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Frequently Asked Questions for Agencies

What is the purpose of field education?

Field education is an integral part of both the School of Social Work BSW and MSW curricula. While classroom learning focuses on discrete knowledge and theoretical background, the field curriculum exposes students to a wide range of problems and possibilities. It teaches students to assess these situations and to develop, implement, and evaluate social interventions for actual persons, families, groups, organizations, and communities. 

What are the goals of the BSW practicum?

The BSW placements are designed to help the student acquire and improve basic social work practice skills in work with individuals, families, and small groups (direct practice) as well as with work units, organizations, and communities (community, management and policy practice). Therefore students are expected to carry a caseload where they can practice assessment, engagement, and intervention skills. They are also expected to participate in tasks that can improve a work unit, an organization or some aspect of the community. Graduates of the BSW program must demonstrate beginning professional practice behaviors and competencies by the time of graduation.
  1. To educate individuals for supervised beginning generalist practice with individuals, families, households, groups, organizations, and communities through a foundation of social work values, knowledge, professional skills, and use of self; and
  1. To prepare individuals for lifelong learning and graduate education.

What are the goals of the MSW first year (foundation) practicum?

The foundation placement is designed to help the student acquire and improve basic social work practice skills in work with individuals, families, and small groups (direct practice) as well as with work units, organizations, and communities (community, management and policy practice). Therefore students are expected to carry a caseload where they can practice assessment, engagement, and intervention skills. They are also expected to participate in tasks that can improve a work unit, an organization or some aspect of the community. Students learn clinical, organizational, policy, and administrative skills necessary for promoting social justice and equality, and for enhancing the quality of life for all people.

What are the goals of the MSW second year (advanced) practicum?

In the second year of the 2-year MSW (Advanced) program, students are expected to develop depth in social work practice knowledge and skills sufficient for competent, self-evaluative, accountable and ultimately autonomous practice. Students learn clinical, organizational, policy, and administrative skills necessary for promoting social justice and equality, and for enhancing the quality of life for all people. Students emphasize specialization related to direct social work practice with individuals and families. The role, function, and structure of the family are a particular focus across service delivery systems/Field Practicum placement sites.

How is practicum structured?

BSW:  Field Practicum is organized into two academic courses: SOCWRK 480 (Social Work Field Practicum I), taken in the fall semester of a student’s senior year, and SOCWRK 481 (Social Work Field Practicum II), taken spring semester. Each practicum course accounts for 5 credit hours.

Senior Seminar is organized into two academic courses: SOCWRK 498 (Senior Seminar I), and SOCWRK 499 (Senior Seminar II) for 1 credit hour each. These classes are co-requisites with Field Work I-II, respectively.

MSW Foundation: Students in the first year of the 2-year MSW program are expected to complete 400 clock hours in field, approximately 16 hours per week over two semesters. Students in the Foundation program begin fieldwork after they have completed their initial five weeks of classroom learning. Students are expected to complete 160 field hours during fall semester (16 hours per week for 10 weeks) and 240 hours (16 hours per week for 15 weeks) during spring semester.  Each Foundation Field Work course accounts for 2 credit hours 

Foundation Practicum Seminar is organized into two academic courses: SOCWRK 573 (Foundation Practicum Seminar I), taken in the fall semester of student’s foundation year, and SOCWRK 574 (Foundation Practicum Seminar II), taken during spring semester. These classes account for 1 credit hour each.  

MSW Advanced:  MSW Advanced students are expected to complete 600 field hours over the course of two semesters, approximately 20 hours per week.  Advanced Social Work Practicum I and II are 6-credit courses.

Advanced Practicum Seminar is organized into two academic courses: SOCWRK 577 (Advanced Practicum Seminar I), taken in the fall semester of student’s advanced year, and SOCWRK 578 (Advanced Practicum Seminar II), taken during spring semester. These classes are co-requisites with Advanced Field Practicum I-II, respectively.  These classes account for 1 credit hour each.       

Illnesses and emergency situations require the student to notify the Agency Field Instructor as soon as possible, but the time must be made up for these types of absences.  Students experiencing personal issues that prevent them from completing their practicum should consult with their Faculty Field Liaison.  Barring any significant, unforeseen circumstances, students should plan to complete their scheduled practicum in a continuous manner within the time period allowed.

What is IPT (Intern Placement Tracking) Software?

