FAQ

  Frequently Asked Questions

  Definitions of terms: AASW, social worker, field education, field placement, field educator, task supervisor or co-supervisor

AASW

The Australian Association of Social Workers. The AASW is the professional body representing social work in Australia. It was formed in 1946 and is incorporated under the Company's Act (ACT) Corporation's Act.

from Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

Social worker

A social worker is a person who is eligible for membership of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). Eligibility for admission to membership of the AASW occurs after a person has successfully completed a program of professional social work education which both meets the requirements set down in the AASW policy document and has been formally approve d by AASW.

from Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

Field Education

Field Education is one of the compulsory academic social work subjects undertaken within a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree and is a core component of the social work education process.

from Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

Field placement or Supervised professional practice

A field placement (as opposed to classroom based experience) is a structured learning experience where a student is placed in an agency working on particular tasks, under the supervision of a social worker, for a specified number of days. This is part of the Field Education subject. Field placements may also be called "supervised professional practice".

from Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

Field Educator

A qualified Social Worker with 2 or more years experience since graduation , who provides at least the formal or professional supervision for a student on placement.

Task Supervisor or Co-supervisor

An experienced human services worker who isn't SW qualified (sometimes called a Task Supervisor or Co-Supervisor), or new Social Worker (less than 2 years graduated). Does not meet AASW placement supervision requirements unless sharing supervison with an AASW eligible social worker (Field Educator).

^top

________________________________________________________

  What is a pre-placement interview?

The AASW requires a consultative process in arranging placements where university staff must involve the agency, the field teacher and the student and must ensure that the learning opportunities offered by the agency will make it possible for the student to achieve the identified learning goals.

from Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

Part of this consultative process involves the student visiting the prospective placement agency and supervisor/s to discuss the proposed placement. This is a 2-way assessment process between the student and the actual placement supervisor/s. School staff will then follow up with both the Field Educator and the student and ensure both parties are satisfied, and only then confirm the placement.

Content of pre-placement interviews may include student's learning goals for placement, student's learning style, expectations of placement & supervisor & supervision, student's previous placement experiences, paid/unpaid work and life experiences, supervisor describing agency services/aims, the placement tasks available, prior experience of supervising placements, paid/unpaid work and life experiences, expectations of placement & student & supervision, supervision/learning/teaching style.

Pre-placement interview also needs to cover administrative detail including placement dates, attendance requirements, Police Check requirements, possible immunisation requirements and exchange of contact details.

Prospective placement offers do not need to be decided at the pre-placement interview, by either the student or the supervisor. All Schools include further discussions between student and university and between supervisor/s and university prior to formal confirmation.

^top

______________________________________________________

  What supervision is required?

The minimum supervision requirement for a SW student is for 1 hour of formal supervision for each five days (35 hours) of field placement. A Field Educator - a qualified Social Worker with 2 or more years experience since graduation , must provide the formal or professional supervision .

Shared supervision is acceptable, perhaps with a Field Educator co-supervising with an experienced human services worker who isn't SW qualified (sometimes called a Task Supervisor or Co-Supervisor), or with a newer Social Worker. Informal supervision can be provided by either supervisor.

Supervision may be provided individually, or in a group if the agency has more than one student.

^top

_____________________________________________

  Can I supervise a BSW student if I am not an AASW eligible social worker?

No.

A Field Educator - a qualified Social Worker (AASW eligible) with 2 or more years experience since graduation, must provide the formal or professional supervision . Experienced human services workers may share supervision with a qualified Social Worker meeting the Field Educator requirements. This could be a Social Worker from elsewhere in the agency who just provides the formal supervision sessions, or in a few placements some universities may be able to provide an external Field Educator.

^top

_____________________________________________

  What student supervision training is available?

See also Training opportunities.

In February each year the Combined Schools of Social Work in Melbourne offers a Supervision workshop for SW student placement supervisors. Coordination of the course is rotated amongst the six SW Schools, and all Schools contribute. CSSW will also offer a SW placement supervision workshop in a regional location in the later part of the year, coordinated by the same SW School that hosted the February SW placement supervision workshop.

2005: La Trobe. February CSSW supervision workshop at Bundoora, and in November at Shepparton.

2006: RMIT coordinated the February workshop in Melbourne, and regional venue & date are tbc.

2007: Deakin to coordinate February workshop, venue & date tbc

Each university also offers some training or a Briefing for SWs supervising their students, which mat be at various times during the year related to that School's placement timetable.

^top

_____________________________________________

  How much paperwork and reporting is required?

There is some variation between the universities about reporting on student's placement progress. Liaison Person, Co- or Task Supervisors and Field Educators may all be involved in assessing progress against agreed goals and evaluating placement achievement.

