Pedagogical Intent and Placement Diversity in Social Work Field Education
One University’s Experiences
Keywords:Field Education, Social Work Placements, Placement Supervision, Practice Learning, Practicum
Field placement is central to the professional education of aspiring social workers. The immersive learning that occurs in health and human service organisations under the direct supervision of practising social workers provides a real-world context for the integration of classroom and field-based learning. Yet, in recent decades, a range of contextual changes have impacted on the supply of quality placements. The concurrent marketisation of higher education and health/human services has led to widespread placement shortages. Universities and placement organisations are diversifying practice learning opportunities to build capacity for placements in organisations. Also, little is known about how today’s placement opportunities align with the pedagogical intent of social work education. This paper aims to contribute to the discussion about placement diversity and how this aligns with our pedagogical intent. Adopting a case-study approach, the paper reports on the nature and structure of placements undertaken by 76 Deakin University social work students in 2018. The findings suggest that, although the traditional one-to-one placement remains dominant, placements are diversifying, yet not necessarily in line with our pedagogical intent. A more strategic approach is needed if we are to reap the pedagogical gains of practice-based learning.
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