Intervention fieldwork in social work education is exceptionally practiced at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in India. The conventional method of fieldwork training in the institutional setup is largely found. Thereby, there is a lacking in the independent practice of social work by pupils of social work. Hence, the knowledge, skills, aptitude and value orientation obtained in social work training has hardly addressed the Interventional needs of the society. In other words, professional socialisation of social work students is misleading the very purpose of social work education in catering the development needs of society. There is also a need of intervention research in order to test and re-test the significance of social work theories, methods and knowledge. In Indian context, there is a paucity of indigenous literature on social work as a consequence of conventional method of fieldwork training and the dearth of intervention research. This has a bearing on establishing social work as a profession and seeking social recognition in India. The paper attempts to argue the importance of intervention fieldwork in social work education in order to develop competent social work professionals in addressing the fast changing and complex issues of society. The paper is based on a case study of women self help group consisting 20 economically poor members formed by a local NGO in Tippu Sultan Nagar Slum in the city of Vijayapura. Intervention field work has resulted in a change in numeracy and functional literacy from (10 percent) to (90 percent) and documentation skills from (5 percent) to (85 percent). The paper illustrates the components and process of intervention fieldwork that can be adopted in the schools of social work to strengthen social work education in order to develop a cadre of competent professional social workers.
Key Words: Intervention Fieldwork, Socialisation of Social Work Education, Teaching Social Work Practice.
Social work educators across the globe have been advocating evidence based practice as an important paradigm shift to promote the consistent use of scientifically validated information and effective interventions in social work practice (Gilgun, 2005). The knowledge of social work meant for the amelioration and prevention of social problems. The school striving for excellence in the application of social work knowledge plays a key role in developing the development professionals. The credibility of social work professionals’ depends on the effectiveness of their practice, sufficiency of knowledge and the quality and timely services they render to society at large (McMahon, Reisch, and Patti, 1991). The quality of social work education has a bearing on developing competent social workers.
Fieldwork training is an integral component of social work education. Social work students practice the theoretical aspects learnt in the classroom into real social situation. Practical learning experiences enable the pupil of social work to acquire necessary skills and techniques, and develop values and knowledge base. Intervention fieldwork is one of the forms of fieldwork practicum wherein social work students play a role of interventionist in the real social situation. Under proper supervision, social work students identify an issue of intervention, assess the need of intervention, plan intervention programme, implement intervention and assess the impact of intervention to confirm desirable change.
In any professional courses like social work, students with high motivation to achieve higher are likely to succeed in academics and the profession. Hence, achievement motivation is a critical factor for professional students to achieve success in fieldwork (Fortuna and Others, 2005). Students, who respect the course and learning opportunity, take pleasure in what they do in fieldwork. Such students are found to have a greater level of satisfaction with regards to fieldwork experiences. They found to have significantly better in demonstrating professional skills and addressing social work tasks. Henceforth, intervention fieldwork is suitable for the social work students who have high achievement motivation. Social work educators have a great deal in motivating students to achieve excellence.
Davis (1988) observes that the social workers are reluctant in performing several tasks of the profession that are crucial to client’s well-being. The current mindset of professional social workers needs to be changed and practical functions should be incorporated to prove their competency. The community based interventions of social work are termed as ‘hard’ and clinical, institutional interventions as ‘soft’ functions. Social workers need to be equipped with both the type of functions in the field of development in order to address vivid aspects of society.
Acquisition of professional skills is a dynamic process and it occurs gradually through practice. Reynolds pointed out the stages of professional learning that serve as a usual guide for the fieldwork based professionals. The (1) acute consciousness of self; (2) Sink-or-Swim adaptation; (3) Understanding the situation without power to control one’s own activity; (4) Relative mastery - one can both understand and control one’s own activity in the art which is learned; and (5) Learning to teach what one has mastered (Gitterman and Gitterman, 1979). These methods of professional learning are suitable to social work education and fieldwork training. Indian pedagogy of social work education needs to introspect on par with the above stages of professional learning.
