Social work field education in New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The focus of this research dissertation is social work field education in New Zealand. The purpose of conducting the study was to ascertain how both students and field educators experienced teaching and learning in the field. Results indicate that while teaching and learning thinking and theory have evolved in recent years to include a critical reflective dimension, the practice of field education is still largely based on an apprenticeship model. Practice experience and theoretical input relating to areas of societal inequality as well as the political context in which field education is delivered explain the continued use of the apprenticeship model. Students and field educators do, however, share a vision for how field education should be delivered. They agree on the attributes of an effective field educator, and on the methods needed to enhance practice teaching and learning. The research has, nevertheless, identified a discrepancy between this shared vision for field education and the reality that students experience in the field. Field educators are clearly marginalised in their role. Their work as educators is not sanctioned or recognised by employing agencies, and workload pressure frequently militates against social workers being able to accommodate students on placement. In this climate a minimalist approach to field education is adopted, resulting in unqualified social work staff and people who are not social workers acting as field educators. Without radical shifts in the recognition, resourcing and organisation of field education, student learning in the field will continue to be compromised. The theoretical framework used in this research was derived from existing learning theory, which was then reconceptualised and developed in light of the research outcomes to formulate a contemporary theory for practicum learning.