Field work occupies a very significant position in the curricula for Social Work Education as it is an integral part of the training programme. Field work in Social Work Education refers to training and education. It is a dynamic process of observing to acquire creative and innovative ideas. It helps the Social Work trainees for the development of their intellectual and emotional attitudes. It is a combination of both theory and practice along with philosophy for the action. This technique depends on scientific knowledge to understand the people and the social phenomenon. It provides an opportunity for the Social Work trainees to apply their theoretical Knowledge to understand the practical aspects. If the social work practitioner desires to be effective in his venture, it is not only enough to acquire requisite knowledge of theory but it is equally necessary to gain experience through practice in the field by using such knowledge. Field Work opens the platform for Social Work trainees to apply theoretical knowledge acquired through many ways but mainly through attending classes and reading the concerned literature. This type of situation in Social Work is described as ‘Professional application’ part of Social Work education. This article examines the criteria of routine activities of public student performance, peer accountability, adaptive anxiety, and accountability of field work in Social Work education. It argues that field work is the backbone of Social Work education and it has to be utilized in its fullest sense to strengthen the effectiveness of social work education.
Definition of Field Work
In the words of Dr. M. V. Moorthy and Narayana Rao, “practical work in any area of social work assigned to a trainee for completion”. This may be accepted as working definition. When they tried to identify the role of the supervisor and the student in the field work context, they thought that the field work supervisor's role was the ' teaching work' ; while that of the student—' learning work'. But it is not so always as they would be playing both the roles.
It is a difficult task to have a comprehensive definition which explains the nature of field work as the concept is a dynamic one. If we look at the objectives of the field work, perhaps, we may under¬stand the concept well. In these days we hear a lot about Integrated/unitary approach and developmental perspective in social work practice. It is in this direction field work has to be developed.
Objectives of Field Work
The objectives give us an understanding that field work would not expect the students solve problems in a given situation ; but to acquaint with nature, causes, effects of the problems and to suggest the possible remedies to them. The parties involved in field practice are: the Head/ Chairman, the Faculty Supervisor, the Supervisee, the Agency Supervisor and the Clientele.
Karnataka Scene :
The pattern of field work programme in the Institutions for Social Work Education in Karnataka which offer post-graduate-generic and specialization courses varies slightly from one Institution to another. Each post-graduate student has to spend 15 hours a week in field work under the supervision of faculty as well as agency supervisors. Normally, students have to go two days a week for field work and regular attendance is compulsory. Any absence at field work will have to be compensated as per the supervisor's instructions.
The Head of the Institution is responsible for : (i) making contacts with different agencies after select¬ing them properly, (ii) liaison, (iii) distribution of students under different faculty supervisors, and (iv) allotment of students to various agencies in consultation with Institution/Agency Supervisors. Conduct¬ing agency supervisors' conferences, work-shops, seminars, taking up certain studies on field work are some of the other functions to be performed by the Head of the institutions. He should also use skills in solving certain sensitive problems which might develop during field practice. The distribution of students among faculty supervisors is done usually on equal basis. This again depends on the strength of the staff and students. Normally a faculty supervisor supervises six to twelve students. The Heads of the Institutions are normally not assigned direct field work supervision; but over all supervision is being done by them.
Selection of Agencies
Selection- of agencies largely depends on many factors. The Institutions can look at the agency from the point of view of methods of field work, a specialized field of social work, or job training. It can also be viewed from two angles specifically traditional and developmental (remedial and preventive). Therefore, it largely depends on how one views the different aspects of a given field situation.
Generally the Institutions consider the following criteria while selecting the field ; (i) Distance from the Institution, (ii) Availability of records for field practice, (iii) Availability of trained staff in the agency, (iv) Adequate work load for the students, and (v) Provision for practice of social work methods.
This visit provides an exposure to understand the importance and place of the practicum in the educational programme. It also helps to understand the purpose, function and ethics in professional practice. It helps the student to understand the agencies functioning in health setting, education, community, institutional services, criminal justice system, civic administration and rehabilitation.
Placement of a student to an agency is not an easy task. Since it involves, various factors like students interest in the agency, timings, distance, etc. The Head is supposed to take meaningful decision over this aspect. Agency placement at a longer distance will be usually done only if the conveniences are more in favor of student/s. Sometimes, due to shortage of agencies within the geographical limits, students are placed in agencies which are at a longer distance. Finally, placement mainly depends on the needs and requirements of the social work course itself like method-wise, specialization-wise, etc.
