Concerns and Resolution Procedures
As professional adult learners, Laurier MSW students have roles and responsibilities in relation to their program and field placement and are expected to adhere to professional Codes of Ethics namely, the Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, as well as the Standards of Practice set by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers . Students are also expected to maintain professional and respectful behaviour as outlined in the following policies. Laurier’s Student Code of Conduct and Discipline (12.2) Non-Academic Intern Code of Conduct (12.3) Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (6.1) Procedures Relating to the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination Policy (6.1) Workplace Violence Prevention Policy (7.18)
As a professional field of practice that services vulnerable populations, any breaches of ethical, behavioural, learning, or professional standards in the field are considered serious. The Faculty of Social Work Procedures for the Review of Student’s Professional Behaviour (2016) was developed to provide a framework for the review and/or resolution of professional behaviour breaches in both classroom and field settings. This procedure, which is required by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education Standards for Accreditation, is designed to provide support to both student and instructor while providing a process that would represent the obligation of the Faculty of Social Work to require students to perform their professional responsibilities in accordance with social work codes of ethics.
Concerns and Initial Approach
When a student is concerned around the placement, agency and/or field instructor, the student, field instructor and/or agency representative initiates a discussion with the field advisor as soon as he/she is aware of this information. This makes it possible for the advisor and instructor to work with the student and Field Education Office to determine suitable supports for the student.
When difficulties persist despite the instructor’s efforts to assist the student to identify ways to address concerns regarding learning difficulties, professional or ethical behaviours, and resolve problems, the student may, but the instructor must, contact the advisor requesting an on-site review of the situation. The instructor contacts the advisor when there are concerns around a student’s ability to meet learning requirements, professional behaviour conduct, ethical issues, or any concerns that may jeopardize the student’s ability to continue in the placement or complete the placement successfully. A student normally contacts the advisor regarding any concerns related to their learning, placement, agency, or instructor.
In response to any concerns observed by the Field Education Office, student, instructor, agency or advisor, the advisor will promptly initiate a review of the expressed concerns in the following manner:
- The advisor shall within one week visit the agency where the student is placed and discuss the areas of concern with the instructor, the student, and both of them together. As part of such a visit the advisor may review documented material and it is the student’s and instructor’s responsibility to insure that appropriate materials are available. Meetings with other appropriate persons in the setting may also be arranged. The primary purpose of the above meeting is to identify the problem areas. The field advisor consults with the MSW field coordinator and shares the outcome of the process with the coordinator.
- Following the above meetings and review, the instructor, student, and advisor will specify in writing, the goals to be pursued, actions to be taken, and procedures to be used to reach the goals, as well as an appropriate time schedule for monitoring the review of progress toward specified goals. This is facilitated through the ‘Field Resolution Procedure’ initiated by the Advisor. It is hoped that the actions taken as a result of this review with the advisor and student will permit the teaching-learning experience to continue through to the end of term.
Depending on the concern presented, the MSW field education coordinator may initiate a Level one review and/or Level two review if the concern regarding the student is of a serious nature (e.g. unethical conduct in placement). If a concern is with respect to the instructor or agency (e.g. alleged harassment), the Associate Dean and Dean are involved immediately as noted in the procedures below.
Field advisors initiate and implement the field resolution procedure in situations where the field instructor has identified that the intern is not meeting expectations (professional, ethical, behavioural, learning). The procedure is also initiated to report any conflict that arises between a student and field instructor, document changes in the learning environment or when a student identifies learning issues or challenges within the placement.
The field advisor will:
- Initiate a conversation with the student or field instructor to discuss the issue.
- If appropriate, and if the issue is not resolved, initiate a meeting with the field instructor and intern to discuss the issue.
- Work with all parties to develop a plan to address the issue(s) identified including time lines and check-in points.
- Document all notes in a detailed field resolution report that includes:
- Declaration of field concern.
- Identification of issues.
