Agencies and Field Instructors

Field instructors

The role of the field instructor as teacher, guide, challenger, and role model to the student is a vital one. Field instructors perform these responsibilities on a voluntary basis, often to give back what they were given and to continue to remain current and challenged in their thinking about the practice role they perform and the social issues they face in their work with individuals, families, small groups, neighborhoods, communities, and organizations. No two field instructor or student experiences are identical, but there are threads of commonality in all field placement experiences.

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Agency Affiliation

The School of Social Work defines an agency as an organization that can provide an educational experience that will allow the student to gain competence in the 9 areas of the social work profession as outlined by CSWE.

Agencies can be identified as a possible field site in various ways, including by field advisors, program faculty, UPJ and UPB MSW Program Coordinators, referral from other field instructors or agency training coordinators, self-referral, or, in specific circumstances, students. Agencies providing a supportive and inclusive learning environment that models affirmation and respect for diversity and difference are purposefully recruited. In most instances, field advisors will not recommend using agencies as field placement settings that have been in operation for less than one year.

Agencies considering being a field education placement may want to consult: Internships, Department of Labor Regulations, and Social Work Field Education: Setting the Record Straight, February 25, 2014.

Agencies are selected based on their ability to:

A. Provide in-person contact with clients and constituencies.

1. For Generalist students this entails contact with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

2. For Direct Practice Specialization students this involves contact with individuals, families, and small groups.

3. For COSA Specialization students this requires contact with groups, organizations, and communities.

B. Offer a broad range of learning experiences and assignment of professional responsibilities consistent with the student's educational program and level.

C. Provide a qualified field instructor(s).

1. An agency that is not be able to provide a qualified field instructor, it may be considered if it is found to offer a unique learning opportunity for students. The Director of Field Education makes this decision, with input from the UPJ and UPB MSW Program Coordinators for agencies in their areas.

D. Sign an Affiliation Agreement (https://na2.docusign.net/Member/PowerFormSigning.aspx?PowerFormId=7e52023 0-8325-4739-95a7-c2a10944f8dd

Affiliation Process

  1. Referrals (or self-referrals) are sent to the Director of Field Education (or the UPJ and UPB the MSW Program Coordinators) who then initiates a discussion with an agency representative to explore the agency’s interest in becoming a field placement agency, their ability to offer learning opportunities for students to develop Generalist Competencies and concomitant behaviors and/or Specialization (i.e., Direct Practice or COSA) Competencies, as well as the availability of a qualified field instructor. A brief review of School and agency responsibilities occurs. A site visit to the agency may be made at this time.
  2. If the Director of Field Education (or the UPJ and UPB the MSW Program Coordinators) thinks the agency could be a suitable field placement, the agency representative is asked to complete and submit the Affiliation Agreement and other materials, such as a description of agency services and learning opportunities. The UPJ and UPB MSW Program Coordinators alert the Director of Field Education to expect materials from prospective field placement agencies in their areas.
  3. The Director of Field Education reviews the materials submitted. If deemed appropriate as a field placement agency, the Director of Field Education signs the Affiliation Agreement and forwards it to the Dean of the School of Social Work for final review and signature.
  4. The Administrative Assistant for the Office of Field Education receives an electronic copy of the signed Affiliation Agreement; copies are distributed to all signatories as well as the UPJ and UPB MSW Program Coordinators, when appropriate
  5. The Administrative Assistant for the Office of Field Education adds the agency to the database of available Pitt-Main (Oakland) placement options and descriptions of field placement learning opportunities. The MSW Program Coordinators at UPJ and UPB maintain lists of available placement options and description of field placement learning opportunities for their respective sites.

