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    It’s Time for Social Work Internship Reform

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    On March 14, 2013, the Council for Social Work Education opened the public commenting period for individuals, schools, and organizations to make recommendations to help improve the social work degree. Social Work Helper conducted a focus group via twitter with educators, practitioners, and students to help identify the most important issues to the social work community.

    devilwearspradaInternship reform was the primary concern for focus group participants. Participants overwhelming believed that social work students should be able to customize their degree based on need and work experience. In my article, Suffering in Silence: Identifying the Oppressed, I go in more detail about why I believe this policy change is needed.

    If students can’t be trusted to come to the best conclusion on the number of internship hours they need under counsel of their advisor, how can we entrust them as social workers to problem solve someone else’s life with no stake in the outcome?

    Currently, the Council for Social Work Education has instituted a 400 hour (12 credit hours) minimum internship requirement for BSW and over 900 hours (18 credit hours) for MSW students. Most people believe it’s the NASW or individual institutions that have the power to reform the internship requirement, but the CSWE is the accrediting body who instituted this policy. Macro MSWs and BSWs are often competing in the job market against other generalist degrees in which the social work degree is not even listed as an acceptable degree.

    These mandatory minimums prevent schools from innovating generalist and macro programs to be competitive against the degrees generalist students are facing in the job market, and they prevent students/consumers from tailoring a social work degree to fit their needs, projected goals, and desired career paths. Removing a mandatory minimum structure does not prevent students from continuing to take the same internship credit hours if that is their desire, but it does also allow for flexibility for those who want to specialize and/or who are already working in the field.

    We understand that eliminating the 960 hour mandatory minimum internship requirement for the Clinical track MSW degree may be problematic since it’s the only master level degree that has the ability to conduct psychological assessments and/or treat mental health disorders. However, the Department of Psychology already uses the desired model for their Generalist and Clinical Psychology degree which can be viewed at  http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/grcat/programpsyc.cfm.

    Although my petition does not specifically request changes for clinical practice, there are many fact based reasons for changes. The generalist Master of Psychology degree does not require an internship, but instead uses a thesis  and/or internship based model. Additionally, the clinical masters psychology degree requires only 10 credit hours in paid internships while the MSW requires 18 credit hours in unpaid internships. Social Workers always want to compare ourselves to Psychologist, what about in these instances.

    For the generalist track MSW and for all BSW programs, we want the mandatory minimums for internships removed, so students can customized their social work degree based on need and work experience.

    * For Students with Work Experience or Working Practitioners, senior seminar or Capstone projects are both acceptable standards to demonstrate knowledge. Currently, the social work degree is the only degree that requires double or quadruple internship credit hours out of all disciplines.

    • BSW Student who plan to take advantage of the Advance Standing Status and seek a Clinical MSW, they should be able to reduced internship credits and add more psychology course work. However, BSW Students with no work experience should be encouraged to continue incorporating internship hours in their plan of study.
    • BSW Students and Nonclinical MSW Students should have the opportunity to customize their degree based on need, work experience, and desired career path whether this means taking more technology, business, clinical or political sciences courses in lieu of more internship credit hours.
    • Traditional BSW Students and Non-Clinical MSW Students with demonstrated work experience should have Capstone projects as an alternative to demonstrate knowledge which is an acceptable standard across disciplines. Students should not have to pay college tuition to work for free when it creates a hardship and does not add value to the social work degree.

    The purpose of the internship is to provide work experience and to prepare students for the work force, but these mandatory minimums retard student’s ability to tailor a social work degree to the individual instead of using a cookie cutter approach.

    Eliminate the mandatory minimums for all BSW programs and the nonclinical/generalist MSW degree for 2015, and make it retro-active for current students. Let’s also use this as an exercise to show the power of social media. Public commenting ends May 4, 2014.

    According to CSWE President Darla Coffey, “CSWE does not require programs to allow students to earn field credit through their employment – accrediting bodies are not that prescriptive. CSWE does require that they programs have policies in place in order to ensure consistency and transparently.” However, there is no enforcement to ensure students have the same opportunities available per institution. Removing the mandatory minimum internship requirements will provide students with more autonomy in choosing the best options available to them while still having counsel from their Advisors.

    Before this solution is easily dismissed as a radical departure from the way things have been traditionally done, as social scientist we should be asking our schools of social work to analyze the demographics and trends of incoming students. What are the financial needs of students who enroll, have BSW enrollment declined into graduate schools, what does the make of the student enrolling look like?

