Social Work

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Field Education

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Field Education

“The integration of knowledge, values and skills in the context of field education is a critical and distinctive aspect of social work education; therefore, field education is considered the central component of social work education.”

(CASWE, 2012, Principle 5, Standards for Accreditation, pg. 4)


The school of social work provides experiential education opportunities where students learn from practitioners in human services settings. We have over 100 community partners who help us provide social work education to approximately 140 McMaster social work students per year. Students are placed in community agencies throughout the Hamilton, Halton, Brant, Niagara and Haldimand-Norfolk area. See all of our community partners and agencies.

Student Field Placement

During a field placement, students integrate classroom and textbook learning with real-life practice activities. Placements are in community or institutional settings where social workers engage in direct practice with individuals, communities and families, or address social issues through community development, policy analysis and development or research. The Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE)  requires all undergraduate programs to provide a field placements (also known as practicum) for social work students. For more information, please refer to the practicum section of our Field Practice Manual.


If you are a student and need access to your Intern Placement Tracking (IPT) database, visit the website.

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Placement Overview

The practicum, or field placement, is an essential part of undergraduate social work education at McMaster.  It is a course in which students meet learning objectives and for which they receive academic credit.   Students must complete two field placement courses:  SOCWORK 3DD6 and SOCWORK 4DD6.  Each placement consists of 390 hours and involves students going to social work settings where they are instructed by qualified and approved field instructors. The placement is not work-study, nor a co-op, nor an internship, but a course that is guided by educational objectives. Students receive six credits for each of the two placements.

Students participate in the placement process by reflecting on their learning needs and goals.  The decision for placement assignments are based on many factors including:  student interests and learning needs; field instructor/agency availability and teaching capacity; agency and field assessment of the students preparedness for the setting via an interview.  The Field Coordinator makes match decisions by taking into consideration all of the above information. 

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Integrative Seminar Courses

The placement courses noted above (SOCWORK 3DD6 and SOCWORK 4DD6), have a co-requisite, an integrative seminar, SOCWORK 3D06 and SOCWORK 4D06.


Students attend an integration seminar at the university during the weeks when they are placed in their field settings. The seminar leader is the faculty person assigned to coordinate and liaise with the student’s placement.


Students must take the integrative seminar and the placement at the same time. Students must pass the placement and receive a C+ (6.0) in the integrative seminar.


SOCWORK 3D06/3DD6 are offered either in a 13-week summer block or concurrently for 26 weeks starting in September.


SOCWORK 4D06/4DD6 are offered either in a 13-week fall block or concurrently for 26 weeks starting in September.

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Pre-requisites required to start placement

Before a student can start their first placement and seminar (SOCWORK 3D06/3DD6) they must complete the following courses:


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Resources for Students in Placement

Field Manual

Field Evaluation forms

Student’s performance in field placements are evaluated at the third level (SOCWORK 3DD6 Evaluation) and fourth level (SOCWORK 4DD6 Evaluation). A special form is available for assessing performance in Community Development Placements.


The following evaluation forms will be available in IPT. You will be able to complete the forms online and upload the completed forms back into IPT.



3D & 4D Evaluation Form Guidebooks:

3D Evaluation Guidebook 

4D Evaluation Guidebook


MTCU Forms Required for Placement:

Each student must submit all four MTCU Forms prior to beginning placement.

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Field Placement FAQ’s

I have just been admitted to the program and I want to know about placements.

You can read more about field placements in our Field Manual. There will be mandatory field orientation sessions  during the winter semester in the year you are admitted. You will be notified of these sessions via email.


I didn’t sign up for my placement and seminar, what do I do?

Notify Tammy Maikawa, millet@mcmaster.ca with a copy to Janice Chaplin, the Faculty Field Coordinator, chaplin@mcmaster.ca. If there is still room available in a seminar, you will be directed to complete a form and submit it to the social work office.


I want an exemption from placement. Can I have it?

The School has an Advanced Standing Policy about exemptions. Consult with Tammy Maikawa, millet@mcmaster.ca. If you think you meet the criteria, submit the required documents to the Director of the School.


