration, planning, or policy development activities. An experienced social worker, usually an employee of the service setting, provides educationally focused field instruction and is accountable for services provided to clients. Schools of social work provide orientation and training for field instructors and linkage to the program through some form of faculty field liaison or field seminar. Field education is expected to be systematic, with educational objectives or outcomes specified as practice behaviors, the provision of relevant learning activities, and assessment of students’ mastery of practice competencies.

General Overviews

Field education is a required component of the curriculum in most undergraduate and graduate social work programs internationally. Bogo 2005 provides a critical review of the research on field education over the previous five years for a special issue of The Clinical Supervisor. In 2008 the Council on Social Work Education, in its Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (USA), identified field education as the signature pedagogy of social work, using a concept articulated by Shulman 2005. Shulman is an education scholar and researcher and former president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. A number of online resources also provide links to materials relevant to field education. The Council on Social Work Education website provides access to US material, especially accreditation standards, as the Canadian Association for Social Work Education website does for Canadian schools. Online resources specific to field education are provided through the North American Network of Field Educators (NANFED); the Centre for Excellence in Professional Placement Learning; Skills for Care, originating in the United Kingdom; and the project of the Combined Schools of Social Work in Australia.

  • Bogo, Marion. 2005. Field instruction in social work: A review of the research literature. In Supervision in counseling: Interdisciplinary issues and research. Edited by Lawrence Shulman and Andrew Safyer, 163–193. New York: Haworth.

    Also published in The Clinical Supervisor 24.1–2: 163–193 (available online). This critical review of the literature provides a beginning point for researchers on topics such as the context of field education; evidence for a field instruction model, including characteristics of students; diversity; individual field instruction; group supervision; task supervision; assessment of student learning and competence; training field instructors; and international comparative studies.

  • Canadian Association for Social Work Education.

    Provides the standards of accreditation for all social work programs in Canada, including the requirements for field education components within both baccalaureate education and master’s level education programs.

  • Centre for Excellence in Professional Placement Learning.

    Provides detailed information on placement and practice learning, the term used for field education in the United Kingdom. Aims to develop best practices, new and innovative opportunitiesand assessment in practice, as well as training staff to supervise students and supporting students with disabilities.

  • Combined Schools of Social Work.

    Based in Australia, this site offers comprehensive information about the benefits of field education, guidelines for students, training opportunities for instructors, and policies.

  • Council on Social Work Education.

    The accrediting agency for social work education in the United States provides information about field education as signature pedagogy and accreditation standards, including number of hours required, competencies to achieve, and incorporating classroom knowledge into the field.

  • North American Network of Field Educators and Directors (NANFED).

    Promotes the interests of field education in the United States and Canada through networking, encouraging publications, hosting symposiums and business meetings, and mentoring new field directors.

  • Shulman, Lee S. 2005. Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus 134.3: 52–59.

    DOI: 10.1162/0011526054622015

    The seminal paper on signature pedagogy. Each profession develops pedagogical norms to connect theory and practice, shape professionals, and instill values.

  • Skills for Care.

    Focused on practice learning (field education); topics include benefits, assessment and training, and reports of regional and national projects.

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