Currently, all Schools require:

  1. Supervisors and usually Liaison Person to have input in developing the student's Learning Agreement/Plan/Contract during the 1st 3 weeks of placement;
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  2. Halfway through the placement, progress is assessed and this document becomes the Mid-Placement Report(terms may differ)
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  3. In final week of placement a process of evaluation occurs which may include a recorded discussion/evaluation session, and this document is the Final Report.

Students may be required to submit additional assessment documents, such as project briefs or case studies, organisational analysis, critical incident reports – however input from supervisors is usually NOT a requirement.

Future

This year the Combined Schools of Social Work is responding to requests from supervisors and agencies for a standardised assessment/evaluation process that applies to social work students from any university. Hopefully it will be ready for piloting by late 2006 or 2007.

^top

_____________________________________________

  What tasks can students do on placement?

There is some variation between the universities about the focus for placements in different years of study. (See Placement timetable for details).

When the placement is initially discussed with the university placements coordinator, discuss the types of placement tasks you/your agency can offer.

Generally, placement tasks can include any tasks performed by a social worker, so can be a mix of or all direct service, community development, projects, etc.

Methods of intervention in social work include social action, community work, casework with individuals and families, group-work, research, social policy analysis and development and administration.

from Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

For practice skills required of SW graduates, see also AASW policy on the content of social work education, Section 6.2.

^top

___________________________________________

  How long are field placements?

70 days.

All Schools of Social Work in Victoria require a 70-day placement in each of the final 2 years of the BSW course.

Some Schools have full time ('block') placements (14 weeks or 3 months), and some have part time placement and part time university attendance (concurrent placements). See Placement Timetable for details. Increasingly, students request part-time placements so as to meet part-time work and family commitments. Part-time placement attendance may mean a 5 month placement

AASW policy requirement: Students must spend a minimum of 140 seven-hour working days (at least 980 hours) in at least two field placements. No placement will be shorter than 40 days. Placements must be structured in such a way that the educational goals can be achieved. The most usual patterns for achieving this are via full-time ('block') placements, or by concurrent placements that will be of at least two days per week.

^top

_____________________________________________

  What support or back-up is provided by the university?

There is some variation between the Schools about the use of University Liaison people (ie type and frequency of contact/visits). However all Schools appoint a Liaison Person to support and monitor each placement, who is available throughout to both supervisor and student by phone/email as needed. The Liaison Person visits the placement agency and meets with supervisor/s and student to discuss progress and resolve any issues. There is contact around Week 4 (mainly focussed around finalising the Learning Agreement/Contract/Plan, and checking placement has started ok), and around Week 8 (mainly focussed on how mid-placement review went, and that all is set for remainder of placement). There is usually also contact in the final weeks of placement.

The Liaison people are supported by and report back to the School to Field Education or supervised Professional Practice Coordinators.

If necessary, supervisors may contact the Field Education or supervised Professional Practice Coordinator at the relevant School directly.

Prior to placement students will have studied duty of care, AASW Code of Ethics, Occupational Health & Safety, as well as social work theory and practice skills for various settings. Students on placement have insurance cover through the University for accidents while on placement.

All Schools provide general support to supervisors offering placements to their students, this may include placement supervision training, supervisor briefing and debriefing sessions, university library borrowing rights, professional development opportunities.

^top

_____________________________________________

  What happens if a student is failing placement?

If a student is not progressing as expected, or there are any concerns about a possible failure, supervisors should immediately contact the Liaison Person and discuss this. Document your concerns.

Every School has procedures and supports for placements experiencing difficulties, which will be described in their placement Handbook. Students and supervisors both have rights and responsibilities, and all these need to be balanced. The Liaison Person or the School can assist a process where issues are clearly identified and strategies to resolve the issues can be set and later reviewed. In many cases the student is able to successfully address issues and consequently to pass the placement.

Supervisors may also need to consider the impact of a student needing higher levels of supervision on the agency and it's service provision. In a few cases the support/supervision needs of a student may be too high and the supervisor or agency may withdraw supervision thus terminating the placement. Placement termination may or may not result in a fail grade for the student.

^top

_____________________________________________

  I am a social worker but not in a social work position - can I still supervise a student?

Yes, if you meet the AASW Field Educator criteria ( an AASW eligible Social Worker with 2 or more years experience since graduation) and you wish to offer a student placement and there are placement tasks available that are suited to a social work student placement . Many social workers are now employed in An understanding of the history of indigenous Australians is an essential component of 'social worker'.

^top

_____________________________________________

  What time of the year do the different universities hold their placements?

See Placement Timetable.

Placement periods are spread across the year, with most in the later half of the year.

Increasingly, students request placements outside the standard times, or a part time placement, so if you have a placement offer that doesn't fit the timetable, please contact the School of your choice and discuss your offer.