How many hours a week do I have to go to placement?

In total, you must complete 390 hours for each placement. For block students that means you will be in placement the equivalent of four days per week (approximately 30 hours per week for 13 weeks). For concurrent students, you will be in placement the equivalent of two days a week (approximately 15 hours per week for 26 weeks).


I am working full time (or not available during most days), and want a placement for weekends and evenings. Okay?

Some agencies have flexible hours but it is highly unlikely that there will be a placement that will allow for only weekend and evening work.


Can I find my own placement?

No. If you have an idea about a specific placement, send it by email to Janice Chaplin, the Faculty Field Coordinator, chaplin@mcmaster.ca. Please be sure to include your name and contact information, why you want this placement, and what class you will be in (third or fourth level, block or concurrent). Placements must meet the criteria established by the school. See the Field Manual for information about field placement requirements. Placements must be within the greater Hamilton area (Hamilton, Brant, Niagara, Halton, Haldimand-Norfolk, Toronto).


Why can’t I find my own placement?

We have ongoing relationships with placement settings. These settings and the field instructors have been approved by the school and meet university and national standards for field instruction. Since we have approximately 140 students entering field placements in one year and it can be overwhelming to the agencies to try to respond to unplanned requests for placements. Additionally, it is not fair to students who follow the school’s procedures.


Do you offer out of town placements?

Normally, we limit the geographic area to a 45-minute drive from McMaster (See Field Manual, Policy for Out of Town Placements). We limit our placements to a 45- to 60-minute radius around McMaster because we are not a distance program and are firmly committed to supporting out local communities. Additionally, because the integration seminar is an essential part of your education and you must take the placement and seminar classes together, you need to be near Hamilton to attend the seminar. We do, however, have some placements in Brantford, Oakville, Toronto, Niagara Peninsula, and Haldimand-Norfolk.


If a placement is approved by the school, can I explore the possibility of a placement without going through the school’s planning and selection process?

No. The process is in place to coordinate requests so that agencies are not overwhelmed with student contacts and to ensure that all students have access to placements. The process also exists to help match student learning needs to appropriate placements.


Are there enough placements for all  students?



I want a particular placement but it is not available for my SOCWORK 3DD6 or SOCWORK 4DD6 section. Why not?

Some agencies offer only block or only concurrent placements. Similarly, some agencies offer only third-level or only fourth-level placements.


There are many reasons a placement is not offered in a particular year or for a particular seminar. These reasons include:

  • The agency is not offering a placement because of internal reasons e.g. no field instructor available, no space available for students; the agency is going through restructuring, unstable funding etc.
  • The placement is only offered at a specific time. Sometimes agencies are only able to accommodate students at a particular time of year, such as summer or fall. This often relates to field instructor availability, program timing (for example, client groups may start in January, thus the placement is inappropriate for Fall Block and Summer Block students) and client/project availability (for example, school board placements are not offered in SW 3DD6 summer block because schools close for the summer before the placement is complete).
  • The placement is suitable for one kind of learning experience (for example, a block placement is more suitable for acute care hospital setting or a third-year experience is more appropriate where there is only the opportunity for co-therapy, not independent work).


I am in Summer Block and plan to do my fourth level placement in September, when do I find out about placements for the Fall?

Fourth year placements will be assigned in mid-June. Check your email notices sent by Lorna O’Connell, oconnell@mcmaster.ca.


Why aren’t we paid for attending placement?

Social work education has a long history of students learning from social workers in community agencies. These agencies volunteer their time to educate social work students. Similar to other professional programs (medicine – clerkships, nursing, teaching, physiotherapy, occupational therapy) social work has placement courses. These placements courses are for credit and require instruction from an experienced practitioner in the field. They are coordinated through the educational institution and students are graded (often pass/fail) on their performance.