- Outcome of meeting(s) and shared understanding of how the issue(s) will be resolved.
- Goals to be achieved for successful placement completion.
- Timeframe for follow up, and timeframe for intern’s placement.
- If the instructor/agency wants to continue the placement, pause the placement until the concern is remedied or discontinue the placement.
- Provide the field resolution report to the field education coordinator by email within a week of the advisor, student, instructor meeting.
Placement continues with concerns or failed evaluation
If the placement continues when the student is not meeting expectations (e.g. learning, professional, ethical or behavioural concerns) or the instructor evaluated the student with an unsatisfactory grade, i.e. fail, during mid-term:
- The Field Resolution Procedure is observed.
- The learning plan is re-evaluated and the field advisor works with both the instructor and the student to facilitate this process. This makes it possible for the field advisor and field instructor to work together to assist the student early in the placement while there is still enough time to resolve the difficulty. The advisor consults with the MSW field coordinator throughout this process.
- The placement end date may be extended and hours may be increased to ensure the student has sufficient time to address the learning gaps identified.
- Level one and/or Level two Review may be initiated by the coordinator considering the concerns identified.
If the instructor or agency determines that the placement needs to be discontinue or if in reviewing the documentation and consulting with the field advisor, the field education coordinator determines it is in the best interest of the student to discontinue the placement the placement dissolution procedure will be followed.
In the event that the Field Resolution Procedure does not result in an adequate solution, and/or there is a consensus concerning the student’s lack of progress, the field course may be discontinued at the discretion of the field instructor or the MSW field education coordinator or the agency. This results in a failing grade for the student’s field course. Field education is a required course. Accordingly, a student may not opt out of the placement. Students who choose not to attend the required field course are expected to repeat the course in order to fulfill graduation requirements.
Implications on the student’s field course, program sequence, and next steps are determined considering the field course instructor’s feedback and outcome of the evaluation. Each case is assessed individually to determine whether the student will benefit from a delayed placement, a break in their term, or starting a placement at the next placement cycle (January or September). This process requires the student to complete an individualized Readiness for Practice Workplan that is developed by the Field Education Office. Registration in the field course is contingent upon completion of the recommendations outlined by the Field Education Office. Placement interviews are not set up immediately.
Placement discontinued due to concerns or failed evaluation
If the placement is discontinued when the student is not meeting expectations (e.g. learning, professional, ethical or behavioural concerns) considering any of these circumstances: prior to mid-term evaluation, an unsatisfactory mid-term evaluation, at any point after the unsatisfactory mid-term is submitted, or the student receives an unsatisfactory grade at the final evaluation, the following procedures take place:
- The advisor facilitates an exit meeting with the instructor, student and appropriate agency members to discuss reasons for ending the placement. The instructor provides feedback to the student and advisor identifying the areas of growth expected from the student. The advisor outlines this feedback in the report to the field education coordinator who is engaged throughout this process.
- The student, advisor and coordinator meet to address the feedback provided, and discuss the learning opportunities this has created for the student.
- Following this meeting, the field coordinator, in consultation with the advisor, will determine appropriate recommendations including the conditions required for completing a new placement course and required placement hours. Possible next steps may include:
- Student must seek appropriate supports prior to being placed again. Placement cycle contingent on receipt of this assistance.
- Student must complete a Readiness for Practice Workplan prior to being considered for a placement interview.
- Student must complete learning assignment/identified training prior to being considered for a placement interview.
- Student may be encouraged to consider a leave of absence from the program to attend to personal issues.
- Upon completion of the recommendations outlined by the field coordinator the student will need to repeat the field course, including all placement hours. Placement hours or assignments completed do not carry over to the new placement setting. The student may be placed at the next available field placement cycle if appropriate. Placement cycle is determined considering completion of readiness plan, and placement cycles (January or September).
