The learning agreement was designed to help students plan their field experience and develop essential social work competencies by completing the objectives provided by the instructor. The document is a part of a planned changed process, as it allows to “observe and critically examine the values, beliefs, ethical principles, theories, and knowledge” to achieve professional success (Garthwait, 2017, p. 159). I will further describe the goals, review the completion of my learning agreement, and discuss the practical skills, areas for improvement, and the perspectives of my future field education experience.
The evaluation of my field experience was overall positive, as I met the educational goals specified in the agency learning agreement and efficiently worked according to the criteria indicated in the document. My field instructor provided favorable feedback on the main performance criteria and described me as highly competent in ethical and professional behavior and diversity-led practice. My field practice involving residents with cognitive/neurological impairments required a strong understanding of the NASW Code of Ethics and a personalized approach to each client, so I strived to succeed in these areas. The learning agreement also included the objectives facilitating the understanding of human rights/justice and engagement in practice-informed research/research-informed practice. The supervisor noted my eagerness to advocate for vulnerable residents, while the assessment reveals that I am clearly competent in the areas but may need some extra engagement with local state-level organizations. My efficient engagement in policy practice, individuals, families, organizations, and communities resulted in the highest score (5). Finally, the criteria requiring further improvements (score 4) were related to the assessment, intervention, and evaluation of individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities.
The content of my learning agreement is consistent with my evaluation as I followed the goals and objectives stated in the document and assessed by my instructor. I view the learning agreement as the link connecting the student with the agency as well as a valuable tool for guidance on priorities, rules to follow, and social work ethics. My evaluation is based on the criteria described in the learning agreement, so the field instructor used it to provide an objective assessment of my work. I found it challenging to follow all of the criteria and behaviors, so my evaluation feedback is an integral aspect of the change process. I learn from my mistakes and embrace the art of not knowing, so I will pay extra attention to my weak areas (Pomeroy & Nonaka, 2011). Thus, I can improve my learning outcomes in the future by completing the learning agreement with more support and counseling from the supervisor to clarify any uncertainties and engage more effectively with individuals and organizations.
The field work experience allowed me to gain some valuable skills that I will apply in my future social work practice. The learning agreement covered nine social work areas proposed by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and the field instructor evaluated my results in each area. My communication and interpersonal skills were enhanced, as I learned to make ethical decisions, maintain professional behavior and appearance, and apply my bilingual abilities for assisting immigrant residents. The internship improved my confidence in personal values, beliefs, and cultural competence during the work with diverse and disadvantaged clients. Moreover, I realized the value of empathy, as I understood the need to advocate for vulnerable elderly and cognitively-impaired residents at Vatsalya. The placement experience taught me to use critical thinking to discover actual problems and analyze the state of policies (economic or social) to improve the practice or impact current legislation. I also became more familiar with human behavior and psychosocial environment during the internship, so I can provide adequate assessment and interventions for my clients and their families.
Despite my best efforts during the field practice, there are still some areas for improvement. My field instructor suggested that I needed to improve my engagement with state-level organizations. Additionally, I should have more practice with English-speaking clients to prevent potential misunderstandings or conflicts. My response to the COVID-19 pandemic may be further adjusted, as I should improve my intervention strategies via research and learning for the benefit of my clients and myself. The results of my field practice at Vatsalya encourage me to address my weak areas during my next field education experience. I hope to cooperate with New Jersey state-level social work organizations as an active member and an advocate for the disadvantaged elderly and ethnic minorities. I prioritize my work with ethnically diverse and immigrant clients, but I will learn to balance my focus and engage with English-speaking daycare centers to gain more experience with the local population.
There are some aspects of my academic practice that can inform my future courses, as well as the professional competencies that might impact my future internships and career. The skills gained during the field experience form the social worker’s professional identity, so I should combine them with the knowledge from the course to succeed in the next field placement (Laureate Education, 2013). Participation in the course and the practicum improved my cultural competence and empathy, so I will continue to act according to the learning agreement objectives, as they help to develop essential social work skills. The only thing that I would change during my future field courses is the amount of attention and time to allocate for academic work, research, and relevant legislation. I hope to thoroughly examine professional literature and social welfare-related policies to become a better advocate for disadvantaged elderly clients from diverse backgrounds.
Garthwait, C. L. (2017). The social work practicum: A guide and workbook for students (7th ed.). Pearson.
Laureate Education. (Producer). (2013). Evaluation of learning [Audio file].
Pomeroy, E. C., & Nonaka, A. M. (2011). The art of not knowing. Social Work, 56(4), 293–295.