Please note that although medical internships and law articling positions are paid employment, they are post-degree work experiences that are required before independent professional work can be undertaken. The placements required of Social Work students are educationally focused. Tasks are designed to reflect learning objectives set out by the student and the school. Unlike a work situation, the student is there to learn and the learning objectives drive the learning, not the needs of the agency. Of course, there is some reciprocity: if it is consistent with the school’s and the student’s learning objectives, a student may be asked to complete a task that is useful to the agency. Different to an employee, the student is supervised and instructed.


Where does our tuition for SOCWORK 3DD6 and SOCWORK4DD6 go?

Since these are courses, the university charges tuition. Consider the faculty, administration and field instructor education involved in providing placements.


Securing a Placement 


I called my placement and no one has gotten back to me. What should I do?

This often happens because social workers are quite busy. Reach out to Janice Chaplin, chaplin@mcmaster.ca; perhaps she knows why this is happening and can follow up with the agency.


I went for my interview and the field instructor said they would get back to the School, have you heard?

We will try to be in touch with you as soon as we hear.


I went for my interview and I am not sure if I want the placement. What do I do next?

Consult with Janice Chaplin, Faculty Field Coordinator. Explore what other placements are still available and meet your learning objectives Be sure not to contact another placement until either the seminar leader or the Faculty Field Coordinator confirms that the placement is still available.


The agency called and said that they were offering the placement to another student, (or the agency said they had decided not to take a student this year). What do I do?

Please connect with Janice Chaplin, Faculty Field Coordinator. Be sure not to contact another placement until Janice confirms that the placement is still available.


When do placements begin in September?

Normally, they begin the first week of classes after the first seminar; however, you and your field instructor may be able to negotiate an earlier or later start date.


Beginning a Placement 


My placement is confirmed, now what do I do?

Ask your field instructor what you need to do to prepare for the placement. Be sure to ask about the agency’s procedures regarding police check, immunizations, and TB tests. Is there anything else you need to do to prepare? What day have you and the field instructor decided that you will start?


I am wondering about insurance. Where do I find out about it?

See the Field Manual. You and the agency will be completing various forms in September regarding MTCU coverage. If you are going to be using your car for placement, be sure to ask the agency about the amount of insurance you will need. Check to make sure your insurance meets their requirements.


Now that I have arranged my placement, how do I organize my courses?

Make an appointment with Tammy Maikawa, millet@mcmaster.ca to review this.


During a Placement 


Now that I am in my placement, there are some problems, what do I do?

If possible, discuss this as soon as possible with your field instructor. Consult with your seminar class or your seminar leader regarding your concerns and develop a plan to address these. You, your seminar leader and/or your field instructor may want to consult with the Faculty Field Coordinator. Usually, concerns are resolved through these discussions. However, occasionally, you may want to or be advised to have a “Placement in Difficulty” meeting. For more details see the Field Practice Manual. Lastly, it may be possible to leave a placement and where appropriate, be placed at another agency.

Prospective Field Instructors, Alumni and Community Partners

The School of Social Work is extremely fortunate to have so many dedicated field instructors, community partners and members who give their time to provide valuable social work education to our students year after year.


Field Instructors are social workers who are employed in human service organizations. Normally, they will have a social work degree, at least two years’ work experience and have taken a field instructor course. They are responsible for orienting the student to the placement, co-constructing a learning agreement, providing weekly instruction, supervision, and completing a mid-term and final evaluation of the student. They work closely with the School and the placement agency to facilitate student learning.


The SOCWORK 3D06 and SOCWORK 4D06 Seminar Leaders are faculty members in the School of Social Work who teach the integrative seminar, and function as liaisons to each placement. They work closely with the students, the field instructors and the school to ensure that learning objectives are being met in the placement. They help to problem solve any placement concerns and are responsible for grading the seminar and the placement.

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Why Become a Field Instructor?

We are always interested in finding new community partners and agencies to work with.

Field Instructors are an integral part of McMaster’s School of Social Work. They provide valuable learning opportunities in a social work setting for students to grow in their practice and deepen their engagement with the communities in which they live and study. Participation as a Field Instructor helps support the next generation of social workers in the essential work of supporting people and communities.

