International Students Engaged in Australian Social Work Study: An Exploratory Study
Keywords:International students, Social work students, Social work education, Diversity, Research methods, Strength-based practice.
With existing literature reflecting a problem-oriented view of international students in highly populated disciplines of study, this small study explored how students achieve and progress throughout their studies, specifically in social work. A small sample of six international students studying a postgraduate qualifying social work program in Australia participated in semistructured interviews. For all participants, initial challenges improved over time, yet this process varied due to intersecting individual and environmental influences. The social work education setting both aided and hindered engagement due to several factors, including: critical reflection tasks; group participation; field education; institutional policy; and a western-based value system/teaching style. These outcomes highlight the need for consideration of the culturally informed assumptions that influence how social work is taught in contexts where diversity is encouraged. Further research is needed to examine the post-study outcomes for international social work students, to explore how well education prepares them for the field. When conducting research, it is proposed that methods should be selected to capture international student agency when negotiating study over time. This can help to more accurately reflect the variations among international students and inform an Australian social work education setting which values diversity among its students and future practitioners.
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