The Concept of Intervention Fieldwork
Fieldwork is not only a method of social study, but it is also hardcore of any professional course. It is, better than other methods of study as it is a practice consciously undertaken in the domain of social sciences like social work. In ethnographical and sociological studies, it helps to perceive and predict social roles, both one’s own and those of others (Hughes, 1971). Concurrent fieldwork is the hardcore components of social work education that expose the real life social environment to pupils of social work and working with individuals, groups and communities for their empowerment.
The primary goal of social work education is to prepare social work students to practice the profession. In the due course of social work education, students are provided the opportunity to acquire necessary knowledge, skills, and methods of intervention, ethical values, and standards for professional practice (Hoag and Thyer, 1985). Learning by doing through practice is the basic philosophy of social work education. The purpose of social work is an intervention. Social workers do not stop after studying a phenomenon, but do something about it even after studies (Fortune and Proctor, 2001; 67).
Allen and Others (2008) reveal that the future of social work practice will stress on methods of working with people facing complex challenges. In most of the cases, social workers are to involve in community-based practice and provide services to the clients at homes. Social work educators need to focus on the curricular areas like developing student knowledge, skills, and values for home-based practice to make social workers to be competent in their job. Social work research needs to extend the knowledge of requisite social work skills necessary for effective interventions of social work.
Intervention fieldwork is an opportunity for the social work students to participate directly with the needy individuals, groups and communities. Intervention is made by the students during fieldwork training. Intervention is for the people in need make available necessary resources available. Learning by doing is ensured through this practice of fieldwork. It is effectively practiced in an open community setting rather than in structured fieldwork agencies. Under the supervision of agency supervisor, it can also be practiced in institutional and structured agencies too. However, consistent supervision is a must to monitor the learning opportunities. Intervention fieldwork is appreciated by the development scholars as it is evidence based practice and comprise scientific methodology of working with people.
Intervention Fieldwork in Social Work Education
Schools of Social Work are greatly affected by lack of field instruction programme and decreased availability and quality of field placements. Field instruction has become a lower priority in agencies due to target based programmes; lack of motivation and lack of professional social workers (Jarman and Others (1997). This is one of the vital factors that alarms social work educational institutions to develop their own laboratory to practice intervention fieldwork and provide field experiences. Edmond and Others (2006) pointed that the evidence based practice is an innovation for social work profession, like many innovations, diffusion has been uneven and slow. Similarly, Barretti (2004) identifies that the literature on the professional socialisation of student social workers remains sparse, particularly in comparison to the socialisation literatures for professions such as medicine, engineering etc.
Sunirose (2013) advocates field action projects as best practices of social work departments. Social work students apply theories in real life situations in order to prepare themselves as social work professionals through practice principles, values and ethics and scientific basis of working with people. He appreciates field action projects as they serve the department as social labs or live labs. This yield reciprocal benefit to both meeting the needs of the target population and also provide a platform for social work students to practice.
Intervention fieldwork in social work education has gained importance as it gives better learning opportunity for the students. The social work department/institution adopts rural/urban community for providing the students a laboratory for experiments. Over a period of time different groups in the community are identified for intervention. Integrated social work methods can be practiced. The micro and mezzo level social issues are effectively dealt with in this practice where as macro level issues of the community requires a supportive professional staff and established development organisation. However, constant guidance and supervision is necessary to social work students to maximise the learning.
Objectives of Intervention Fieldwork
Components of Intervention Fieldwork
The intervention fieldwork practice comprises with six integral components. The first one is Intervention Group or Community. Intervention group is any social group present in the community setting. It is also a target group to be addressed by the interventionist. It can be a group of children, adolescent, women, youth, elderly, etc. Group in intervention fieldwork can also be the secondary groups exist in social functioning. It can be peer group of a school children, sports team, farmers, women’s self help group, adolescent girls, etc. Any group that has a potential scope for intervention will be an intervention group for social work practice. In case of macro issues, the intervention will apply to the whole community itself.