The Boise State University School of Social Work field program maintains a web-based database and software program called “Intern Placement Tracking,” commonly referred to as “IPT.” Students and Agency Field Instructors will receive login information and training on IPT during their orientation. In addition to training offered at orientation, tutorials and a help section are available within the IPT program. Students and Agency Field Instructors are welcome to contact

Field Program staff should they have questions or difficulties with IPT.

IPT is used:

  • To house forms used to track and monitor student learning and progress in their Field Practicum (Learning Agreements, Time Sheets, Evaluation Forms).
  • To facilitate record sharing and communication between student, Agency Field Instructor, Faculty Field Liaison, and Field Program staff.
  • To house contact and descriptive information on agencies in the area that provide fieldwork opportunities for students.

What types of agencies are selected as field sites?

We are fortunate to have a wide range of cooperating agencies throughout Idaho. Each year more than 240 students are placed in a variety of agencies and programs.  Placement sites represent the broad scope of social work practice in public and private, not-for-profit, and for-profit agencies. Typical practicum sites include Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, community providers of mental health services, substance abuse agencies, medical facilities such as hospitals and hospices, domestic violence agencies, homeless shelters and public schools. Students are also placed in agencies involved in program and policy development, advocacy, statewide planning, private non-profit agencies, family resource centers, among others. 

How is the placement assignment determined?

Students are expected to follow the field placement process detailed below to secure a field placement. Students do not develop their own placements. All field placements must be approved by the Director of Field Education to ensure they meet the requirements of the program. Boise State University School of Social Work cannot guarantee that all students will secure a placement. If students are not able to successfully secure a placement by the 5th week in the semester, they may be required to withdraw from the social work program. For detailed steps regarding field practicum placement, please see the Field Manual, page 12.

What will the prospective Agency Field Instructor know about the student before the pre-placement interview?

In some cases prospective Agency Field Instructors call the Director of the Field Education Program or their assigned Faculty Field Liaison to clarify information, or we may call a prospective Agency Field Instructor to discuss a student’s special needs. The student will provide a resume to the Agency, and schedule an interview.

What is the purpose of the placement interview?

The placement interview gives the student and the Agency Field Instructor an opportunity to get acquainted and to explore mutual expectations about the placement. The goal of this interview is to determine if the match of student/agency/field instructor is appropriate.

Students should treat this interview as a professional meeting.  If the match of student and agency does not seem appropriate, the Agency Field Instructor should contact the Field Education Office immediately. A different placement option is then explored.

What questions should be explored in the interview?

  • Practicum assignment including types of clients, activities, projects, services rendered and caseload size (if applicable);
  • How tasks will be assigned, especially during the first few weeks of the placement;
  • Teaching style of the Agency Field Instructor and learning style of the student;
  • Approaches to supervision should be discussed:
  • When will weekly conferences be scheduled?
  • Will other agency staff be involved?
  • Does the field instructor expect the student to take the initiative in seeking help?
  • How will the instructor routinely monitor the student’s work?
  • Issues of protocol, and norms present in the field agency regarding dress, student space, level of formality in communication, confidentiality, correspondence, and topics such as personal safety and health precautions, when applicable.
  • What is the mission and purpose of your agency?
  • Who are your most common clients and what are the problems/challenges they commonly face?
  • How is social work viewed in your agency? Will I be able to see a variety of social workers in practice?
  • What specific social work skills will I have the opportunity to develop in this setting?
  • What learning opportunities / experiences will I be able to participate in at your agency?
  • How does your agency support student learning and balance the needs of the student, Agency Field Instructor, and clients?

Share enough information about personalities and mutual expectations in order to be able to assess how both the student and the Agency Field Instructor may work together most effectively.

Our site requires background checks and a drug test – How does the student take care of these?

Students are expected to comply with agency requirements regarding immunizations, drug testing and BCI (Background Criminal Investigation) checks in a timely manner. Each agency may also have policies regarding required medical checks or immunizations. For example, a tuberculosis history and skin test may be required in some settings, and if a positive history exists, a TB chest X-ray may be required.

Given the increase in outbreaks of old and new, more resistant strains of TB, all students should consider a medical check, especially those in institutional settings. The same may be true for Hepatitis B. Please consult with your Agency Field Instructor for information on any medical procedures that are required or recommended at your agency.

Can placements be completed in a student's employing agency?