^top

_____________________________________________

Do students on placement have insurance cover from the university?

Yes.

All universities provide insurance cover for students on placement. Placement confirmation documents for each student will include insurance cover details.

^top

_____________________________________________

  What are my responsibilities to the University?

  • A Field Educator must meet the AASW requirement for Field Educators, ie. qualified Social Worker (AASW eligible) with two or more years experience since graduation.
  • Negotiation has occurred within the Agency concerning the implications of student placement.
  • Preparation and availability to engage in the tasks necessary for student learning, including orientation and supervision.
  • Identify occupational and health policies within the agency and discuss ways that the student can minimise workplace risks.
  • The Field Educator has a duty of care to the student and should not ask them to perform work for which they do not have the knowledge or skills, or sent into situations where their safety is at risk
  • Ensuring the student's learning agreement/plan/contract is manageable and realistic.
  • Providing a range of social work experiences appropriate to the Agency and to the level of competence of the student.
  • Provision of structured supervision by a Field Educator and informal supervision by Field Educator or Co-/Task Supervisor, of at least one hour per week each.
  • Being able to give and receive constructive feedback regarding tasks, performance and professional behaviour.
  • In conjunction with the student, complete the required assessment documents by the due dates.
  • Negotiate access to the student's practice directly eg. observation, co-working, progress records, audio/videotape.
  • Confer regularly with the Liaison Person and attend seminars or other meetings concerning field education.
  • Inform the Liaison Person of any circumstances that may affect the quality of the student's experience on placement eg. holidays, illness, excessive workloads due to staff shortages.
  • If difficulties arise during placement, alert the student and, if necessary, the Liaison Person, of these, so that appropriate action can be planned and taken.

^top

_____________________________________________

  What is AASW policy on the content of social work education?

Sections 6.1 & 6.2 in Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

6.0. CONTENT OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION

6.1. Knowledge for practice

Knowledge from other disciplines is an integral component of social work education. This material

has traditionally been covered in subjects variously named sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, history, social theory, psychology, human development and behaviour. In a two-plus-two degree, this essential knowledge may be acquired through university study undertaken prior to the final two years of social work study. In a four-year program, it will usually be completed in the first two years of the social work degree. Each university will exercise its discretion in the organisation and presentation of material related to the following content areas:

i) An understanding of society and how it has developed and is organised. This includes an understanding of the major insight provided by sociology, anthropology, social theory, history economics and political science, and an awareness of how these contribute to the understanding of the politico economic distribution of resources. An understanding of the history of indigenous Australians is an essential component of this knowledge of society.

ii) Knowledge of social welfare arrangements, their history and organisation, and of the law in Australia. As the goal of social work is the enhancement of the quality of life, and the development of the full potential of each individual, family, group and community in society, attention must be paid to the study of major groups which experience disadvantage, and to those social structures and ideologies which give rise to, and maintain, disadvantage and oppression, particularly those concerning race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, class and sexual preference.

iii) Knowledge of the individual, including human behaviour and development, personality development, life-cycle stages, family and social networks, physical health and ill-health, mental heath and ill-health, disability, vulnerability and resilience. An understanding of the social construction of these concepts should also be developed.

6.2. Practice knowledge and skills

Essential to social work is the recognition that individual need is influenced by socio-political and economic factors. This interactive dual focus of analysis (individual and systemic, private pain and public issues) distinguishes the theory and practice of social work from other helping professions. The acquisition of practice knowledge and skills will take place over at least two years of the educational program.

The content of education for social work practice must include:

i) All methods of social work intervention - community work, casework, group work, social action, research, social policy analysis and development, and administration. There is an ever-growing body of social work theory to draw on in each of these areas, and a broad range of material must be covered.

ii) Practice skills, including interpersonal skills, communication skills, the skills of reflective and critical thinking and analysis, data collection and management, and negotiation and mediation.

iii) The skills of making assessments and deciding on the most appropriate intervention with which to respond to whatever situation faces the worker. The process of making judgments is a core social work skill, and needs to be developed throughout the social work program.

iv) Material on the recognition and thinking through of ethical issues. This is a core component of social work practice that relies on the ability to think critically within a framework of commitment to ethical practice, and needs to be developed throughout the social work program with reference to the AASW Code of Ethics.

v) The contexts of social work practice at local, national and international levels. This understanding requires knowledge of and the ability to critically analyse social, political, economic, historical, cultural and ecological systems. The processes, facilitators and constraints to change, and the trends or evolution of systems, need to be understood. Social workers need to be able to critically analyse the structure of society, with particular attention being paid to dimensions of power and disadvantage, and the influence of class, gender, age, intellectual and physical ability, heterosexism, race and ethnicity. There must be a focus on empowering and non-oppressive practice.

from Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

^top

________________________________________________________

  What is the AASW policy on field education?

