Creating a Culture of Voting in Direct and Generalist Practice

Training Field Instructors

  • Shannon Lane Sacred Heart University School of Social Work
  • Katharine Hill St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas School of Social Work
  • Jason Ostrander Sacred Heart University School of Social Work
  • Jenna Powers University of Connecticut School of Social Work
  • Tanya Rhodes Smith University of Connecticut School of Social Work
  • Mary E. Hylton Salisbury University
Keywords: voter engagement, field education, empowerment, political social work, political engagement

Abstract

Social workers have an ethical responsibility to be engaged in policy change, regardless of their practice area or specialization. Voter engagement and the importance of political power through voting is often overlooked in the literature as a valid and important component of social work practice. Creating a culture of nonpartisan voter engagement in practice settings can help empower individuals who have been historically and intentionally disenfranchised from our electoral system. Training for field instructors, faculty, and field staff is a key aspect of voter engagement in social work education. Unfortunately, social work education is unlikely to include substantive content on voter engagement or its connection to social work practice and impact. This article presents one component of a model for integrating voter engagement into social work education: the provision of training for field instructors on nonpartisan voter engagement at two universities over two years. Evaluation findings suggest that pre-existing levels of political efficacy affect the reaction of field instructors to nonpartisan voter engagement training. Furthermore, findings indicate that field instructors who receive voter engagement training are more likely to serve as resources for their students and to consider voter engagement as part of their own practice. We offer evidence on the important role field educators can play in the success of the larger national effort to integrate voter engagement in social work education. Increasing awareness of what social workers, nonprofit, and public agencies are allowed--or even required--to do is a critical first step.

Author Biography

Katharine Hill, St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas School of Social Work

Associate Professor, School of Social Work

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Published
2020-01-22