Social workers’ perceptions and experiences of fieldwork supervision in the Bachelor of Social Work degree
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Generally, studies on social work supervision, in the university setting, has focused mainly on students’ experiences. Research on the experience of the supervisor, or agency, providing guidance is scant. This study argues that the narrow focus on students’ experiences is disproportionate, and marginalises all the other stakeholders involved in fieldwork education. In addition, the existing studies create blind spots for programme evaluation, as they are not holistic. This current study proposes a broader analysis. Global and national standards for social work training involve the theory and practice component of the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) programme. The practice component requires students to conduct fieldwork training at social work organisations, under the supervision of a qualified and experienced social worker. International and local studies on the supervision of BSW students reveal that social workers often consider themselves to be underprepared to supervise students. In addition, social workers often lack post-qualifying training to undertake student supervision, specifically, which is further exacerbated by the dearth of policies, or legislation, stipulating post-qualifying training and experience for the supervision of BSW students. The purpose of this current study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of social workers, related to fieldwork supervision in the BSW degree, at a selected university in the Western Cape (WC), South Africa (SA). A qualitative research approach was used, as it is attentive to the personal experiences, from the insider’s perspective, and aims to understand multiple realities. This approach is relevant to the current study, as it focuses on exploring and describing the perceptions and experiences of the participants, which the qualitative method underscores. A case study design was utilised, as it is descriptive, and is an in-depth study of a single instance of a social phenomenon. The case, in this instance, is the BSW programme at a selected university. Purposive sampling was used, as the participants, who are most representative of the study, were selected in the sampling process. The sample for this study comprised of twenty four participants: 11 semi-structured interviews were conducted and 13 questionnaires were completed by registered social workers. The following data verification methods were used: http://etd.uwc.ac.za ii member checking (See Annexure J); triangulation; researcher reflexivity; peer debriefing and an on-going dialogue, regarding the researcher’s interpretations of the data, as this aided the accuracy of the findings. Coding was applied by the researcher to create categories within the data, and thematic analysis to further identify the emerging themes and sub-themes, which were subsequently funnelled. Typologies are interpreted and developed, and the data, finally presented. Four themes and sixteen sub-themes emerged from the data (See Chapter 4). The focus of theme four was on continuous professional development (CPD), which reiterates the importance of post-qualifying training of social workers who supervise BSW students, and the importance of this study. This study recommends CPD of all social workers who provide fieldwork supervision in the BSW programme. There is also a need for emotional support for students and essentially fieldwork supervision needs to be viewed as indispensable to academia. An implication of the lack of CPD could be detrimental to students and could lead to stagnation in the field of social work and ultimately affect the standard of the profession.
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