Section 6.3 in Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of AASW [July 2000]

6.3. Field education

Field education is a core component of the social work education process, and has the status of a full academic subject. It is a key activity for the student, providing opportunities to integrate content from classroom learning with practical experience, whilst at the same time developing competence in a range of social work skills. It demands collaborative effort between school and agency staff and students, and may be enhanced by the maintenance of strong links with local AASW branches.

Contemporary workplace conditions give rise to both the need and the opportunity to develop creative and innovative field education placements. However, in all field placements, procedures must exist to ensure the promotion of rigorous academic and practice standards.

i) Field education arrangements

The centrality of field education to the student's learning and socialisation process should be reflected in the organisation of field education subjects within social work schools. There should be clear connections between the academic and research pursuits of university staff members, and field education experiences offered by the school. This may be achieved in a number of ways, including the participation of all social work members of staff in both field education and classroom teaching. Persons responsible for the management of the field education program must be social workers.

ii) School responsibilities

Acknowledging the centrality of field education implies the recognition by the school of the major contribution made to social work education by practitioners, and by the agencies which employ them. In arranging placements, university staff must involve the agency, the field teacher and the student in a consultative process, and must ensure that the learning opportunities offered by the agency will make it possible for the student to achieve the identified learning goals. Schools must also offer support to their field educators in the form of consultation and access to university resources, as field educators do not receive direct remuneration from the school.

The school will arrange for a member of its staff (including sessional or delegated staff) to visit the agency at least once, and preferably twice during the placement to provide liaison between the two organisations, to provide consultation as required, and to assist in evaluation of the student's progress. Telephone and/or video contact may be used to supplement site visits, but will not entirely replace them.

iii) Length and breadth of placements

Students must spend a minimum of 140 seven-hour working days (at least 980 hours) in at least two field placements. No placement will be shorter than 40 days. Placements must be structured in such a way that the educational goals can be achieved. The most usual patterns for achieving this are via full-time ('block') placements, or by concurrent placements that will be of at least two days per week. Students must undertake placements in at least two practice settings, and in at least two fields of practice and be able to practise using a diverse range of social work interventions.

Field education placements must be taken over two years in conjunction with the professional social work program of study. No placement will be an observation placement.

iv) Qualifications and responsibilities of field educators

Field educators will be qualified social workers with a minimum of two years' full-time practice experience, or its part-time equivalent, who demonstrate a commitment to continuing professional education, and an interest in developing social work knowledge and skills. Their workloads must be such that they are able to provide the formal and informal supervision needed by their social work students. It is suggested that there should be a minimum of at least two hours supervision (possibly one formal and one informal) for each five days (35 hours) of field placement. This may be given individually, or in a group if the agency has more than one student.

v) Location of field placements

Field placements are usually offered in agencies that employ social workers, and are supervised by experienced social workers. However, valuable learning experiences are increasingly available in agencies that do not employ social workers, or where qualified social workers are not available to provide on-site supervision.

If a student is placed in a setting where such conditions pertain, arrangements must be made to ensure that appropriate social work socialisation and supervision takes place, and that the learning objectives specified for the subject are achieved. Such arrangements will include the school making appropriate contractual arrangement with an external social worker to ensure that social work supervision takes place regularly, and that social work outcomes can be demonstrated by the student. Such an arrangement should apply to only the second or subsequent placements.

vi) Placements undertaken overseas

Although at least 50 per cent (70 days/490 hours) of the field education requirements must be taken in Australia, students may undertake one of the remaining placements overseas. It is preferred that the first placement be taken in Australia. In cases where placements are arranged overseas, the university must be able to demonstrate that all the usual standards, criteria and responsibilities related to field education, as specified in Section 6 of the AASW's document Policy and Procedures for Establishing Eligibility for Membership of the AASW, have been met.

vii) Field education in the student's place of employment

In order to provide a breadth of experience, placements will be undertaken in a setting and agency different from the student's place of employment. This requirement may be waived for one placement if the school is satisfied that the student's learning goals can be achieved in the student's place of employment.

Before a student commences a workplace placement, special attention must be paid to clarifying the goals of the placement and to determining the learning opportunities that will be available, and the educational processes that will be used. The student must be allocated learning experiences not involving the individual's routine work responsibilities, and whilst undertaking placement should not carry any other workload. The field educator must be a worker who is not the usual supervisor. Only one placement may be taken in the student's workplace.

viii) Planning and assessment of field placements

The school must articulate clear learning goals and objectives for each field placement, and clearly state the expected standards of performance to be reached by students in each placement. A learning plan must be developed for each placement, indicating how the student will meet the required goals and objectives.
 
 
^top