• The impact of classroom and field learning on student understanding of social work practice with groups

      Clements, Jennifer Ann; Knight, Carolyn, Ph.D. (2006)
      Group work is a powerful intervention when used by experienced and knowledgeable practitioners. The purpose of this study was to identify factors that influenced social work students' perceived knowledge of and preparation for group work practice. The impact that the experiences of students both in the classroom and in the field had on their perceived knowledge of and preparation for group work practice also was assessed. The study was based upon Experiential Learning Theory and literature on group work education. A sample of 296 bachelor's and master's social work students at the University of Maryland participated in the study. The researcher developed a perceived group work knowledge scale. Specific concepts reflect the core competencies of generalist and foundation group work practice recommended by the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups (AASWG). Internal consistency reliability for the scale was high (alpha = .951). A principal component analysis (PCA) was also completed which resulted in a one component solution. Hierarchal regression analyses revealed that classroom and field experiences as well as students' perceptions of their field instructor and classroom instructor's knowledge of group work were significant predictors of students' perceived group work knowledge. Significant predictors of perceived preparation for group work practice included classroom and field experiences as well as students' perceptions of their field instructor and classroom instructor's knowledge of group work. In addition, perceived group work knowledge was a significant predictor of perceived preparation for group work practice. Students who reported having extensive group work experiences both in the field and in the classroom reported that they were more likely to pursue group work in their future practice. While both classroom and field experiences were significant, exposure to group in the field placement was a much stronger predictor of group work knowledge. Students reported feeling most knowledgeable about the concepts of mutual aid, diversity, group culture, and characteristics of group phases. Reported gaps in learning were related to the research and legal issues associated with group work. The study's strengths and limitations are discussed as well as implications for social work research, practice, and education.