BLTC Press Titles

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Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

Education for social work

by Jesse Frederick Steiner


Because of the close relationship between the first schools of social work and the social agencies, the latter as a matter of course assumed responsibility for the field work of the students. While this plan involved the delegation of an important part of the instruction to persons not directly under control of the school it was felt that this was the most practical way of providing this training. Experience soon demonstrated, however, that field work carried on in this way could with great difficulty be made an integral part of the course. Too often it tended to become a kind of extra-mural requirement dominated more by the conditions existing in the agency than by the ideals of the school. The pressure of the work in the agency, coupled with the fact that those actually in charge of the practice work of the students were not always skilled or interested in teaching, frequently caused the students' practice to be limited to meaningless errand-running or to other detached tasks of very little educational value.

The existence of this difficulty has long been recognized and many efforts have been made to find a satisfactory solution. In some cases, the social agencies that have been co-operating with schools of social work set aside teaching districts in which they make an effort to have workers specially qualified to supervise the field work of the students. The schools of social work on their part frequently give the field-work supervisors a nominal position on their faculty and by periodical conferences with these supervisors endeavor to bring about the proper correlation of the practical work with classroom instruction. In many instances the relationship.between the schools of social work and the social agencies has been so close and cordial that the problem has been much simplified. The results attained by the schools of social work indicate that this traditional method of providing fieldwork training has in a considerable degree been successful. Whatever its failures, they have not been due to any lack of appreciation of educational ideals on the part of the executive heads of the social agencies. The chief difficulty has been to find members of their staff that have teaching ability and to arrange their work in such a way that they would have sufficient time to give careful supervision to the students.

This problem of the proper measure of control over field-work facilities is by no means peculiar to schools of social work. It is a fundamental problem in the whole field of professional education and has been met by the professional schools in different ways. In the field of medical education it is generally agreed that clinical experience cannot be provided in the most satisfactory way by a hospital or dispensary that is entirely detached from the medical school. If the hospital has the right to limit the wards or the types of cases to which the students may have access, or to determine the hours when clinical instruction may be given, or to set up any other restrictions that would interfere with a sound teaching policy, the medical school cannot build up a well-balanced curriculum that will meet the needs of the students. Experience has demonstrated that the school should have educational control of its clinical facilities, a control that involves not only the decision about teaching arrangements in the hospital, but the power to appoint the hospital staff.

Engineering schools, on the other hand, are finding it impracticable to depend upon their own schools for the practice work of their students. With their limited equipment it is impossible to duplicate the varied processes carried on in industry and familiarize the students with actual working conditions. To instal and keep up-to-date the vast and complicated machinery of the engineering world and develop shops that would approximate the conditions as they exist in the varied lines of industry would mean a tremendous expense. The solution of their field-work problem that seems to be most successful is the so-called co-operative plan which sends the students into industrial plants on a paid basis for their practical work. This shopwork which alternates with classroom instruction is carefully graded and planned so as to fit into the curriculum, but it is real work that is of value not only to the students but to their employers as well. In order to make sure that the shopwork assigned to the students is being done in a way that would have educational value, shop co-ordinators are sent by the school to the shop where they inspect the work of the students and confer with those in charge of their work. The industrial world thus becomes the students' laboratory while the school assumes the function of interpreting this practical experience in terms of the theories and principles that underlie successful engineering practice.

Schools of law have never seriously grappled with the problem of field-work training. Their course of study is intended to acquaint students with the principles of law rather than with the technique of legal practice. Some attention is given to the latter in the moot courts common in some law schools, and law students are sometimes encouraged to get practice work with legal-aid societies or in law offices, but in general the acquirement of skill in the practice of law is regarded as something that should follow instead of form a part of the law course.

In the training of teachers, opportunities for students to teach under supervision have come to be regarded as a necessity. In some cases this is carried on by special arrangements with the public schools where the students have the advantage of familiarizing themselves with the routine of the schoolroom under actual working conditions. Another plan usually preferred by professional schools of education is to have these practice schools under the direct control of those responsible for the training of the teachers. It is very evident that this gives greater freedom in working out experimental methods and makes it possible to have the proper control over those who supervise the practice work.

The experience, therefore, of professional schools in providing practical training facilities for their students has by no means followed the same lines. The administrative problems vary with the type of field work to such an extent that it may never be possible to work out uniform methods of procedure that would be applicable to all professional schools.

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