Content and Recording
Field work content has got close relationship with recording the field work experiences. With regard to the content of field work, it can be stated that the syllabi normally spell out the expected content of field work in all the Institutions in Karnataka. Institutions give importance on all types of recording. In fact, these are the basis for evaluation too. Students are required to submit two types of reports: (i) Log report which explains briefly what a trainee did on a particular field work day, and (ii) Detailed report which covers the entire work of a trainee during a week. The students are also required to submit records of Individual as well as Group Conferences, and other important information.
Supervision, in field work, is an educational, administrative and helping process which is concerned with enabling, teaching and guiding a supervisee to develop professional skills, knowledge which help him do the field work successfully. In other words, supervision is a two-way process between supervisor and supervisee in which supervisor instructs, guides, supports and co-operates with the supervisee in the process of his developing required skills, knowledge and attitudes. The contribu¬tion of the agency supervisor is of great value. The faculty/agency supervisor, at times, plays as a teacher ; act as an administrator as well as a researcher in order to discharge his duties and functions.
Individual Conferences and Group Conferences are held every week in all the institutions offering Social Work in Karnataka. During these conferences, students discuss the matters with supervisors from whom guidance, clarification are sought.
The supervision is done at different stages such as: Orientation, selection of Field Work agencies, etc. The supervisory in-put required at each stage is unique. Careful readings of a student's records and offering useful comments on them are very important aspects of supervision.
Evaluation is not a sporadic activity. It is a continuous process by which the professional growth of the student is critically appraised and ascertained within the broad perspective of professional social work by an ' Evaluation System' adopted in an institution.
Generally at the time of placement each student is given a set of guide-lines for the purpose of carrying out the field work. Each student is expected to make use of the guide-lines while doing field work. These guide-lines will help the concerned person to use them at the time of evaluation. All the Institutions in Karnataka, have the ' evaluation system' of the field work done by the trainee by using 'evaluation forms'. The ' evaluation form' contains various criteria like (i) assessing the ability of the student to integrate theory and practice, (ii) student's capacity to utilize the ' supervisory input', (iii) Student's ability to accept the setting, etc.
The final evaluation is done by the Committee consisting of the concerned faculty supervisor and the Head of the Depart¬ment along with external examiners by conducting viva –voce examination.
Social Work Camp
It provide opportunities for the Social work trainees to experience rural life, analyze rural dynamics and observe functioning of local self government and voluntary organizations. This experience aids peer participation in planning for activities for own group and those for local people. It also helps to develop skills to carryout, evaluate and report the experience. It may be of duration of seven to ten days.
It provides an opportunity to experience day to day work in a particular setting without any break for three weeks. The Social Work trainee gets involved with direct practice with the client system and with the ongoing management operations of the setting. The Social Work trainee may use the same setting for data collection of research project if such an arrangement is part of the plan.
The course organizes skill development workshops for the Social Work trainees to acquire specific intervention skills for situations encountered during practice. These may be for problems or concerns, issues or situations like work with alcoholics, HIV, AIDS affected persons, adolescents for life skills development and couples for material relationship and enrichment, work with elderly. These workshops are to enhance skills or develop new skills for practice in specific situations for specific problems and issues.
It is of seven to ten duration. It provide an experience to study and appreciate innovative efforts by individuals and groups towards meeting peoples core needs and initiate development.
After completing the concurrent field work during the two academic years successfully, and also appearing the final year examination, student is placed in selected agencies chosen by the student keeping in view the purpose of the Block Placement. The period varies from one Institution to another. Block Placement is compulsory in all the institutions. The purpose of the Block Placement is to enrich the perspective of a given student in any area of field work.
Performance of the student in the Block Placement is assessed by a Committee consisting of the faculty supervisor, the Head of the Department and an External Examiner on the basis of the reports submitted by the students and the oral examination conducted by the Committee.
The above mentioned are some of the problems which need urgent attention of the concerned persons. If at all we want to say that ' Field Work' is an integral part of Social Work Education, it is necessary to minimize if not eradicate the above said problems by evolving suitable measures. Of course, it is difficult to bring out a set of measures which could be adopted universally as each field work situation poses different set of problems.
Dr. M.P. Somashekar
HOD of Social Work, JSS College of Arts, Commerce & Science (Autonomus) Ooty Road, Mysore-570 025
Dr. Y.S. Siddegowda
Prof. of Social Work, University of Mysore, Mysore
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