If in the field education coordinator’s opinion, after consultation with the MSW Programs Associate Dean, there has been a breach in the Professional Conduct Policy, or the student is failing to meet the requirements of the faculty, a formal Review will take place in accordance with the Faculty of Social Work Policy for the Review of Student’s Professional Behaviour. Students will be advised that their behaviour is under review as per the policy. This is a formal review process, which may result in removal from the program. Student may be required to withdraw from the program (a student may apply for re-admission at a later date, and after demonstration of sufficient progress in relation to his/her former difficulty, be considered in accordance with regular admissions procedures).
Implication on Field Course and Program Sequence
- If a placement is discontinued prior to the receipt of the mid-term evaluation, a grade is not assigned if the student drops the field education course prior to the deadline for dropping courses. This course will not appear on a final transcript.
- If the mid-term or final evaluation is graded Unsatisfactory, as per the grading procedures:
- The student receives a fail grade (F) towards the field course and repeats the course based on the recommendations of the field coordinator and MSW Programs Associate Dean to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The student may appeal the grade. The student will remain under academic probation until the course is successfully repeated.
- The fail grade (F) will be part of the student’s official transcript.
- If the course is repeated, a “Repeated Later” notation will be seen on the official transcript and the repeated course will be subject to the course grading procedures. The student has the right to petition the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to have a grade removed as a historical record change prior to convocation.
Placement discontinued when student is progressing successfully
Placement hours may carry over to a subsequent placement either at the same agency or another agency in the event the placement is discontinued when:
- the student is progressing successfully;
- a successful midterm evaluation was submitted; and
- due to unexpected agency/instructor reasons (e.g. strike, instructor moves to a new role, apparent safety concern, extenuating medical circumstance).
This determination is made by the coordinator upon assessment of the situation and considering the field instructor’s feedback. In absence of these circumstances, if a placement is discontinued, placement hours do not carry over.
Declining a Placement
Students are encouraged to meet with the Field Education Office before the matching process begins to clarify any questions they have about placements of interest. Students have the responsibility to review all placements available before identifying and ranking their placements of interest. The coordinator and associate coordinator consider each of the choices the students make and as a result students should be prepared for a placement in any of the placements they rank.
These procedures are built in place for the benefit of all students and the ability of the faculty to continue relationships with partnering agencies. Declining a placement after a match has been made is a very challenging request to consider. It impacts the relationships the faculty has with agencies, the consideration of future MSW placements for Laurier students, availability of placements, etc. These are all very important considerations in the current climate of competitive MSW placements.
As a result the Field Education Office takes the time to communicate these expectations prior to the beginning of the program via the Field Placement Agreement, and when students start the program via the MSW Field Education manual and field workshops.
Request to decline or withdraw from a placement
The Field Education Office is aware that from time to time exceptional situations occur where a student wishes to decline a placement match. Field courses are required courses. Accordingly, any student who wishes to decline the placement after a match has been made is required to submit the Decline Placement Petition Form. All students who wish to decline a placement are encouraged to contact the MSW field education coordinator to assess whether a petition and supporting documentation are required.
Students who have extenuating circumstances may not be required to submit a petition; however, supporting document is required. Extenuating circumstances include accommodation plans from the Accessible Learning Centre, bereavement, serious personal difficulties, and changes in life circumstances that hinder placement attendance. Within five business days of submitting a petition, the student will receive an email response indicating when a final decision is expected to be made.
Petitions submitted may result in one of the following possible outcomes.
- Based on the student’s feedback and/or the agency’s feedback and/or a field visit, if it is determined the placement opportunity is not suitable for a MSW student considering the student’s MSW program and field placement course (foundational or advanced year):
- The student is matched with an agency for an interview as soon as a suitable placement is available.
- Based on the student’s feedback and/or the agency’s feedback and/or a field visit, if it is determined that the placement opportunity is suitable for a MSW student considering the student’s MSW program and field placement course (foundational or advanced year):
- The student’s request is denied or
- The student’s request may be considered if a placement opportunity is available after all student placements have been confirmed, within the appropriate placement cycle.