Field instruction

Information for liaisons

Conference agenda purpose

As the learner, you have the responsibility of making sure that your weekly meeting with your field instructor is productive and meets your learning needs. You should go in each week with a list of topics or issues you wish to discuss. Some of these will be about specific clients or project you are working on. Some will be about conceptual or practical issues that are arising.

To discipline yourself to fully own the responsibility for your part in supervision, you must do a weekly conference agenda. Key to using this tool well is the following:

  • Be thoughtful. This is an important hour in your learning experience.
  • Prepare your agenda ahead of time and provide it to your field instructor
  • Outline specific questions or areas for discussion     

» View a sample conference agenda [PDF]

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Learning Plan purpose

What is a learning plan?

It is a document developed by the student, in collaboration with the field instructor, that specifies what the student will learn, how the learning will take place and in what period of time.

Who must do a learning plan?

All field students must have a learning plan. 

Why use a learning plan?

It is a good tool to track your progress over time. Because it specifies goals or issues for focus, it can guide your activities and focus so that your time in field is most productive.

When do I complete a learning plan?

You should complete your learning plan during the first month of field. It is intended to be “a living document” that will be modified and updated as your field experience progresses and as new opportunities arise.

» View a sample Learning Plan [PDF]

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Liaison role

  • Serve as a link between the school, the agency, and the student to monitor and promote a successful field experience
  • Provide education to students at the beginning of the field practicum about the internship process and the social work program
  • Offer information and assistance in the development of the Learning Plan
  • Provide support regarding field issues by responding to questions, mediating conflict, implementing changes when necessary
  • Serve as consultant for agencies and Field Instructors in the establishment and evaluation of practicum arrangements
  • Monitor the practicum experience to ensure that learning goals are met
  • Be available throughout the practicum experience to assess and reassess students’ interests, goals, skill development and professional behavior
  • Be available to provide student with a “safe space” to process the practicum experience and challenges

» View liaison expectations and discussion topics [PDF]

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Macro exemplar list

B.S.W. seniors and Foundation students are required to do at least one “macro project” during field.

Some project examples include:

  • An exploration/windshield survey of a particular section of an agency’s service area gathering data on socio-economic, political, environmental, and historical factors and resources.
  • An organizational analysis reviewing agency charter, mission, goals, domain, long-range plans, legislative agendas and budgetary issues.
  • An assessment of the impact of state policies on agency clients and staff.
  • Use of the 2000 Census data to examine the character of a community or service area.
  • A review of funding sources for the agency and the implications of private, public, not-for-profit and faith-based sources.
  • Attendance at community or agency decision-making sessions, boards and committees.
  • Interviews with key leaders in community, agency, state government, civic associations, churches, etc.
  • Assisting the agency and its coalition members in developing a legislature agenda for the annual meeting of the Virginia General Assembly.
  • The creation of an advocacy campaign that the agency or members of its staff are sponsoring.
  • Collaboration with staff in writing grant proposals or other fundraising activities.
  • Attendance at task force, coalition, or inter-organizational meetings along with other staff members.
  • Research projects that evaluate program outcomes and effectiveness.
  • Participation in creating agency brochures and other documents for client and community education.
  • Development or updating of community resource directories or agency policy documents.

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Process recording FAQs

Does everyone have to do a process recording?

Yes. This is a requirement at every level and for all students. They are an integral tool for learning at all levels and a valuable means for field instructors to facilitate student self-awareness and the integration of theory and practice.

How frequently must I do a process recording?


What if I don’t have clients yet?

When you begin a new field year, use your staff meetings, community contacts or other agency/interagency interactions as the subject of your reflection until you have client contact. 

Can I do a process recording on a group?


Why are process recordings required?

It disciplines you to articulate your thinking, make links from practice to theory and it forces you to reflect on your work – an essential activity in practitioner learning.

What if my field instructor does not require process recordings?

This is a course requirement not a field instructor requirement. You jeopardize your grade or passing of field if you choose to not do process recordings for any reason. If your field instructor has another suggestion in lieu of process recordings (e.g., videotaped sessions each week) this must be approved by your field liaison as an exception.

Is my field instructor supposed to read all of my process recordings?

Yes. He/she should read them and provide you with written feedback. These should also be discussed in your supervision. It is ok if the field instructor gets behind in reading them. You should keep producing them each week.

What format should I use for my process recordings?

No single format is required. We have examples of formats we recommend. Your liaison may have an opinion about which format is best for you or your setting. You and your field instructor should decide.

What is the most important part of the process recording?

Different parts are important at different times in your learning. Ask your field instructor if he/she is satisfied with the amount of reflection you give to each component.

Is the process recording a written summary of the entire session?

Not necessarily, especially if you are using the verbatim format. Choose a part of the session that was particularly interesting, difficult or raised questions for you. 

How long should the process recording be?

For B.S.W. students: 2-3 pages; for second year M.S.W. students: 3-5 pages

May I do my process recording during my field hours?

Process recordings are considered homework. You should plan to complete these outside of your field hours unless other arrangements are made with your field instructor. The sooner you do it after your session, the better, although you may want to go back to add additional thoughts as you reflect more over the next couple of days.

Is there a template I can use?

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Process recording purpose

Process recordings are an integral part of the learning experience in field. They provide you with the opportunity to reflect on your work, to build your self-awareness, to share your experiences and thoughts with your field instructor, and to teach you how to relate theory to practice.

You and your field instructor should decide on the best format for your process recordings, with the approval of your field liaison.

It is important (and required) that you complete a process recording each week. The focus could be to work with a client system — a group or experience in a professional meeting. Regardless of the focus, you should be able to discuss your feelings, your analysis and any connection to classroom learning that is relevant. You will probably write about a segment of interaction rather than an entire session or meeting. The length of a good process recording is 3-5 typewritten pages.

Your process recordings should be turned in each week to your field instructor — who will write comments. Discussion of your process recordings should be a regular part of your supervision time.

» View a sample process recording column [PDF]

» View a sample process recording narrative [PDF]

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Transportation policy

VCU School of Social Work students are not permitted to transport clients in their own vehicles as part of their Field Internship responsibilities, unless the agency is willing to indemnify the student transporter. Proof of the agency’s coverage for student(s) is required. Students not covered by agency, who choose to use their own vehicles to transport clients, may be liable in the event the client(s) or any passengers are injured.

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Working contract purpose

All students are required to complete a working contract within the first two weeks of field instruction. This document specifies the agreement between you and the field instructor regarding your weekly schedule in field, important meetings you are expected to attend (for example, your supervision time, any team meetings that are required, etc.) and when your conference agendas and process recordings will be due.

It is important that you complete the working contract as soon as possible and have it signed by your field instructor. This will prevent any misunderstanding about hours, etc. Your liaison will want to see the working contract as well.

» View a sample working contract [PDF]

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