Interrupting White Supremacy in Field Education

Experiences of Microaggressions in Placement Settings


  • Anita Gooding Portland State University
  • Gita R. Mehrotra Portland State University



field education, racism, microaggressions, field instructors, students of color


As social work’s signature pedagogy, field education socializes students into their professional roles as practitioners. However, for students and field instructors of color, racial microaggressions add another dimension to the practice experience. Utilizing findings from a qualitative study exploring the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) social work students and agency-based field instructors, this paper highlights experiences of microaggressions in field placement settings. Specifically, BIPOC students and field instructors described being tokenized in agencies, feeling invisible in placement settings, experiencing microaggressions from service users or students, and witnessing microaggressions. Experiences of microaggressions had emotional impacts, and affected participants’ sense of professional identity and confidence. Based on findings, we share recommendations for addressing racial microaggressions within social work field education in order to promote racial equity, including: grounding microaggressions in an ecological approach, unpacking the concept of professionalism, and building capacity of field instructors and agencies to respond to racism and microaggressions. Addressing microaggressions in field education is necessary to support BIPOC students in field placements, honor the work and well-being of racialized social workers who serve as field instructors, disrupt white supremacy, and move the social work field forward in regard to anti-racist practice.


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