Required Documentation

  1. Affiliation Agreement
    • Details the responsibility of the field placement agency as well as the University.
    • A single Affiliation Agreement is required for agencies that have multiple locations (sites). I.E. Pittsburgh Public Schools have many sites, but only require a single Affiliation Agreement.
    • The Affiliation Agreement may be revised from time-to-time to allow for changes in educational policies, laws, and other significant factors that may impact field placement.
    • The Affiliation Agreement shall be renegotiated when executive personnel in agency/school changes or when the agency is significantly restructured.
    • Questions regarding the Affiliation Agreement should be directed to the Director of Field Education (412-624-5969; dalessan@pitt.edu).
    • Click here to access the Affiliation Agreement
  2. Demographic Sheet
    • Provides detailed information about the learning opportunities available at the agency. 
    • A demographic sheet is required for each location or program that will accept a School of Social Work intern. I.E. Pittsburgh Public Schools have many sites and require a demographic sheet for each school (location/program).
    • Updates to the information provided in the demographic sheet can be made by contacting the Field Education Administrative Assistant.
    • Click here to access the Demographic Sheet
  3. Field Instructor Application
    • Provides information about the individual who will be supervising our School of Social Work interns.
    • Protential Field Instructors will be required to list references and attach a resume to the application form. 
    • Approved Field Instructors will be required to attend a Field Instructor Orientation before a student intern begins their field placement. 
    • If a field instructor changes agency or site and are still interested in providing field supervision, they should contact the Field Education Administrative Assistant in order to update this information. 
    • Click here to access the Field Instructor Application
  4. Task Supervisor Application
    • Provides information about an individual who will provide day-to-day, on-site supervision for the student intern. 
    • This individual collaborates with the Field Instructor to complete the student's Field Learning Plan and Evaluations.
    • The assignment of a task supervisor is required if there is not an MSW at the Agency who can fufill the role of field instructor. 
    • A Task Supervisor Application is required whenever a task supervisor is assigned. 
    • Click here to access the Task Supervisor Application

**The Office of Field Education does not maintain health records of students. If a field placement agency has required students to update immunizations, TB, or other medical tests, the student is responsible for providing the records to the field instructor or other staff member identified by the field placement agency, as requested.

Field Instruction

The School of Social Work's official definition of Field Instructor is as follows:

  • Field instructor responsibilities will be held by any of the following who hold an MSW and a minimum of two years post-masters experience:
    • a member of the faculty, such as the person teaching the field lab/seminar or other faculty,
    • retired or current social worker from the community;
    • or a board member of the agency
  • The field instructor will review the field learning plan, provide a minimum of one hour of weekly supervisor, conduct at least one on site field visit per term (more if needed) and will review and sign off on the student’s evaluation and timesheet.

Qualities of an exemplary field instructor include:

  • The capacity to conceptualize and transmit knowledge
  • The ability to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate the core or advanced competencies
  • Commitment to the values and ethics of the social work profession and have the capacity to operationalize them in practice through field instruction
  • Ability to identify appropriate learning opportunities within the agency which can be utilized to enhance the student’s knowledge and practice skills
  • Perform an educational assessment
  • Possess knowledge of and apply adult learning concepts
  • Select appropriate teaching material related to the core competencies
  • Assess student progress in relation to mutually agreed upon educational and learning goals
  • Use the supervisory relationship in a constructive manner
  • Work collaboratively with the School’s liaison
  • Express commitment to professional education through safeguarding the field instruction process by preparing supervisory and instructional meetings, through communication with the liaison, and in participating in School of Social Work seminars specific to field instruction

Field Instructor Benefits

  • While no financial remuneration is involved, field instructors are eligible for the following benefits:

    • Ability to earn up to 18 free Continuing Education Units (CEUs) by attending the full-day orientation and four 3-hour trainings

    • A 50% discount on all Continuing Education Programs sponsored by the School of Social Work, as space is available.

    • Ability to be involved in the life of the School and to identify as part of it by attending the School of Social Work Speaker Series and other events. 

Roles and Responsibilities of the Field Instructor

  • Provide regular and structured supervisory and instructional meetings with their student.

    • A minimum of at least one hour per week of supervision is required.

  • Model professional behaviors and practices for the student. A field instructor reinforces the social work perspective and encourage the student’s professional identification and development.

  • Contact the field liaison with questions that arise during the course of the student’s field placement.

  • Work with their student to develop the Field Learning Plan and outline tasks appropriate to the student’s educational program and level

    • The field instructor and student document these activities, which help the student to make progress toward achieving relevant competencies and concomitant behaviors, in the Field Learning Plan for the field placement.

  • Engage the student in a problem-solving process if issues arise that cannot be addressed in the normal course of supervision.

    • The field instructor contacts the field liaison if the difficulties cannot be resolved through supervision or problem-solving. 

  • Complete with their student a Field Evaluation at the end of each term of field placement.

    • The Field Evaluation requires the field instructor and the student to honestly appraise the student’s learning and professional development over the course of the term in relation to the relevant social work competencies (i.e., Generalist, Direct Practice, or COSA) and concomitant behaviors.

