Social work field educator practice: expanding the vision
Thesis DisciplineSocial Work
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Social workers identify experiential learning opportunities as critical components of their education, but in Aotearoa New Zealand there is significant concern due to increasing demand and variable quality in field education. Although training more field educators and establishing professional standards is certainly an important part of addressing these challenges, this study explored the broader contextual factors that impact field educator practice. The research reported in this thesis focused on mediating factors in the professional socialisation and practice of social work field educators, with the objective of exploring how to influence developmental processes.
This qualitative enquiry can be located within a constructionist paradigm, informed by critical pragmatism and cultural-historical activity theory. The exploratory descriptive design focused on social work field education in Canterbury, Aotearoa New Zealand. In the first phase, 20 field educators participated in individual interviews and thematic analysis was used to identify a number of key influences on their practice. This initial analysis was then shared with participants in five focus groups to verify the conclusions and identify appropriate professional responses to the issues identified. Further thematic analysis was then undertaken and a model of field education articulated to shape future developments.
Analysis of the interviews identified a number of tensions within the field education activity system and between two other dominant systems; professional practice and social work education. Tensions within activity systems indicate potential for transformational change and sites for developmental learning. However, analysis also suggested that power dynamics between practice and education, and the alienation of field educators, create barriers and resistance to change. This is particularly evident in the persistence of monoculturalism in field educator practice. The development of professional learning communities for field educators is proposed, as a response to the challenges currently facing field education in Aotearoa New Zealand.