The second component is Intervention Area. It is an issue/ problem/development need of a group to be addressed. It can be a problem of an individual, group or community. Intervention area need not necessarily be the problem; it can also be the opportunity for progress and development. Generally, the micro and mezzo level issues of the group/community are found to be appropriate for practice of intervention fieldwork.
The third component is Interventionist. In intervention fieldwork is a social work student who will be playing the active role of the interventionist. The role of the interventionist is to support the social groups in order to help them to help themselves. Making the group independent from dependency is prioritised. Perhaps, the role of an interventionist of social work student is supported and supervised by the professional social workers along with agency and faculty supervisors.
The fourth component is Intervention Programme. It is the activities specifically developed keeping in mind the needs of Interventional group. These activities can be of the developmental organisations or of the department of social work. It can also be of government, non-profit organisations and interventionist. Intervention programmes serve as a bridge between the needs of intervention groups and the schemes and programmes of the development organisation.
The fifth component is Supervision. It comprises the planning, implementation and monitoring of the intervention activities. Supervision is made by both the agency and faculty supervisors. Supervision is the support system made available to the social work student for better functioning and help to overcome from the difficulties encountered in the process of fieldwork training. The sixth component is Community. It is the open community wherein the whole community will be a laboratory for any kind of experiment. The social work student can choose any of the group of his interest and area of interest from the community for intervention.
Process of Intervention Fieldwork
Intervention fieldwork involves several steps. It is the process to be followed by the interventionist. For better learning experiences, it is encouraged to deal with micro and mezzo level social issues or problems rather macro issues. Once the department of social work places social work students in the open community, a rapport establishment by him/her is a must. Social work student needs to identify and select a group to work. It could be based on the interest of interventionist and need of the community at large. One has to work for a minimum of one year with such groups. Perhaps, in some of the cases, social work student needs to mobilise and organise individuals of same interest and form a group. There has to be homogeneity among the members of such group. If the groups are already formed by the development organisations, such groups can also be chosen for intervention fieldwork. This will also serve as a target group of intervention programmes. For illustration; one of the social work students has choosen to work with women’s self help group of 20 economically poor members for intervention. This group was formed in 2015 by a local NGO in Tippu Sultan Nagar slum of Vijayapur city.
Once the group of intervention is identified, social work student needs to identify an area of intervention. It is a process of observation, interaction, exploration, analysis and examining different issues present in the group. It is also identifying the developmental needs of the selected group. Further, priorities are to be identified with the help of group members. Such prioritised developmental issues of the group will be an area of intervention that social work student has to focus. The priorities of the group are to be finalised at this stage. For illustration; Women self help group has a myriad of developmental issues such as; need of literacy programme, documentation skills, awareness of banking procedures, awareness of developmental programmes etc. A majority of the women self help group members is illiterate (90 percent) and unable to maintain the records of their group and the same is also felt by the group. Hence, the area of intervention for this group is chosen as a literacy programme to develop numeracy, functional literacy and documentation skills.
Need assessment is the next important step involved in the process of intervention fieldwork. Social work student needs to explore the amount and magnitude of the developmental issues to be addressed. In other words, interview be conducted by using an interview schedule with all the women self help group members. Each member is appraised by using such research tool. Consolidation of the data is made in the form of tabulation. The same may be analysed with logical interpretation. This scientific procedure helps interventionist to explore the strengths and weakness of the intervention group. This serves as a base for developing intervention strategies. This also serves as a benchmark data for that group. For illustration; Need assessment of the intervention group enables the interventionist to answer following questions; 1) How many members of women self help group are illiterate? 2) Among literate, how many possesses documentation skills? 3) To what extent they possess documentation skills? 4) How the illiteracy and lack of documentation skills among members affecting overall functioning of the group? 5) What kinds of group dynamics are present in the group? 6) What are the barriers of their individual and group empowerment? 7) What is their developmental opportunities? 8) What kinds of threat they have related to the unity of the group? etc. It was found (90 percent) of the select women self help group members were illiterate and only two of them (10 percent) were literate and only one (5 percent) was able to maintain records.