    If there is a skew towards traditional students versus non-traditional students, this is an indicator of a larger problem especially when recent studies report only 16 percent of students are traditional students. How is social work measuring up and what are the barriers to obtaining a social work degree.

    EmailbyDarlaCoffey

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    Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    29 Comments

    29 Comments

    1. Social Work Helper

      Social Work Helper

      April 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Barbara Neilson you are entitled to your opinion, and your complaint will be taken under advisement.

    2. Barbara Neilson

      April 21, 2014 at 7:28 am

      and btw, it’s not me that is “offended”. it is that it is a visual misrepresentation and an insult to the students in practicums and to the agencies they are getting their experience in, the communities they are serving and the clients they help.

    3. Barbara Neilson

      April 21, 2014 at 2:50 am

      what you can’t change the picture? why not?

    4. Social Work Helper

      Social Work Helper

      April 21, 2014 at 1:30 am

      Unfortunately, this will be the case until the public commenting period for the CSWE is over. Apologies for offending you.

    5. Social Work Helper

      Social Work Helper

      April 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      What if I told you a Masters in Clinical Psychology does 10 credit hours internship hours while an MSW does 18 credit hours, and they get paid internships while MSW interns are unpaid? Although my petition does not address clinical practice, there are many fact based reasons for changes. The generalist Master of Psychology degree does not require an internship, but instead uses a thesis. Social Workers always want to compare ourselves to Psychologist, what about in these instances. http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/grcat/programpsyc.cfm

    6. Barb Kistler Meyer

      Barb Kistler Meyer

      April 20, 2014 at 11:08 am

      The degree should still prepare one to be a social worker. If students apply for jobs others are doing that is their choice. We have to have minimal requirements to prepare students to practice social work. Field work is what really prepares students. My fear is that we water down the degree

    7. Maureen Donlan Butler

      April 20, 2014 at 1:24 am

      Do I misunderstand? No internship if you say you aren’t clinical? Or if you have work experience? My first response is that everyone with a Master’s in Social Work should have comparable, reliable experience. Worried that requirements/standards suffer.

    8. Barbara Neilson

      April 19, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      if you are going to continually re post this issue, please use a realistic picture. I have never ever in over 35 years as a social worker, field instructor, student intern, or placement coordinator , heard of a social work practicum student getting coffee (unless preparing for a group) shopping, buying flowers etc. Clearly you have picked an intern from “The Hills” or some other show. it is demeaning to what a professional social work practicum is about.

    9. Rampal Meena

      March 26, 2014 at 6:33 am

      Agree,

    10. Social Work Helper

      Social Work Helper

      March 25, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Please sign the petition and share.

    11. Eula Hendricks

      March 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Agree!

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    Education

    Social Emotional Learning Skills by Grade Level: Part III

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    As discussed in parts one and two, social emotional learning (SEL) skills have become an even greater focus now that students are limited in their opportunities to socialize, collaborate, and communicate with peers in person at school. By the time students reach middle school, the basic foundational skills for social-emotional intelligence are in place. Preteens and teenagers are now ready to face greater obstacles and challenges, especially with regard to peer relationships, stress, and self-motivation. To meet new benchmarks, students in middle and high school must learn to deal with more significant academic struggles, greater peer influences, ever-changing teenage social dynamics, and their own personal growth and development at the same time. Below is our continued list of specific grade-level SEL standards for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

    Middle School

    Students should begin to recognize circumstances and situations that cause extra or unnecessary stress; they should begin to adopt strategies to help with motivation, stress management, and task completion. Middle schoolers should begin to recognize the benefits of strong self-advocacy skills and how to best utilize the resources and supports that are at their disposal. For instance, if schools offer after–school homework help, students who know that they struggle to complete assignments on their own should take initiative by signing up for the club/program and making a point to attend.

    Since learning to set goals in elementary school, middle schoolers should now be equipped to assess the validity of their goals so that they may make more informed, realistic, and specific goals moving forward. They should also be able to determine why they were able to reach success or not, i.e., What helped them to reach their goal? If they didn’t reach it, then why not? What prohibited them from finding success? By middle school, students should not only be able to recognize other people’s emotions, feelings, or perspectives, but they should be able to surmise why they feel or think that way. In this sense, they’re activating the ability to take another’s perspective that they learned in elementary school, then further expanding on that by making inferences.