Field Instructors support students in achieving tangible, practice-based learning in a variety of Social Work settings. It is an opportunity for students to link classroom theory and learning with practice activities. Through field instruction, students are guided to integrate social work knowledge, skills and values.

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Why Instruct a McMaster Social Work Student?

There are many reasons to instruct a McMaster Social Work Student.

  • The McMaster School of Social Work values community
  • We have chosen to stay local because we believe in investing in our community
  • We teach about issues important in this region and this territory in our classrooms
  • Our field team meets individually with each student before starting placement to match them to a placement setting best for the student and instructor
  • We believe in developing and growing relationships with the local social service community
  • Our seminar leaders personally visit each Field Instructor and student twice per term at their field settings because we know field education is a partnership
  • If concerns or difficulties arise in placement, we are available for support
  • Our field team has years of practice experience in this community and are deeply committed to strengthening local social and community services.

Field Instructors Support Students Learning By:

  • Orienting students to the setting and guiding their daily activities
  • Providing mentorship and feedback in keeping with School guidelines
  • Evaluating student performance in the context of School expectations and placement setting requirements
  • Meeting regularly to reflect on student work within the placement setting
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Requirements for Field Instructors

Field instructors require the following:

  • BSW, MSW or MA (SWP)
  • Two years post-degree practice experience
  • An interest in teaching/mentoring students
  • One Level 1 Field Instructors course offered at no charge by the School within the first two years of instructing.

More information on the upcoming Field Instruction courses is found in the Opportunities for Field Instructors section.

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Contact Us

If you would like to offer a field placement, contact Lorna O’Connell, Field Administrative Assistant, oconnell@mcmaster.ca or 905-525-9140 ext. 23795.

Current Field Instructors and Agencies

We want to ensure that Field Instructors have the tools they need while taking on McMaster BSW placement students.  Below we have provided important links and resources.  If you have any questions or concerns at any time, do not hesitate to reach out to our field team.

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Field Manual

Please view our most recent field manual for information.

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Field Evaluation Forms

Student’s performance in field placements are evaluated at the third level (SOCWORK 3DD6 Evaluation) and fourth level (SOCWORK 4DD6 Evaluation). A special form is available for assessing performance in Community Development Placements.

The following evaluation forms will be available in IPT. You will be able to complete the forms on-line and upload the completed forms back into IPT.

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3D and 4D Evaluation Form Guidebooks

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Affiliation Agreements and MOUs

The School is happy to prepare Affiliation Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) for agencies who request them. Please reach out to Tammy Maikawa, Academic Department Manager, millet@mcmaster.ca or (905) 525-9140 ext. 23793.

Opportunities for Field Instructors

The School of Social Work works with a number of dedicated field instructors who help to educate our students year after year. We are delighted to provide them with opportunities and ways to honour the great work that they do.

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Practice Instructor Recognition and Recommendation for Adjunct Lecturer Appointments

In addition to directly supporting our students, our field instructors give their time to many of our field activities including sitting on committees and contributing to the direction of the School.

As a way to acknowledge these vital contributions, we have formalized a process to recognize long-standing field instructors with the title of Practice Instructor and recommend our Practice Instructors for Adjunct Lecturer appointments with the University.

For more information view this document.

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Sheila Sammon Award for Excellence in Field Instruction

The Award was established in 2016 in recognition of Professor Sheila Sammon’s outstanding contributions to social work practice and field education over almost three decades: in the School of Social Work at McMaster, in the Hamilton community, and in her leadership in social work education provincially and nationally. With wisdom, skill and generosity, Sheila supported the development of generations of students, practitioners and educators striving, like her, toward the ethical and just practice of social work.

View this document for more information.

