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Field Instruction

Field instruction is “the part of studying that allows for the practical application of knowledge, values, and skills taught in class and as the place where students are taught to think and act” like a professional in their chosen field.1 It offers a way of experiencing various kinds of pre-professional work in a setting wider than that of specific techniques commonly employed in social work, i.e., cognitive behavioral therapy, task-centered practice, and solution focused brief therapy. At the same time, it is a means of translating a liberal arts education into "actual" situations, and of exploring problems basic to the humanities as they arise in situations which have immediate meaning to the student.2

Field instruction is widely employed in the field of social work. Through field instruction, social work students are provided opportunities to develop their reflection and thinking skills while demonstrating that they are able to take the theory they have been taught and apply it during work carried out in social work settings. The value of field instruction lies in the opportunity to practice the theory taught in class. At the same time, it creates an opportunity to reflect upon practice experiences in a supportive learning environment, provided through the supervisory relationship, both at the agency where students have been deployed and in the university setting.3

There are different ways that field instruction or fieldwork is done. The most common is carrying out fieldwork in a particular community where field workers fill an actual need in the community as they learn. At times, fieldwork is also done in small groups. When students are deployed in small groups to do fieldwork, instructors maintain constant interaction with students to provide guidance when necessary. Field trips where students do case studies is also a common way universities conduct field instruction. For example, a group of students may be sent on a field trip to conduct case studies of different families and how they live in an urban setting.4

Reference List

1 Kim Schmidt and John Victor Rautenbach, “Field Instruction: Is the Heart of Social Work Education still beating in the Eastern Cape?” Social Work, 52, No 4; Issue 8, (2016), accessed July 19, 2018,

2 Helen Merrell Lynd, Field Work in College Education (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945), 11, accessed July 19, 2018,

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid, 5