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Fieldwork Practice on Professional Programmes
Fieldwork placements are an essential part of the professional formation of students on both the BA Community and Youth Work (BACYW) and MA Community and Youth Work (MACYW) programmes. During the course of the three year fulltime BACYW and the two year fulltime MACYW programmes students complete 14 week fulltime fieldwork practice placement s in each year. In the case of the part-time students they complete two mandatory practice projects in their own organisations and one 7 week external fieldwork practice placement.
The overall purpose of the placement is to assist students - in a context where they are learning through doing - to acquire, and reflect upon, practice, knowledge and skills. They are expected to make their practice conscious rather than merely intuitive. Students must be judged suitable to continue with professional education following their first placement and fit to practice as a professional following their second. The fieldwork placements also provide an opportunity for students to enhance their capacity to engage effectively in civil society or public sector settings while reflecting on their values and applying academic theory to work in the applied contexts.
Supervised and assessed fieldwork practice therefore has a special importance which is reflected in the proportion of time devoted to it, and the credits attaching to it. All full-time students must undertake placements in both youth work and community work settings, while the part-time students are also expected, through the external placements, to gain adequate and sufficient experience of both youth work and community work. All students are also encouraged to experience a range of social settings and situations, such as urban and rural environments, and where possible are encouraged to consider a placement abroad. (The Department has a selection of organisations and agencies in Ireland and abroad with which it has placement arrangements).
While the final responsibility for decisions about placement locations lies with course staff, the process of decision-making is one of discussion and negotiation between staff and students, in which the tutorial relationship plays an important role. Students are encouraged and expected to be increasingly ‘proactive’ regarding this process as they move through the programme, and in the case of full-time students the final placement can where possible and appropriate be designed to reflect employment plans and preferences.
A series of preparatory seminars are held before the placements, and students (unless they are going abroad) make a preliminary visit to their placement agency to clarify expectations, responsibilities, roles and relationships. For students going abroad there is three-way contact between departmental staff, the student and the placement supervisor or contact person in a partner institution.
A key dimension of professional competence assessment are the ‘three-way meetings’ in the placement setting between a member of the programme staff, the student and supervisor, one towards the beginning and one towards the end of the placement, which focus specifically on student learning and assessment. There may be more than two meetings if the need arises.
Placement supervisors are experienced community or youth workers and the normal requirement is that they hold a professional qualification. The Department of Applied Social Studies has recently received approval for an NUI Certificate in Professional Supervision in the Social Professions and is endeavouring to ensure that the programme can be made available to as many supervisors as possible. It is being delivered form January 2012 – December 2012.
The fieldwork practice placement guidelines as produced by the Department in the placement handbook provide supervisors and students with detailed information on what the Department expects from the placement arrangements and all other dimensions involved.
Hear what a student has to say about Fieldwork practice....