Field Directors

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  • 1.  Policies re: Attendance?

    Posted Feb 17, 2024 12:29
    Hello Colleagues, 
    Our school is looking to revise/clear up our attendance policy in regards to Practicum participation.  At our program, we have University attendance policies, school policies, and practicum policies.  Attendance is possibly different in each of these.  We have Excused and Unexcused absences to consider, and what falls honestly within each of these.  My issue is that the content of Practicum Seminar is so very important and the ability to "make up work" falls short in most cases as often the priority is group process and reflection/sharing time.  The students need to be present to participate and support their peers.  
    We have 7 seminars in the Fall semester and 7 seminars in the Spring semester.  The students are in the same seminar with the same peers each semester and concurrently in their same practicum locations.  The issue that I have run into is at what point do we say the student has missed too many sessions of seminar, excused or unexcused absences, before they need to repeat it.  If a student misses with an excused absence repeatedly, does it matter/count?  
    What am I missing here?  I am in a power struggle wanting seminar to be as important to others as it is to me.  I need to see the student engage in this part of the learning before I say they are competent.  I am getting push back on setting the limit of 3 absences (of the 14), excused or not excused, to successfully complete the course.  


    SSW Graduate Faculty Member - Director of Practicum Education
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  • 2.  RE: Policies re: Attendance?

    Posted Feb 17, 2024 13:07

    A couple years ago we amended our policy in the Seminar syllabus to allow 1 "free" absence from seminar.  After that, we may reduce their final grade by up to a full letter grade.


    The policy in the syllabus is "Because this course only meets once a week, more than one absence or repeatedly arriving late is an impediment to learning and to the rest of the group. Students are expected to be at seminar each week to process their experiences and support their peers. Any absence must be discussed with the faculty ahead of time. Multiple absences or recurring late arrivals will result in a lowered grade, up to the deduction of a full letter grade per excess absence or late arrival.  If disruptive behavior is repeated without correction it will result in failing this course."


    While I don't want them to miss ANY seminars, that just isn't reality given their involvement in sports, winter health problems and "great experiences" that might come up at their agency during Seminar time. If the student has been responsible with notification and arranging to get their work completed, I'll allow a 2nd absence. I have and will implement a 10% penalty for each other absence.  We have 11 seminars in the winter, with 10 of them in-person.




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  • 3.  RE: Policies re: Attendance?

    Posted Feb 22, 2024 16:20


    Hello! This is something we are grappling with, as well. We, too, consider attendance at all seminar classes (about 14 for the fall/spring combined) as mandatory. However, there is also data about how attendance grading and expectations disproportionately impacts URM students and students with disabilities, and many of our faculty are re-examining our attendance policies. I don't want students to be unsuccessful because they are more vulnerable to schedule disruption, when they are otherwise demonstrating high competence and potential.

    I've settled on trusting my students and setting the expectation of clear and timely communication about reasons for absences "beyond their control." I do not require proof of a "valid" absence. We co-create classroom guidelines at the beginning of the course - and re-affirm them at the start of spring - and students tend to value seminar and show up for each other because it's the commitment they made to their classroom community. I have had students miss as many as 3 seminars out of 14, but I still felt confident in their competence. However, I think this depends a lot on how many competencies are being assessed in the seminar and how it is being assessed.   

    Here is my current syllabus policy. The last sentence is boilerplate and if I wrote it, I would be more inviting of students with religious obligations: 

    Attendance and Absences. Students are expected attend ALL seminars for the full class period.  This course is structured to help students practice professional development and growth through peer consultation and support. Full attendance with punctuality is key to developing a community within this course to achieve course goals. If a student is unable to attend a seminar due to circumstances beyond their control, email me as early as possible to discuss whether and how to make up the missed seminar. With rare exceptions, attending practicum activities, in-services or conferences in lieu of attending seminar is NOT permitted. An unexcused absence will result in an Unsatisfactory Grade for the course. Students with mandatory religious obligations or UI authorized activities must discuss their absences with me as soon as possible.

    I hope this is helpful!


    Sarah Witry
    Clinical Asst Professor, Field Education Director
    University of Iowa
    Iowa City IA