Writing in the Field: A Tool for Professional Socialization in Social Work
Social work educators and practitioners have become increasingly aware of the importance of professional writing to the delivery of effective social work services. The advent of managed care and expanding systems of accountability have served to underscore the critical role of documentation and report writing. Yet, little attention has been paid to training social work majors in professional writing. In the proposed paper, I will describe my efforts to address this gap through the creation and implementation of new experiential learning methods to improve the quality of ‘field writing’ among 40 undergraduate social work students. Distinct from field notes in social science, ‘field writing’ is term denoting a range of informal and formal clinical documentation processes and formats in social work practice. To frame my perspective, I shall look at the role of writing in terms of professional socialization. That is, my interest is in exploring the ways that social workers begin to acquire a professional identity and learn the ropes of the job through the processes of information gathering, hypothesis generation, analysis, evaluation, and reflection—all of which are necessary steps to produce competent and meaningful written accounts of client contact. Adopting a ‘writing to learn’ approach, I shall also examine professional writing in social work more broadly. My goal will be to call attention to the importance of writing in the agency-based and team-oriented context in which social work services are delivered. I shall explain the functions of various types of written formats (e.g., “intakes,” “psychosocials”), demonstrating that the conventions associated with clinical and administrative documentation can be incorporated into coursework to teach about social work concepts and applications. In other words, I will address how social work educators can transform “paperwork” from a rote chore into an opportunity to analyze, question, and improve upon social work practice.
Keywords: Professional Socialization, Writing to Learn, Field Writing, Transformation of Paperwork
Dr. Bonnie D. Oglensky
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences