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Field education  is perhaps the most eagerly and anxiously anticipated part of social work education programmes

  • Students can experience a range of conflicting emotions prior to placement ranging from excitement to self-doubt
  • Once field education  begins it can be exhilarating, exhausting, affirming, and challenging
  • It is in practice that knowledge begins to be tested and skills are applied and further developed
  • Prior to placement students have many questions so we trust this site will answer some of these
  • For those enrolled in SOWK 392, 592, 492 and 593 your course outlines provide information about placement. For those considering applying for entry into the Bachelor of Social Work or the Master of Social and Community Work (Applied) the following provides information about the placement process

Goals of field education

The primary goal of field education is for students to experience the 'real world' of social work practice by working in a variety of social service settings with a diverse range of people. Students begin to work with theory, apply methods and models and experiment with the skills they have learned in the classroom. Learning is achieved by working alongside experienced and knowledgeable social workers and social service workers in a variety of social service settings.

The field education papers are offered by the Social and Community Work/Āhua ā Iwi Programme in collaboration with the social work profession, organisations and the community.

Aims of field education

The broad aims of field education are:

  • To provide students with genuine learning opportunities in the field of social services and community work
  • To offer a variety of settings and experiences as a learning base
  • To engender self-development and a striving for competence, by establishing clear learning goals, and through ongoing evaluation and assessment processes
  • To provide an environment where student limitations may be worked upon and strengths maximised
  • To help students develop bicultural practice

Structure of our programmes

The field education papers are: SOWK 392/592 Fieldwork Practice 1 and SOWK 492/593 Fieldwork Practice 2. Together the placements total 120 days of supervised practice experience. SOWK 392/592 Fieldwork Practice 1 requires a 50 day placement. SOWK 492/593 Fieldwork Practice 2 requires a 70 day placement.

Distance taught options

Placements occur in the 3rd and 4th years of the BSW and years 1 and 2 of the MSCW (Applied).

Where possible placements will be arranged in the city or town where the student resides in collaboration with the student and field education coordinator. Occasionally this might not be possible and the closest alternatives may need to be explored.

On-campus taught options

Placements occur at fixed times throughout the year and normally take place within the Otago region due to on-campus study commitments. There is, however, a lot more flexibility for Fieldwork Practice 2 as most study has been completed by the time the placement begins, so increasingly students are electing to move to other locations around the country for their placement. This will be accommodated as much as possible, however occasionally this might not be possible and the closest alternatives may need to be explored.

Further information

If you have further enquires please contact a member of the field education staff.

Louie Claasen
Tel +64 3 479 4128

Susan Wason
Tel +64 3 479 7952


When does placement occur?

Placement generally occurs in semester two each year. Compulsory papers must be passed before students can progress to placement. For final year students placements can occur in semester one as long as all final year semester one compulsory papers have been completed.

How long is placement?

SOWK 392/592 Fieldwork Practice 1 requires a 50 day placement. SOWK 492/593 Fieldwork Practice 2 requires a 70 day placement.

Where can I go on placement?

The Social and Community Work / Āhua ā Iwi programme has a relationship with several organisations both in Dunedin and elsewhere who provide placements for students. These include NGOs, community organisations and government organisations such as Oranga Tamariki and Te Whatu Ora.

Should I look for my own placement?

No. We have field education co-ordinators whose primary responsibility is to manage all aspects of the field education papers. You will have a member of the field education team who will work with you in the selection of an appropriate organisation. It is the staff member's task to arrange a placement for you with one of the many organisations with which we work, based on organisation needs, your interests, and the goals of the programme. You must not look for a placement on your own unless prior agreement is arranged with the field education co-ordinator.

How much choice do I have in the selection of a placement?

Your field education co-ordinator will discuss with you your interests and learning goals and clarify the objectives of the paper. The co-ordinator will then negotiate a placement with you, taking into consideration your interests, skill level, and their knowledge of what each setting offers. Every effort is made to accommodate your learning needs, however, some compromise is often required due to placement availability.

Students are required to attend a pre-placement interview with a prospective organisation to determine suitability and an opportunity to decide if the placement is likely to meet your learning needs. Prior to the interview you will be asked to submit an up to date curriculum vitae. The organisation will have the final say on your suitability.

How many days of the week will I be on placement?

Fieldwork Practice 1 is generally completed 4 days per week and Fieldwork Practice 2 five days per week. However, the number of days per week can be negotiated, although the minimum number of placement days per week is three. You will be required to work the same hours as other staff in the organisation where you are placed. The minimum hours per day for a placement are 7.5 and that excludes a lunch break.

Can I do my field placement in the organisation where I am employed?

Placements are designed to offer new learning opportunities in new practice settings. Some organisations may be large enough to provide such opportunities for current employees. In order for a placement in your current place of employment to be approved it must involve new learning and a field educator who is not your current supervisor. Your organisation must agree to keep your placement distinct from your regular work. Regulations allow students to do only one of their two placements in their place of employment as the standards for field education state that placements must occur in “diverse settings”. If you would like to be considered for an employment-based placement you must fill in the Employment-based Placement Proposal Form (this form can be downloaded from Blackboard). Your placement cannot be approved until you have sent this form to the field education co-ordinator and this is then considered for approval.

What if I want to be placed in a setting that the department has not approved for placement?

The field education co-ordinators choose organisations carefully and works to maintain ongoing relationships with the people in placement settings. Criteria for placements include the availability of a qualified field educator; availability of appropriate learning opportunities for students; and a clear commitment by the organisation to ongoing student education. There is, however, some flexibility in the above requirements. We are always open to new ideas for placement settings that will be explored by the field education  co-ordinators.

Are there placements that are only suitable for Fieldwork Practice 2 students?

Some organisations specify whether they can accommodate a Fieldwork Practice 1 or 2 student. This sometimes varies from year to year. Oranga Tamariki, generally only accepts students for their Fieldwork Practice 2 placement as do hospitals. You will be advised each year regarding the selection of organisations available for your placement year.

Can I be paid for placement?

We are fully aware of the economic realities of being a student, however, it is not usual for students to be paid while on placement unless undertaking an employment-based placement. There is nothing, from the point of view of the university, to preclude being paid, should payment be offered. Nonetheless, it is important that the 'student' status on placement not be compromised so that learning opportunities can be maximised.

Do any organisations require police checks?

Most of our placement organisations require police checks and students must comply with this procedure. These police checks will be done in addition to those that the University do as part of your enrolment into the programme.

Do I get supervision while on placement?

Yes as part of the regulatory body requirements all students on placement must receive supervision. Usually in Fieldwork Practice 1 students received weekly group supervision on campus. For students studying distance and some students doing their placement at specific organisations in Dunedin, weekly individual supervision will be arranged.

For Fieldwork Practice 2 students receive individual supervision. This is 1 hour for every week on placement. Usually supervision is done at the organisation where placement occurs, either by the field educator or by another staff member. Very occasionally external supervision will be provided. This is usually only when the organisation, where the placement is occurring, does not have capacity to provide internal supervision.

All supervisors must be registered Social Workers that have had at least 2 years practice experience.


Placements involve a wide variety and large network of organisations and settings: statutory; voluntary; church-based; hospitals; residential institutions; rest homes and community groups, all providing social services of one kind or another. Without the support, co-operation, and generosity of these organisations, placements would not be possible. It is with enormous gratitude that we thank all the wonderful social workers and social service staff who give their time to the education of social work students.

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