Planning of intervention programme is the next phase. Intervention is the course of action of social work trainee to be implemented with the intervention group. The student acts as an interventionist. Type of activity, quantum of activity, duration, target groups and resource person, etc., is planned by the interventionist. How systematically the issues of the group are addressed by interventionist depends on optimum use of available resources. It is also a plan of action of the interventionist. For illustration; planning intervention with the intervention group involves answering the questions like; 1) what are the activities planned? 2) Who will be the target group? 3) How much time is spared to each activity? 4) Who will be the resource person? 5) What are the sources required? 6) What are the resources available? 7) What is the expected outcome of each activity? etc. It was planned to start night school and provide a couple of training programmes on documentation skills.
Once the proper planning of the intervention is made, the intervention groups are to be reorganised and prepared for introducing intervention. The intervention plan is communicated to all its members. Intervention programmes and activity can be one or more depending on the developmental need of the group. Finally, the intervention programmes/activities are implemented by the group. The activities took approximate duration of one year, even more depending on the complexity of issues to be addressed. For illustration; In order to educate illiterate women of the self help group, non-formal education is given over a night school for the duration of one year (with break during summer vacasions) to develop numeric and functional literary skills. Once all the illiterate members of women self help group developed functional literacy, a couple of training programmes are organised in order to develop documentation skills related to self help group.
Once all the intervention programmes/activities are completely implemented as per the plan of action, it is important to see the impact of such interventions. It is also to assess the qualitative change took place among the members of the group related to identified problems or issues of development. The interventionist has to re-assess the developmental needs of the group after intervention by using the same research tools adopted in the stage of need assessment. Comparison between (Bench Mark) pre and post intervention data shows the desirable change brought by the interventionist. For illustration; It was re-administered the same research tool viz., interview schedule for all the members of women self help group. This helped to assess the present numeracy, functional literacy and documentation skills among the members of women self help group when compared with the (benchmark data) pre-intervention status.
The post-intervention, assessment is compared with the pre-intervention, assessment to see the difference. This is the actual change brought about by the interventions i.e., the social work student. The effectiveness of the intervention fieldwork is clearly visible. For illustration; before intervention (90 percent) of the women self help group members were illiterate. Among literates, only one (5 percent) of them had documentation skills. Based on this, the intervention programme was planned and implemented. The post-intervention assessment is made. When the pre-intervention data was compared with the post intervention data, the scenario has been drastically changed; the functional literacy in the members of the group has increased to (95 percent) which was only (10 percent) before intervention. Further, documentation skills have enhanced among (85 percent) members in the lieu of (5 percent). Once the intervention is over and the impact of the intervention is assessed by comparing pre with post intervention data, social work student terminates his/her work. A change in functional literacy from (10 percent) to (90 percent) and documentation skills from (5 percent) to (85 percent) is the result of intervention made by a social work student. If the impact is not found to a significant level, the interventions can be continued with necessary modifications.
Do’s and Don’ts of Intervention Fieldwork
1. Select one group for intervention
2. Avoid complex and controversial community issues for intervention
3. Micro and Mezzo issues are appropriate for intervention
4. Set short term goals/interventions for better functioning
5. Code of Conduct be strictly followed by social work students
6. Intervention fieldwork should be done under supervision only
Commitment to excellence in education, and excellence in practice, is a prime issue of ethical responsibility. It affects the quality of services provided by professional social workers to the community (Taylor and Francis, 1986). Intervention fieldwork is one of the practices of social work practicum in which learning by doing is ensured. Independent working is possible in this learning opportunity. It is practiced in open community and also some extent in structured or institutional setting. Intervention fieldwork involves eight steps. Social work skills, techniques, values and principles are imbibed by student social workers in the processes of intervention fieldwork practice. Consistent supervision would yield better results both from the learner’s point of view and community point of view.
Dr. Gangadhar B. Sonar
Assistant Professor and Local Head, Department of Studies and Research in Social Work, Rani Channamma University, P. G. Centre, Vijayapura
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