Beginning in fall 2020, Rutgers School of Social Work will provide a Field Education Skills Lab seminar for MSW students in the traditional program who are entering their first field placements. Instructed by field education faculty who are also licensed clinical social workers, and one of the few social work courses like it in the country, the skills lab will provide students with a practice space where they can develop their engagement and assessment skills, through simulation, to effectively serve real life clients.
Plans for the course started over a year ago as SSW field education faculty began researching the systematic use of simulation for medical, nursing and social work students. SSW leadership provided support for field education faculty to consult with Marion Bogo, Professor and Sandra Rothman Chair in Social Work at the University of Toronto and author of Social Work Practice, explains Mark Lamar, Executive Director of Field Education and Associate Professor of Professional Practice.
"We are modeling our course after medical and nursing programs where students interview actors who play the roles of patients,” Lamar says. "Here, our students will assume and alternate roles as clients, practitioners, and peer evaluators, while practicing and improving their engagement and assessment skills, which are defined as procedural competence. They will also deepen their cognitive, critical and self-reflective capacities, or metacompetence.”
The skills lab course will provide explicit guidance to students about establishing a positive therapeutic relationship with clients using motivational interviewing, understanding the “common factors” in therapy, and identifying the therapeutic opportunities that can be found in all practice settings. Students will be provided with faculty and classmate evaluations and have the chance to self-evaluate and reflect upon their own simulated practice.
"Students will be able to make mistakes and learn how to recover from them in this course," says Lamar. "Here, they will focus on building and sustaining client relationships, through demonstrating practice skills, and they will also gain confidence in their use of self in simulations.”
This course will be a required, one-credit part of Field Education I, and it will be taught in 5 class meetings during the semester.