Field Practicum Placement in an agency where a student is employed may be proposed by BSW or MSW students. Evaluation and approval of the proposal, to use the agency where the student is employed for a field practicum placement, is the responsibility of the Boise State University School of Social Work. The agency official with the authority to grant permission for release time for the field placement should be contacted before submitting proposals to the Director of Field Education for approval. The final proposal must be approved by both the student’s proposed Agency Field Instructor and the Director of Field Education.  Detailed instructions to complete a proposal are located in the Field Manual page 14.

What if the placement doesn't work?

Reasons may vary as to why the placement is not working.  These situations must be discussed with the Field Director and the Field Liaison to determine next steps.

Does the school pay Agency Field Instructors to work with students?

No. Most Agency Field Instructors tell us the greatest reward comes from helping others develop professional knowledge and skill. Though we can never fully compensate Agency Field Instructors for the teaching they do, some of the direct benefits include: (a) Affiliate status, if requested; and (b) an annual field instructors’ workshop and luncheon.

How does the School choose Agency Field Instructors?

The Director of Field Education has primary responsibility for selecting agencies that can provide appropriate field education experiences for students. Students do not develop their own placement opportunities, but rather work directly with the Field Office to identify appropriate placements.

The School of Social Work is open to inquiries from agencies who are interested in hosting social work students for Field Practicum. Interested agencies are invited to contact the Director of Field Education to discuss learning opportunities they may be able to provide for students. If you or someone you know would like more information on becoming an Agency Field Instructor or sponsoring agency, please contact Raymond Mullenax, Director of Field Education as shown below.

If someone wants to serve as an Agency Field Instructor, what should they do?

Experienced BSW and MSW social workers interested in serving as field instructors should contact:

Boise State University School of Social Work
Director of Field Education
Raymond Mullenax
1910 University Drive
Boise, Idaho 83725-1940
(208) 426-5936 ph
(208) 426-4291 fax
raymondmullenax@boisestate.edu

What kind of training is available to a practitioner who wishes to serve as an Agency Field instructor?

First time Agency Field Instructors are asked to participate in New Agency Field Instructor’s Orientation offered each fall. Each Agency Field Instructor is assigned a Faculty Field Liaison from the School of Social Work who is available to interpret the School’s goals and objectives and advocate for both the student and the Agency Field Instructor.  Agency Field Instructors are also invited to participate in continuing education opportunities offered by the School at no charge.

What are the responsibilities of the Agency Field Instructor?

Agency Field Instructors are approved supervisors with a field agency who assume responsibility for supervising and monitoring student progress, assigning tasks to the student, and assisting the student in integrating theory and practice. Agency Field Instructors are critical role models and provide important feedback to students to assist them with learning and applying social work skills, and with development of professional self.

Agency Field Instructors must:

  • Be licensed social workers (LSW license or higher to supervise BSW students and MSW license or higher to supervise MSW students).
  • Have graduated from an accredited CSWE School with a BSW or MSW degree in social work.
  • Have at least two years of post-graduation professional practice experience commensurate with level of supervisee (e.g. BSW, MSW).
  • Have been employed in current position for at least six months prior to becoming a field instructor.
  • Be willing to support Boise State University program objectives for student learning.

For additional information, please refer to the Field Manual, page 10.

What is an Agency Task Supervisor and what do they do?

Some students choose to complete their field work in an agency that may not have a qualified Agency Field Instructor available to provide supervision. In these cases, agencies are asked to designate an “Agency Task Supervisor” who will help plan, assign, and coordinate learning opportunities for the student on a day-to-day basis. As Task Supervisors do not meet the Agency Field Instructor requirements, it is essential that students have a designated Agency Field Instructor who they meet with weekly, in addition to their Agency Task Supervisor.

Can students do placement in the evenings and/or on weekends?

This will entirely depend on the Agency’s ability to provide field supervision and hours during irregular hours.  Given the challenges of completing an MSW program, and the rigors of a Field Placement, students are discouraged from full-time employment while enrolled in this program.  One of the main criteria of both the Foundation/Generalist and Advanced Field Placement Experiences is that a qualified, MSW Agency Field Instructor be available for ongoing student supervision. Although many social service agencies offer services 24/7, there may not be appropriate supervision available for the student. This type of placement proposal must be discussed with the Field Coordinator well before the placement application deadline.

What are students not allowed to do?

