The Potential of Field Education as Transformative Learning

Sue-Ann MacDonald, Sinthu Srikanthan, Ilyan Ferrer, Edward Ou Jin Lee, Liza Lorenzetti, André-Anne Parent


Social work field education has reached a crisis point due to the imposition of neoliberal logics in both university and practice settings. As a result, social work programs are faced with challenges such as practicum shortages, barriers to field instructor recruitment and retention, and increased workload for those involved in field education (Ayala et al., 2017; Barnoff et al., 2017). Concerned by this reality, a team of critically oriented pedagogues and students from four Canadian universities hosted a workshop in May 2017 in order to foster collective dialogue with a diverse group of stakeholders about the ways in which the encroachment of neoliberalism may be confronted. This article presents key reflections that surfaced during the workshop related to the themes, such as identifying disjunctures between what is taught versus what is experienced and how intersecting identities and marginalization shape the field education process. Drawing from two case studies that were also presented during the workshop, we suggest strategies for inciting politicized and emancipatory social work field education, notably through fostering ongoing critical reflexivity, developing models for mentorship, and mapping out how field education is socially organized from the standpoint of the oppressed and marginalized.


transformative learning; field education; social justice; practice

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