Inventory of Promising Practices


TFEL defines wise practices as Indigenous-centered practices that are flexible, locally, and culturally relevant, that respect all forms of understanding including lived experience, traditional knowledge, and the use of story. Wise practices are relational in nature and encourage mutual respect, inclusivity, and collectivity.

Practice 1:

Incorporating Indigenous cultural practices, and involving Elders in social work field education

Indigenous Elders can provide lived experience and cultural knowledge to inform social work field education.

  • “I think another wise practice is having Elders involved in social work field education. So, Elders can be involved in meetings. Elders can be involved in preparatory seminars with students who are preparing to go out in practicum. Students could meet with an Elder to learn about protocols and ceremonies before placement, so that they have an understanding when they’re in a practicum context or in field agency and, one of their roles is to be participating in some of these ceremonies and practices. So, if an agency has smudges every morning, a student should be going into practicum with already having an understanding and an expectation that they’re also going to participate in that practice and, […] know what’s involved.” (Interview Participant, Prairie Region)
  • “… A training where you are working with a local Indigenous Elder or I know on site here, they have an Indigenous Wellness Clinic and manager and cultural helpers. But really, intentionally meeting with them and learning from them…” (Interview Participant, Prairie Region)
  • “[University] being an Indigenous founded, focused, really sort of connected agency, or institution we want to focus, and myself being a white settler, really working in partnership with my colleagues and with communities that we are both working in but alongside as well to sort out what that PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition) process might look like.” (Interview Participant, BC region)

Practice 2:

Creating new ways of approaching learning goals and field agreements

Incorporating Indigenous perspectives in the learning goals and field agreements that allow students to conceptualize and communicate in culturally appropriate ways.

  • “We’ve looked at, not, […] enforcing Western-based notions of field education onto students for whom that doesn’t fit well for a variety of reasons. So, we’ve had students from Indigenous backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, or who are going into like non-Western based organizations to propose different ways of representing their learning agreements as one example. So, we have had students who do their practicums based in Indigenous communities and have come up with a different form of learning agreement, that is according to the circle or also known as the Medicine Wheel. So, we’ve done that.” (Interview Participant, Prairie Region)
  • “And when you’re talking about your Indigenous clients or Indigenous service users, what is it? As a practicum student, [what] do you want to achieve with this community? So how are you going to do that? How are you working yourself to […] meet that objective? So, a wise practice is to develop that learning agreement in a really deep way, in a profound way and make it very, very relevant to your Indigenous community, your Indigenous client.” (Interview Participant, Prairie Region)

Practice 3:

Being creative, flexible and open-minded about definitions of certain terms, such as clinical practice that are more appropriate to apply in all contexts

Recognizing ways of defining clinical practice that align with Indigenous values and cultures or other ways of defining clinical practice. In order to broaden the western definition of ‘clinical’ and allow for different ways of knowing to be integrated into practice.

  • “We’ve also looked at being really creative, flexible, and open minded about definitions of certain terms, such as like “clinical practice,” when we know […] that’s a very westernized notion, and that it might not be an appropriate one to apply in all contexts. And so, I think our main innovation around that has been trying to work with students who find our traditional way of doing things problematic. I think we would like to be able to do more in this way and to expand these notions and maybe sort of generalize this approach more.” (Interview Participant, Prairie Region)
  • “I think we need to be mindful of like you know if this is going to be a clinical placement, then it has to be clinical practice and it has to be direct practice skills because then your kind of saying that maybe research or theory or other approaches that are also very critical would not be included in that perception of what a clinical placement needs to look like. So, I think we, […] need to kind of think critically about our own lenses and, […] what we bring to this in. And challenge some of the assumptions that maybe field coordinators and directors have made about the nature of specific placements.” (Interview Participant, Prairie Region)

Practice 4:

Focusing on initiatives towards decolonizing and Indigenizing social work field practicums

Taking further steps to decolonize the social work profession by looking at Indigenous ways of knowing and doing.

  • “Creating a land-based learning option, for students… in the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, and our [university’s] commitment to trying to keep decolonizing, and also being more inclusive to providing opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to learn.” (Interview Participant, Atlantic Region)
  • “The words that come to my mind are perilous, complicated, sad. I think, you know all of the things that we have discovered around the impacts of settler-ness, colonialism, the lack of appreciation for the places that we occupy. The intergenerational trauma, the lack of appreciation for what new Canadians bring, understanding that the very, and I use this word intentionally, complexion of Canada has changed dramatically, and what that means is that there are even more people who have been historically marginalized and harmed by the way society currently operates.” (Interview Participant, BC region)

Social work serves the needs of the community and needs to ensure that it is representative of the people that it serves. Enhancing EDI in social work practice, as well as ensuring services are accessible to all, will help enrich the profession, provide new lived experiences and perspectives, and create a more sustainable practice environment.

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