Students should not dispense any type of medication, or physically restrain clients.  Students should be supervised when working with clients during the first few sessions with clients.

Furthermore, with the exception of regular holidays and Spring Break, students may not take extended periods of time off from their practicum without Faculty Field Liaison approval.

  • Illnesses and emergency situations require the student to notify the Agency Field Instructor as soon as possible, but the time must be made up for these types of absences.
  • Students experiencing personal issues that prevent them from completing their practicum should consult with their Faculty Field Liaison.
  • Barring any significant, unforeseen circumstances, students should plan to complete their scheduled practicum in a continuous manner within the time period allowed.

Do students need to have a car?

Students are not allowed to transport clients in their own private vehicles for their own protection and for the protection of clients and agencies. If students are required to use their own vehicle to complete Field Practicum tasks and assignments (other than getting to/from work site), agencies must inform students about liability or vehicle coverage available (or not available) to them through the agency, and must provide mileage reimbursement.

If students use their own vehicle for field practicum tasks – they are encouraged to contact their vehicle insurance company to see if additional coverage is required to cover professional/work use of their vehicle.

Do students need professional liability insurance?

All social work practicum and internship students are covered by State of Idaho/Boise State University’s General Liability insurance program. Per the Idaho Tort Claims Act, specifically, Idaho Code section 6-902, Boise State University shall maintain comprehensive General Liability coverage in such amounts as are proscribed by Idaho Code section 6-924 (capped at $500,000). The University’s liability coverage shall cover the actions of University and its employees, agents, students, and faculty while acting in the course and scope of employment or as students of Institution in performing actions related to the program. Coverage is effective upon enrollment in the practicum/internship.

Additionally, Boise State University School of Social Work purchases professional insurance to cover each student while enrolled as a student in practicum/internship. The insurance coverage is provided by American Casualty Company and the liability limits are $1,000,000 each claim and $5,000,000 aggregate. The cost of this insurance coverage is included in student’s field program fees.

How is the field practicum grade determined?

At the end of each semester, students and Agency Field Instructors must complete an evaluation of the student’s progress toward the development of professional competencies and practice behaviors. Examples of the evaluation tools are provided in the Appendix of this manual. Evaluations will be reviewed and discussed with the Faculty Field Liaison during site visits conducted at the end of the first semester and the end of the year. The Faculty Field Liaison issues the final grade of pass/fail for field.

What should I do if I am experiencing problems with my student?

  1. The Agency Field Instructor will address the concerns with the student and see if the issues of concern can be worked out directly. External programs may need to use teleconference or video technology as a more responsive way to meet with rural agencies that may otherwise require significant travel time. Experience with such situations indicates that open and clear communication between the student and Agency Field Instructor often alleviates tense or problematic situations.
  2. If the issue at hand cannot be resolved directly with the student, the Agency Field Instructor will contact the Faculty Field Liaison for the placement and consult with him/her about the situation. Often, this sort of strategizing can result in a resolution to the problem.
  3. The Faculty Field Liaison is always available to come to the site to meet face-to-face with the student, Agency Field Instructor, and anyone else deemed appropriate. At this point, an action plan for resolving the issue will be developed and agreed to by all parties.
  4. Should this final approach be unsuccessful, the student, Agency Field Instructor, and Faculty Field Liaison shall inform the Director of Field Education and meet to discuss options available to the student, and if indicated, arrange termination of the student placement with the agency. Termination of a field placement cannot occur unless the problem solving process has been fully utilized.
  5. If appropriate, the Office of Field will work with the Faculty Field Liaison and the student (or external site program coordinator) to identify other placement options. The Office of Field cannot guarantee that a second field option will be available.

I’d like more students. How can I market my agency to students?

  • Update the Field Program on number of students your agency is able to supervise each year; and/or
  • Students learn about sites through flyers and participation in the Field Fair hosted in during the spring semester by Boise State University School of Social Work.  Agencies are welcome to send a one-page flyer that advertises their opportunities to the School for posting on the bulletin board, and are highly encouraged to participate in the Field Fair each year; and/or
  • Participate in the spring Field Fair to meet and recruit students.
  • Keep information in IPT program updated, including summary of work students can expect to perform at your agency.
  • Contact Director of Field Education, Raymond Mullenax, at 208-426-5936, or by email at raymondmullenax@boisestate.edu for additional ideas and suggestions.