MSW Program > Professional Performance Standards

All students must meet required standards of behavior for professional social work practice. The following standards, along with related skill areas and required behaviors for each, are delineated in the SP2 Student Handbook.

Standards Skill Areas Required Student Behavior

Professional Ethics:

Conduct conforms to values and ethics of the social work profession as codified in the NASW Code of Ethics

Adheres to legal and ethical standards in all practice and academic roles and settings.

Demonstrates integrity in all dealings with clients, agency and collateral staff, faculty, and student colleagues.

Understands and follows all laws pertaining to client confidentiality.

Demonstrates willingness to work with and advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations.

Demonstrates awareness and  respect for diversity

Does not engage in social relationships with clients; maintains appropriate boundaries with clients.

Makes appropriate use of supervision and refers client when needed services are beyond his/her competence.

Keeps commitments to clients,  colleagues, and faculty.

Disguises clients’ identity in class discussions and academic papers.

Accepts responsibility for working with vulnerable populations, and participates in advocacy activities on behalf of clients.

Willingly accepts and works with a diverse client caseload.

Professional Comportment and Conduct:
Demonstrates responsible, accountable professional behavior, protecting peers, colleagues, clients and others from the adverse consequences of personal performance problems and misconduct.

Explores and identifies strengths and weaknesses related to professional practice.

Solicits and makes use of feedback regarding performance.

Works to correct performance problems through the development of goals and strategies for professional growth.

Makes productive use of  supervision sessions and/or other forms of professional and academic advising and mentorship.

Actively participates in field supervision.

Seeks professional mental help and self improvement services and consultation when necessary.

Professional Relationships:
All professional interactions reflect respect, integrity, collaboration and accountability, as well as awareness of appropriate professional role, authority and boundaries.

Develops and maintains solid professional  working alliances with clients, colleagues, superiors, peers, students, agency personnel, faculty, school staff, advisors, and field educators.

Actively and constructively participles in academic and agency affairs.

Engages, sustains and appropriately ends professional relationships with clients and colleagues.

Provides feedback and constructive criticism to field instructor and other agency personnel that is respectful and in accordance with agency protocol.

Informs field instructor, field liaison and academic adviser  of problems that arise in field and works in a professional, way to address these issues.

Follows through on verbal and written agreements.

Ends services responsibly with clients and field agency, including proper notification of all relevant parties (clients, field instructor, field liaison and/or practice faculty).


Verbal, non-verbal and written communications with client, faculty, colleagues and others encountered in student role conform to established legal and professional standards.

Receives and responds appropriately to verbal, non-verbal and written forms of communication with a wide range of client systems and persons regardless of differences related to class, age, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and physical or mental abilities.

Demonstrates timely response to, and documentation of communication with school and agency contacts.

Verbal, non-verbal and written communications to clients, colleagues, faculty, school staff, field staff, students and others are delivered with in a respectful, sensitive manner..

Follows agency rules and protocols for record keeping.

Responds in a timely manner to all correspondence from clients, agency staff, faculty, and others encountered in student role.

Professional Performance Standards: Procedures for Corrective Action (MSW Program)
As outlined in the SP2 Student Handbook, the Corrective Action Plan is a written document that describes how the student’s professional behavior violates one or more Core Professional Performance Standards, and identifies corrective action to be taken time frame for completion by the student, faculty member and/or field liaison, field instructor, academic advisor. The problematic behaviors must be behaviorally described, using examples.

  1. Depending on the nature of the problem(s), the academic advisor or field liaison develops the Corrective Action Plan.
  2. The Corrective Action Plan is submitted to the Associate Dean for Student Affairs for review and signature. The Associate Dean fro Student Affairs returns the signed form to the originating individual (academic advisor or field liaison).
  3. It is the responsibility of the academic advisor or field liaison to closely monitor the student’s performance and evaluate the student’s compliance at the end of the specified period.
  4. If the student satisfactorily improves, the plan is signed by all respective parties at the end of the specified period and forwarded to the Associate Dean for Student Affairs.
  5. The Associate Dean for Student Affairs may arrange a consultation with the academic advisor or field liaison and student before rendering a recommendation regarding the student’s continued matriculation in the program. It is the responsibility of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs to ensure that the student has had access to due process throughout the review process.
  6. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs reviews the recommendation, makes a determination and informs the Associate Dean for Student Affairs of the decision.
  7. It is the responsibility of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs to ensure that all related documents are made a part of the student’s file.

Exceptions to the Corrective Action Plan Procedure

  • The student’s behavior poses an imminent danger to clients, other students, faculty/staff, and/or self and others (e.g., abuse of clients and/or colleagues, violence or threat of violence).
  • The student’s behavior represents an egregious breach of the core performance  standards and ethics (e.g., drugs on the premises, theft, bizarre and/or disruptive behavior)
  • The student receives a failing grade in a core practice class or in two other classes. In such cases the policy governing dismissal from the program for failure to meet academic requirements supercedes the corrective action plan procedure.
  • The University decides to place the student on an involuntary leave of absence with conditions specified for return to the program, according to the conditions and procedures described in the Pennbook. The University may place a student on an involuntary leave of absence or require conditions for continued attendance under the following circumstances when the student exhibits behavior resulting from a psychological, psychiatric, or other medical condition that: harms or threatens to harm the health or safety of the student or others; causes or threatens to cause significant property damage; or significantly disrupts the educational and other activities of the University community.

Professional Performance Standards Sign-off Sheet