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Field Forums

The School of Social Work offers workshops and forums designed particularly for field instructors, students and community social workers. Over the past 10 years, we have presented the following:

October 25, 2019; half day (40 registrants)
“Accessibility and Accommodation in Social Work Field Placements: What Every Field Instructor Should Know”
Speakers: Kate Brown, Pilar Michaud, Tim Nolan

October 19, 2018; half day (45 registrants)
“Strengthening Accessibility and Responsiveness to Equity Seeking Groups”
Speakers: Janice Chaplin, Amna Baig, Alise deBie, Sarah Dell, Randy Jackson & Jennie Vengris

October 27, 2017; half day (67 registrants)
“Opioid Crisis: Social Work Practice and Policy Considerations”
Panel Speakers PowerPoint Presentations: Jessica Ward, Jackee Evans, Susan Boyd, Kathy Guffroy.

March 24, 2017; half day (55 registrants)
Social Work and Technology: What’s App with that?”

March 4, 2016; half day (99 registrants)
Enhancing our Understanding of the Refugee Experience(s): Supporting People Arriving in Hamilton
Guest Speaker: Mirna Carranza

October 30, 2015; half day (70 registrants)
Emerging Trends & Challenges in Field Education: Supporting Student Readiness
Panel and Roundtable discussions

March 6, 2015; half day (179 registrants)
Reconciliation: The Children’s Version
Guest Speaker: Dr. Cindy Blackstock

March 24, 2014; full day (83 registrants)
Globalization, Immigration and Social Work
Panel Discussion Participants

March 22, 2013; half day (85 registrants)
Choose Wellness: A Mindful Approach
Guest speaker: Valerie Spironello

October 12, 2012; full day (153 registrants)
Current issues in Mental Health
Guest speaker: Lorraine Chapman

March 9, 2012; half day (100 registrants)
Do you really know “Y”? Deconstructing Generation Y and Bridging the Generation Gap
Guest speaker: Terezia Zuric

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Check back regularly for upcoming webinars.

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Access to the Library

We are pleased to offer Field Instructors access to our McMaster Libraries for all print and electronic resources.  Please contact Lorna O’Connell, oconnell@mcmaster.ca and she will help get this started.

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McMaster Research Shop

The McMaster Research Shop works with public, non-profit and community organizations in Hamilton to provide plain-language answers to research questions.

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Field Instructors Courses

Field Instructors are both educators and supervisors. These courses are designed to develop instructor and supervisory skills.

Level One 

This non-credit training course consists of 15 hours of instruction which includes discussion, exercises and practical skills related to field education. There is no cost and no exam.

We ask that field instructors in their first and second years take this course.

Once completed, you will receive a certificate confirming successful completion, including the number hours you have completed.

Fall Level 1 Field Instruction – Instructor Dallas Dabrowski

On-Line Zoom Session Dates (attendance required at all 4 sessions):

September 9, 2022, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

October 7, 2022, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

November 4, 2022, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

December 2, 2022, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Independent Training:

In addition to the virtual sessions, each month there will be an additional 3 hours of work to be completed independently outside of the four on-line sessions.

This is a comprehensive training that provides a solid foundation for education-based supervision of social work students. Focus is on core concepts in field instruction using a combination of lecture, discussions, simulations and case studies.

Registration is limited. Preference will be given to those currently functioning as Field Instructors for McMaster.

Please RSVP/Register with Lorna O’Connell – oconnell@mcmaster.ca

Direct any questions to Janice Chaplin – chaplin@mcmaster.ca


Level Two 

This seminar style, non-credit, no-fee, course will cover participant selected topics. The participants may be involved in discussions, problem solving exercises, role plays and review of tapes. Field Instructors are encouraged to bring examples of their practice as field instructors for group discussion.

People who have been Field Instructors for three or more students, and those who have attended Level I1, are encouraged to register. The course will build on knowledge gained from basic field education courses, workshops and/or literature.

Next session: TBA

Please contact Lorna O’Connell to register: oconnell@mcmaster.ca.

*May be eligible for re-certification credit with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers

Meet The Team


Janice Chaplin

Field Education Coordinator and Assistant Professor

View Janice Chaplin's Profile

Jennie Vengris

Assistant Professor and Field Education Development

View Jennie Vengris' Profile

Lorna O'Connell

Undergraduate Admissions and Field Education Administrative Assistant