It’s a huge responsibility. When they leave our doors, many of our graduates work with the most vulnerable members of society. Others shape society by changing public policy. The Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work equips students with the knowledge and skills to become leaders in social work agencies, education and health care institutions, governments, corporations and other settings in North America and around the world.
At the heart of it all is a very dynamic learning environment. FIFSW faculty members are highly engaged in teaching and research. Thanks to the enormous generosity of donors Lynn Factor and Sheldon Inwentash, we have been able to hire additional faculty members and create 50 new student scholarships. We’re also enriched by our collaborations with other University of Toronto faculties and with the community, and look forward to building on these linkages.
In our teaching, we are constantly applying the latest knowledge about education, and refining our curriculum. As of 2010, Master of Social Work (MSW) students have a wider choice of areas in which to specialize; Social Service Administration is now offered in addition to Children and their Families; Gerontology, Mental Health and Health; and Social Justice and Diversity. We’ve also broadened our curriculum to include courses such as neuroscience.
Opportunities for hands-on learning (known as the field practicum) are incredibly diverse. In fact, field education is now offered in more than 100 settings across the Toronto area, and involves over 300 practicing social workers and other dedicated community professionals engaged as field instructors for our students. As leaders in field education, we continue to develop innovative models and strategies. Recently, we introduced a ‘cyber practicum pilot initiative’. Funded by BELL, it’s a chance for social work students to learn e-therapy by counselling University of Toronto students at Victoria College and St. Michael’s College who are encountering problems such as relationship and family difficulties.
The Faculty is also well placed to offer highly relevant, ongoing training to established practitioners. We’re pleased to offer a new Certificate Program in Settlement Practice, the first of its kind in Ontario. Supported by Buddha’s Light International Association of Toronto, this continuing education program trains settlement workers in how to ease the transition of newcomers to Canada, including dealing with mental health issues. Many other communities want to partner with us to provide continuing education that addresses their specific needs.
Our interest is growing in the use of new technologies and teaching approaches. The Faculty is on the leading-edge with our use of highly-trained actors in the teaching of social work (see Simulation innovation on page 21). The exciting initiative, led by Professor Marion Bogo with Professor and Vice-Provost Academic Programs Cheryl Regehr, involves actors who interact with students in simulated standardized situations. It’s hoped this will lead to the creation of a ‘Learning Lab’ where scenarios can play out in life-like settings.
In addition to simulation, we plan to increase our use of interactive technology, including webinars. With all our educational approaches and programs, the focus remains squarely on graduating competent social workers who can confidently and effectively work on the front lines and in social service policy.