    Preteens not only recognize cultural differences, but they should begin to acknowledge how certain cultural differences can result in some peers being ostracized or bullied. They should then be able to begin to find ways to combat or address the bullying and/or to make others feel included and recognized. Middle schoolers should be well-aware of group dynamics and what it takes to ensure the success of the group. This includes assigning roles, taking responsibility, sharing the workload, cooperating with others, etc.

    Students in the middle school grades should be aware of negative peer pressure, what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. They should also be able to come up with ways to combat negative peer pressure in non– confrontational ways and under various circumstances. Preteens should be considering their decision-making in terms of others. Before making an important decision, they should consider not only how they will benefit from their choice, but how it could impact others as well.

    High School

    High schoolers should begin to understand how expressing one’s own emotions/feelings can have both positive and negative impacts on others. For example, as young adults, they need to know that positivity begets positivity, especially when emotions are running high. High schoolers will also have developed the ability to multitask by this point. However, more than multitasking, HS students should be able to shift back and forth between various tasks and under wavering conditions or circumstances. For instance, if completing a chapter review for English, a high schooler may need to answer a phone call or walk the dog to then return to the chapter questions later. Perhaps they need to maintain focus on several different homework assignments while working from a bustling coffee shop.

    Students in high school should be able to capitalize on their strengths and think creatively when facing a challenge. This ability connects with problem-solving skills and ingenuity. We can’t all be great at everything, but in what way can we use our personal/individual strengths to make challenging tasks easier? This is key for college and career readiness. High schoolers should also be thinking about setting goals for the future after graduation. College is not the “end all be all.” But if college isn’t their plan, then what is? Young adults need to recognize how important it is to find a path, take steps to follow that path, and evaluate their progress, preferences, and goals as they go. If they want to take a gap year, what do they hope to accomplish during that year? If they are going to study abroad, how will they decide on a program and pay for it? What skill set do they plan to use for supplementary income while in or out of college?

    High schoolers should be capable of showing respect for those with opposing or differing viewpoints, even if the opposing side is argumentative, dismissive, rude, etc. It is important to maintain a level of self-control even when others are not. Just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean they are wrong or right in their convictions. As young adults soon to be out on their own in the adult world, it is critical that high schoolers recognize how we must all be concerned about the well-being of all people; we may all be different races, but we’re all part of the human race. Therefore, we can positively contribute to our communities by advocating for human rights.

    High schoolers should be able to assess their ability to actively listen and explain how active listening helps with conflict resolution. They should also be able to demonstrate leadership abilities within group contexts without dominating or overtaking the goal of the group. Young adults should also be prepared to demonstrate knowledge of social norms and appropriate behaviors between and among various cultural groups. They should recognize certain expectations and norms when interacting with authority figures, children, elders, etc.

    Thus, we have completed our three-part series on SEL skills by grade level. The following series will serve best as a helpful resource rather than a scare-tactic of sorts. We all develop in our own ways, but it’s important we be mindful of these skills by grade level. If your child or student seems behind on any of these, consider the ways in which you can empower them.

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    Education

    Social Emotional Skills by Grade Level, Part II

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    As discussed in part one, social emotional learning (SEL) skills have become an even greater focus now that students are limited in their opportunities to socialize, collaborate, and communicate with peers in person at school. We all know that academics are just one facet of education; the SEL skills that students learn and develop when in school are just as critical. Some might even argue that these “street smarts” are more important or beneficial than the “book smarts” we acquire in school. That said, distance learning and virtual schooling have certainly created various obstacles for students when it comes to developing and growing their SEL skills. Below is our continued list of specific grade-level SEL standards.

    Later Elementary Grades (4-5)

    Students in 4th and 5th grade should be able to assess a range of feelings and emotions connected to specific scenarios, circumstances, and situations. In other words, they should be able to thoroughly describe how they feel and precisely what made them feel this way. Students should also be able to maintain control of certain behaviors and/or emotions that might interfere with their focus. For example, if they are feeling stressed about their homework, they should choose to turn off the television and put the phone away until they finish their assignments. Students should be able to articulate interests, goals, and the ways in which to develop the necessary skills to achieve those goals.

    Students in the later elementary grades should be able to list the necessary steps for goal setting and future achievement while monitoring personal progress throughout the process. In other words, they should be able to take an active role by tracking growth and taking steps to improve along the way. Students should also begin to understand social cues that demonstrate how others are feeling during certain situations. Students should be able to not only recognize others’ perspectives, but specifically describe another’s perspective or stance as well. They should be using phrases like, I understand what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. I might disagree with you, but I appreciate your point of view. That’s not how I interpreted it, but I can see how you may have experienced it differently.

    Students should be able to engage in positive interactions with people from different backgrounds and those with different opinions and beliefs. In the late elementary grades, students should begin to understand various cultural differences between groups, i.e., they should acknowledge that not everyone celebrates Christmas. 4th and 5th graders should be able to describe various approaches to meeting new people and maintaining friendships while forging new friendships with peers in different social circles.

    Students should begin to demonstrate self-respect and how to show respect to others, even during conflicts or disagreements; they choose their words wisely as to not offend others in the heat of the moment. Elementary schoolers should begin to understand different social cues and behaviors of others and how they might impact one’s decision making. Once reaching the late elementary grades, children should be able to brainstorm various options for solving a problem and anticipating the different outcomes depending on the situation. Finally, 4th and 5th grade students should be able to identify needs in their school/local environment and perform duties to contribute to these communities. For example, if the cafeteria floor is covered in trash, they will take it upon themselves to help clean up after others.

    As said in the last piece, if your child or student falls short in any area mentioned above, don’t panic. Consider how you can help and empower them. In our final part of this series, we’ll cover middle school and high school benchmarks.

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    Education

    Social Emotional Learning Skills by Grade Level, Part I

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    Social and emotional (SEL) skills involve more than just the concepts surrounding educational buzzwords like growth mindset, grit, and self-advocacy. SEL skills are being emphasized at an even greater extent now that students are limited in their opportunities to socialize, collaborate, and communicate with peers in person. Distance learning and virtual schooling created various obstacles for students when it comes to developing and growing their SEL skills. For this reason, SEL has become an even greater focus for school districts, parents, and educators. Besides providing resources for building SEL skills at home, it is equally important for families to be able to determine if children are reaching specific grade-level SEL standards. In the following series, we’ll discuss each of the SEL skills students should have by grade level to provide a helpful resource for parents and educators alike.

    Early Elementary Grades (K-3)

    As expected, the SEL skills required for student success change or evolve as students progress through the grade levels. In elementary school, much of the SEL emphasis is on positive interactions with the world. Children are obviously highly dependent on adults during these years, yet they are beginning to enter their own social spheres with their peers as well. Here are some of the notable SEL skills children should have developed or are developing during this time:

    Students should be able to recognize and articulate their feelings/emotions; they should be beginning to understand how feelings and reactions are connected to behaviors. Students should also be beginning to exhibit impulse control and regulating their emotions. Early learners should be able to describe their preferences: What do they like/dislike? What are their strengths/weaknesses? Students will also begin to articulate personal opinions and needs during this time.

    Elementary schoolers should be able to identify when they need help and who is in a position to help them in certain situations, i.e., peers, family members, educators, etc. Children should be able to roughly explain how learning is connected to personal growth and success. Elementary–aged students should also be able to set personal goals regarding behavior and academics. Students will be beginning to understand that other people have different perspectives or ways of looking at a situation; they’ll recognize that others may share the same experience, but have varying opinions and viewpoints at the same time. Students will also be able to describe peoples’ similarities and differences.

    Early learners should be able to actively listen to others’ viewpoints and recognize their feelings while listening. Elementary–aged students should be able to recognize and describe positive traits in others; they’ll be able to give genuine compliments. Students will also begin to develop collaborative skills such as how to work/play with peers in constructive ways, how to solve and resolve problems and/or conflicts, and how to receive constructive criticism from others. Young children should be able exhibit the ability to adapt to new or changing situations or environments.

    By the time children reach elementary school, they should be able to understand why hurting others is wrong, whether that be physical or emotional hurt. Students should be starting to read social cues and adjust behavior accordingly. Students should also be exhibiting sound decision making and weighing right vs. wrong. Elementary schoolers should be able to positively contribute to their classroom environment, including cleaning up after themselves and others, sharing, demonstrating kindness/understanding, and taking responsibility for themselves.

    If your child or student perhaps falls short with some of these skills, that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. However, it’s certainly worth being mindful of and considering ways you may be able to help them out. In the next piece, we’ll cover the later elementary grades (4-5).

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