Practicum Education Manual - II. Overview of Practicum Education

A. Objectives of practicum education

The Council on Social Work Education, (CSWE) in its Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, (EPAS) stipulates:

Field Education is the signature pedagogy of the social work curriculum. Signature pedagogy represents the central form of instruction and learning in which a profession socializes its students to perform the role of practitioner.  Professionals have pedagogical norms with which they connect and integrate theory and practice.  In social work, the signature pedagogy is field education. The intent of field education is to connect the theoretical and conceptual contribution of the classroom with the practical world of the practice setting. It is a basic precept of social work education that the two interrelated components of curriculumclassroom and fieldare of equal importance within the curriculum, and each contributes to the development of the requisite competencies of professional practice. Field education is systematically designed, supervised, coordinated, and evaluated based on criteria by which students demonstrate the achievement of program competencies.

In addition, the Practicum Education program is committed to:

  • preparing competent practitioners to address the needs of vulnerable populations and persons for whom the quality of life is threatened;
  • preparing practitioners to provide social work services at the entry level (BSW) to address the needs of clients and populations in their transactions with the environment; and
  • preparing practitioners who practice at the advanced level (MSW) and integrate their analytic and practice skills with areas of social concern.

Achieving these objectives requires that students be placed in agencies and settings where they will have well-structured assignments and consistent practicum instruction. The BSW and the MSW practicum education curricula state the objectives and describe the content to be learned at the internship placement.

1.  Importance of education

Practicum education is an integral part of the social work degree curriculum and is required of all students in the BSW and MSW programs.  Internship placements allow students to create, practice, and strengthen skills needed to become effective workers through immersion in a professional social work environment.  CSWE requires colleges and universities offering accredited social work degrees to provide students educational instruction and opportunities in five areas: human behavior, policy, practice methods, research, and practicum education/work.

B. Practicum education and the urban mission

Through its urban mission, the school aims to prepare practitioners to serve those who are affected adversely by the conditions and problems endemic to urban societies and those oppressed by virtue of their race; ethnicity; sexual orientation; mental, emotional, and/or physical challenges; religious beliefs; place of national origin; gender; or socio-economic status.
Therefore, it is the policy of the school to require that all students have at least one internship placement in the City of Detroit, the Detroit metropolitan area, or in another urban setting capable of providing practicum education serving those who are oppressed, vulnerable, and/or disenfranchised.

C. Organization and coordination of practicum education

The school develops objectives, curricula, policies, standards, and procedures for practicum education. The Director of Practicum Education is primarily responsible for administering and managing the program and for directing Office of Practicum Education (OPE) staff members who organize and coordinate practicum education experiences. The Practicum Education Advisory Committee, (PEAC) composed of faculty, agency representatives, and students, is a consultative body to the director, who chairs the committee.

D. Office of Practicum Education (OPE)

The OFE oversees the placement of BSW, MSW and PhD students at community agencies where they perform internship placement; practicum education is one of the five educational areas required by CSWE for accreditation. The OFE employs staff to organize and arrange internship placement opportunities for students in both the BSW and MSW programs. The Director of Practicum Education supervises the day-to-day functions of the OPE, and staff within the OPE includes an assistant to the director, three part-time placement assistants, a full-time secretary, and a student assistant.

Internship placement is the component of social work education that helps students integrate classroom learning and reinforces course content. The OFE strives to ensure that students are placed at sites that provide meaningful opportunities to grow and learn. In addition, the OFE is responsible for assigning Faculty Practicum Liaisons and educating practicum instructors.

E. Professional and technical standards

F. Practicum education health clearance policy

The School may require students in internship placement to obtain assessments of their physical or mental health from health or mental health professionals approved by the School.  The School of Social Work reserves the right to refuse to place or direct a student in practicum education if the physical or mental health status of the student indicates such action is warranted in order to safeguard clients, agencies, the student, other students, or the School.

G. Frequently asked questions

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