    • The field instructor must sign the Field Evaluation before the student electronically submits it and their Time Sheet at the end of the term. The student will not receive a grade for field education unless a completed and signed Field Evaluation is received in time for review by the field liaison before its due date.

  • Meet with the student and the field liaison at least once each term to discuss the student’s progress, learning opportunities and tasks, and any issues or concerns arising during the field placement.

    • In the unusual case that an in-person meeting is not possible, the meeting may occur by phone or electronically.

Field Instructor Training

  • Field Advisors on the Oakland campus and the MSW Program Coordinators at UPJ and UPB are responsible for providing orientation and training to field instructors.

  • New field instructors are required to participate in Field Instructor Orientation, which is available either in person or online (coming soon).

    • Full-day, in-person Field Instructor Orientations are offered at the beginning of the Fall, Spring, and Summer terms at the Pitt-Main campus. If there is room, any field instructor interested in obtaining a refresher can attend.

    • At UPB and UPJ, in-person Field Instructor Orientation is held in the Summer term when there are several new field instructors. 

    • In the event that there is only one new field instructor requiring orientation, the individual completes the online Field Instructor Orientation. The online Field Instructor Orientation is a condensed version of the full-day training.

    • Field Instructor Orientation familiarizes new field instructors with their role and responsibilities as educators as well as the expectations of field instruction. It describes policies pertinent to the field experience and discusses curricular issues that define the student’s expected field learning assignments, including the competencies and behaviors to be developed through the field experience. In addition, new field instructors become acquainted with the MSW curriculum and the distinction between generalist and specialization field education.

    • Those who complete the full-day, in-person Field Instructor Orientation receive 6 Continuing Education Units (CEUs); those completing the online Field Instructor Orientation receive 3 CEUs.

  • New and experienced field instructors are encouraged to attend the Seminars in Field Instruction (SIFI).

    • The SIFI is a series of four, three-hour sessions designed to parallel the student and field instructor experience.

    • It focuses on more specific strategies for educational supervision as well as problem-solving. The SIFI is delivered in-person.

    • Attendees who complete each SIFI session receive 3 CEUs; 12 CEUs are received for completion of all four SIFI modules.

  • Field instructors who complete the full-day Field Instructor Orientation and all four SIFI session receive a total of 18 CEUs.

  • Contact the Field Office Administrative Assistant for more details.

Appointment Requirements and Procedures

  •  The MSW Program assumes responsibility for reinforcing the social work perspective with the field student in the rare instance when the agency staff member who would work with the student does not possess a Master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited social work program and two years’ post-Master’s social work practice experience.
  • Field instructors can access the MSW Field Education Handbook and all necessary documents on the School of Social Work Website.

  • To be appointed by the Office of Field Education to serve as a field instructor, an individual must have:
    • A Master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited social work program
    • A minimum of two years’ post-Master’s social work practice experience
  • Full-time or part-time students enrolled in a BASW or MSW program cannot serve simultaneously as field instructors for University of Pittsburgh social work students.
  • Individuals from other educational programs who are completing internships at the agency may not supervise University of Pittsburgh social work students.
  • Field Instructor Application
    • Provides information about the individual who will be supervising our School of Social Work interns. 
    • Protential Field Instructors will be required to list references and attach a resume to the application form. 
    • Approved Field Instructors will be required to attend a Field Instructor Orientation before a student intern begins their field placement. 
    • If a field instructor changes agency or site and are still interested in providing field supervision, they should contact the Field Education Administrative Assistant in order to update this information. 
    • Click here to access the Field Instructor Application
  • The Director of Field Education, in consultation with the UPB and UPJ MSW Program Coordinators for applicants from agencies in their areas, reviews the application and résumé to ensure that the educational and experience criteria are met.

The Field Liaison

The School of Social Work's official definition of Field Liaison is as follows:

  • The Field Liaison for all MSW students will have a CSWE –accredited Social Work MSW degree with 2 years post master’s experience and will review the field learning plan with the field instructor and task supervisor at the agency, conduct at least one on site field visit per term (more if needed) and will review and sign off on the student’s evaluation and timesheet at the end of each term. In addition, in cases where the Field Instructor and Liaison are the same person, the Field Liaison will provide 1 hour per week of group or individual supervision to the student.

More information related to the Field Liaison role and process can be found in the MSW and BASW handbooks located at https://www.socialwork.pitt.edu/academics/policies-handbooks