Teaching Macro Social Work through Experiential Learning: Student Reflections on Lessons Learned in Building School-Community Partnerships
Keywords:Experiential learning, service learning, field education, school-community partnership, macro social work, community organizing, participatory research, family engagement
A faculty-led experiential learning project was implemented with Master of Social Work students at their field placement sites to teach macro practice skills and research methods. As part of a grant-funded school-university partnership, MSW students were placed in school social work field placements, where their practice focused on individual and small group interventions with youth. Ten MSW students participated in asset-based collective family engagement in diverse, low-income communities, using community organizing skills and community-based participatory research methods. To examine student learning, a pilot study gathered narrative data from seven of the students and three supervisors. MSW students’ learning from the project is discussed in the context of CSWE’s 2015 EPAS competencies. Participation in the experiential/service-learning project supported the ability of the MSW students to build a sense of themselves as professionals bringing value to the community, enhanced their understanding of cultural diversity and family engagement, and provided context for vulnerable students’ struggles in school and the families’ difficulties with school engagement. This project illustrates the potential of school-university partnerships involving MSW field students to help bridge the gaps in school-family partnerships, particularly in diverse and low-income communities, and highlights areas where different teaching methods can be used to reinforce competencies learned.