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Challenging Traditions: The Field Education Experiences of Students in Workplace Practica

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Consonant with an ongoing commitment to increase access to social work educational opportunities, this paper presents the results of an evaluation of a pilot project by a Canadian university that supported workplace practica for undergraduate social work students. Often adopted in social work programs with high proportions of economically marginalized students, workplace practica are field education experiences situated in the student's regular place of employment. This paper summarizes the findings of an evaluative project which compares the learning experiences and academic outcomes achieved by students who have completed workplace practica to those who completed traditional unpaid practica. In contrast to the views of some field educators, student performance and experiences in workplace practica were found to equal or exceed those in traditional practica. Perceived benefits cited by students include the financial advantages associated with maintaining employment, enhanced accessibility to practicum opportunities, expediting degree completion and a deeper practicum experience. Students also confirmed concerns observed in the literature when they were expected to juggle a portion or all of their normal work roles with a new role. Implications of these findings in relation to the offering of workplace practicum are also discussed.
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Keywords: Field Education; Paid/unpaid; Practica; Social Work; Workplace

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Calgary, Canada

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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