Working with Chinese social work students: Useful concepts and support strategies


  • Jinling Lin The University of Auckland
  • Cherie Appleton The University of Auckland


Chinese students, Social work practice, Field work education, Self-support group


Preparation of students for their first field placement in social work is a complex task and is potentially daunting for students. Chinese social work students raised outside New Zealand face additional challenges. Two key areas of challenge are understanding nuanced social expectations and expressions, and making sense of context.

This article draws on academic and practice knowledge, a recent thesis, and several years of experience working with Chinese students as university field education coordinators to address these challenges. We examine our current understandings and share responses crafted to support Chinese students, especially those newly arrived to New Zealand. We offer a specific strategy that involves setting up a self-support group to assist Chinese social work students to achieve their placement learning goals. By sharing this practice reflection we invite readers to consider the additional learning needs that Chinese students face and encourage further enquiry into opportunities that may be crafted in response.


Cleak, H., Anand, J., & Das, C. (2016). Asking the critical questions: An evaluation of social work students’ experiences in an international placement. British Journal of Social Work, 46(2), 389–408. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcu126

Cleak, H. M., & Wilson, J. (2013). Making the most of field placement. South Melbourne, VIC: Thomson Learning.

Davys, A., & Beddoe, L. (2010). Best practice in professional supervision: A guide for the helping professions. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Domakin, A. (2014). Are we making the most of learning from the practice placement? Social Work Education, 33(6), 718–730.


Edwards, V., & Ran, A. (2009). Building on experience: Meeting the needs of Chinese students in British higher education. In T. Coverdale-Jones & P. Rastall (Eds.), Internationalising the university: The Chinese context (pp. 185–205). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lin, J. (2015). The experience of Mainland Chinese students in pursuing a social work qualification from New Zealand tertiary institutions. (Unpublished master’s thesis), University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Lindsay, T., & Orton, S. (2014). Groupwork practice in social work (3rd ed) London, UK: Learning Matters; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

School of Counselling Human Services and Social Work. (2017). SOCWORK 213: Social work practice skills “Workbook.” Auckland, NZ: University of Auckland.

Social Workers Registration Board. (2016). Code of Conduct. Retrieved from

Social Workers Registration Board. (2016a). Competence Assessment. Retrieved from competence-assessment/core-competence-standards/

Weld, N., & Appleton, C. (2008). Walking in people’s worlds: A practical and philosophical guide to social work: Wellington, NZ: Dunmore Publishing.