As I near the end of my first round of field work, I reflect on whether or not I made the most of my learning experience. Could I have prepared more or did I take advantage of additional opportunities within the agency? Were there any factors that hindered my motivation and capacity to learn? More important, what advice can I share with fellow social work students to enhance their field work experience?
Factors to Consider and Implement
As social work students, we are expected to spend many hours in a practicum setting, in order to fulfil our social work education requirements. On my first day of practicum I didn’t know what to expect. But what I did know is that a course of action was needed to make the best of my field work experience. Garthwait (2014), advises to ensure “overall quality of your social work practicum experience, three major factors must be considered; (1) motivation to learn, (2) capacity to learn, and (3) opportunity to learn.”
Motivation to Learn
One goal for maintaining motivation to learn, was to focus on receiving a minimum of “meets competency” ratings on the learning outcomes in the all in one field education plan and assessment. Throughout my practicum the education plan was a concrete measurement tool that helped me in targeting areas that I still needed to improve on or complete. Another goal that helped in motivating me to learn was to look at this placement as a possible employment opportunity after graduation. Granted a social work intern is not financially compensated for the work they do during their placement. However, if an intern goes into placement demonstrating a high level of professionalism the agency is more likely to notice and the intern is more likely to be considered for a job opening.
Capacity to Learn
My goal for creating a capacity to learn was to go into my practicum asking as many questions as possible. This tactic gave me a plethora of knowledge about the agency’s programs, rules and regulations, processes, and funding. During my placement, I found that social work interns who had already been with the agency for some time were the best resource for a new social work intern, because they already have some understanding of the basic procedures and day-to-day schedule. The other interns also share the relatable experience of what it feels like to be new to an agency.
Opportunity to Learn
My goal for engaging in opportunities to learn was to participate in as many training prospects as possible that would enhance my social work skills and knowledge. During my placement, I was afforded the opportunity of attending a variety of trainings that apply to my particular field of interest. These opportunities did not automatically present themselves to me but I came into placement with the mindset of “it doesn’t hurt to ask”, which proved to be beneficial.
Overall, my practicum gave me a wealth of knowledge and enhanced my skills as a social work student. The experience allowed me to learn more about myself as a person and a professional. More significantly, it helped me to recognize my strengths, weaknesses, and biases, so that I can become an effective social worker to the population I will serve in the future.
Garthwait, C. (2014). The social work practicum: A guide and workbook for students. (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.