The field education office works with community agencies throughout Kansas and western Missouri to provide field practicum opportunities for students. Students are placed in these agencies through a collaborative process among the field education office, the student, and the agency. The field education office is responsible for ensuring that all field placements are able to provide the appropriate learning opportunities for students and that qualified field instructors will be available to the student. The field education office arranges all placements. Students should not contact agencies directly to plan for field placement without explicit authorization from the Field Education Office.
Field placements are mainly in the Kansas City and Topeka areas, with a limited number of settings in Lawrence, Leavenworth, and other Kansas and Missouri communities. Students are responsible for transportation to the assigned field practicum. Most agencies also require a student to have transportation available for agency assignments.
Students participate directly in planning for field practicum by completing the online planning survey and submitting it to the Field Education Office by the due dates listed in the admissions information and the planning calendars in the Field Education Handbook (pdf). If practicum planning information is not provided in a timely manner, placement will be delayed until the next planning cycle. This is likely to result in a delayed graduation date. The Field Education Office will consider student interests in fields of practice, client populations, and social problems in matching a student with a practicum agency.
An orientation is held in the fall, before the beginning of classes, for all students entering a field practicum and the field liaisons who represent the school. Students are responsible for the material in the Field Education Handbook (pdf). Upon request, a printed copy may be obtained through the KU Bookstore for a fee.
Every student in practicum has both a field instructor and a field liaison. The field instructor is a B.S.W. or M.S.W. graduate with two or more years of social work experience and is typically an employee in the practicum agency where the student is assigned. The field instructor is responsible for providing supervision, overseeing the student’s learning opportunities, and planning practicum assignments. The field liaison is employed by the School of Social Welfare to work with field instructors and students in each agency, to help integrate practicum with class instruction, to evaluate student performance, and to assist if difficulties arise.
Because of the necessity for continuity in client service and learning, the maximum time for a break between semesters in practicum is three weeks, regardless of time allowable according to the University calendar.
Traditional M.S.W. students have two practicum placements, one during the foundation level and one during the advanced level of the program. Each placement is for two consecutive semesters, 14 credit hours a year. Foundation level students engage in practicum for 16 hours a week, for a two semester period of 30 weeks for a minimum of 480 clock hours. Advanced level students spend 24 hours a week in practicum for a two semester period for a minimum of 720 clock hours. In both years, the practicum is concurrent with required practice courses. Practicum is graded on an S/U basis. A satisfactory (S) grade in both the foundation and advanced level practicum is a requirement for the M.S.W. degree. At the end of the first semester, a grade of P is given for satisfactory progress toward completion of the course. No credit is given for partial completion (fewer than 14 credit hours) of either practicum.
The foundation level practicum provides the necessary learning opportunities for the achievement of foundation curriculum objectives and development of a generalist perspective on practice. Typical agency settings for foundation level M.S.W. students include community mental health centers, child welfare offices, long term care facilities, and juvenile justice and/or corrections settings.
Advanced level practicum provides the learning opportunities essential for completing the objectives of either the clinical or macro concentrations. Clinical concentration practica are linked to integrative seminars in the following fields of practice, children and families, health/mental health, or aging. Typical settings for clinical M.S.W. students include mental and behavioral health centers, hospitals, hospice programs, schools and family resource programs. The macro practicum provides more in-depth experience in program development, outcome evaluation, policy analysis, personnel issues and budgeting/grant-writing. Students are placed in agencies of all sizes to learn managerial and advocacy skills. Typical settings range from small nonprofit agencies to state, regional and federal organizations.
Advanced Standing M.S.W.
Advanced standing M.S.W. students have one practicum placement during the advanced standing program, which lasts for two consecutive semesters or 14 credit hours for the year. Advanced standing students spend 24 hours a week in practicum for a two semester period for a minimum of 720 clock hours. The practicum is concurrent with required practice courses. Practicum is graded on an S/U basis. A satisfactory (S) grade is a requirement for the M.S.W. degree. At the end of the first semester, a grade of P is given for satisfactory progress toward completion of the course. No credit is given for partial completion (fewer than 14 credit hours) of either practicum.
The clinical practicum provides more in-depth direct practice experience with individuals, families, and groups. Students in the clinical concentration commit to one of the following fields of practice:
- Children and families (with a focus on school social work available)
- Health/Mental Health (including social work in health care and mental health)
Typical settings for clinical level M.S.W. students include mental and behavioral health centers, hospitals, hospice programs, schools and family resource programs.
The macro concentration practicum provides more in-depth experience in program development, outcome evaluation, policy analysis, personnel issues and budgeting/grant-writing. Students are placed in agencies of all sizes to learn managerial and advocacy skills. Typical settings range from small nonprofit agencies to state, regional and federal organizations.
Concurrent Practicum Exception
A student applies for a concurrent practicum exception through the director of field education. To qualify for a concurrent practicum exception, a student must be at the M.S.W. level and working in a social service agency that offers work experiences the student can draw upon to complete assignments in the practice classes. A concurrent practicum exception, when approved by the M.S.W. program director, allows the student to opt out of practicum until a later time (usually during the summer — summer block). The student still completes the required classroom or blended courses. As part of the application for a concurrent practicum exception, a student must identify his or her plan for completing the required practicum hours.
Summer Block Practicum
When the M.S.W. program director has approved a student's concurrent practicum exception, the student makes arrangements to complete the full required practicum hours during the summer. The student is assigned 40 hours a week in the practicum for 15 weeks to complete the required hours for the foundation practicum. The student is assigned 40 hours a week for 18 weeks to complete the required hours for the advanced level practicum. Students approved for block practicum are encouraged to begin practicum before the end of a spring semester to complete all practicum requirements by the end of the summer session. A student typically must be able to quit daytime employment and be available 40 hours a week for practicum. The concurrent practicum exception with the block practicum cannot be completed as an employment based practicum.
Employment Based Practicum (EBP)
Most students are placed in a regular practicum setting by the field education office. A small number of students consider applying for an EBP, in which they use their current place of employment (but not their job) as the site for the field practicum. The student’s employment agency must be able to show that it will reduce the student’s regular work responsibilities and reassign the student to new responsibilities (typically a different unit, client population, etc.) for practicum hours. The student’s practicum responsibilities must be very different from his or her work responsibilities (a student would still essentially be working full time, but half of it would be the current job and the other half — practicum — would be in a different unit with different job responsibilities). The same educational requirements and standards apply to an EBP as to other regular practicum placements. The employing agency must agree to support the educational program and the Council on Social Work Education standards. A small number of advanced level field practicum placements may pay a stipend to students. Effort is made to assign these settings to students whose financial need is high.
Prior Work Experience
In accordance with national curriculum policy, prior employment and life experience may not be credited toward classroom course work or practicum requirements.