Exploring Formal Supervision in Social Work Field Education: Issues and Challenges for Students and Supervisors


  • Melissa Loos Westmead/Auburn Hospitals
  • Tina Kostecki The University of Sydney


Social work field education, Student supervision


This article describes a qualitative study examining processes and issues for social work field education supervisors and social work students engaging in formal supervision. The study is a collaborative partnership between two major hospitals in Western Sydney and The University of Sydney.

Collaboration between social work field supervisors and universities as field education partners is important in the provision of placement experiences for social work students and for supporting field educators in provision of quality learning experiences. Field supervision is a key feature of social work placements and forms a compulsory component of all accredited social work degree programs in Australia. Effective supervision assists students to draw links between theory and practice, to develop critical reflection skills, to understand the complexity of ethical practice and to promote professional growth and identity.

The findings provide some insight into both students’ and supervisors’ experiences of super- vision. It is anticipated that the results will assist social work and university field educators to better prepare both supervisors in the field as well as students in social work practice learning.


Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). (2010). Code of ethics. Canberra, ACT: Author

Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). (2013). Practice standards, Canberra, ACT: Author.

Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). (2014). Supervision standards. Canberra, ACT: Author.

Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards (ASWEAS). (2012). Canberra, ACT: Author.

Beddoe, L., & Egan, R. (2013). Social work supervision. In M. Connolly & L. Harms (Eds.), Social work: Contexts and practice

(pp. 371–382). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Beddoe, L. (2015). Social work supervision for changing contexts. In L. Beddoe & J. Maidment (Eds.), Supervision in social work: Contemporary issues (pp. 82–95). London, UK: Routledge.

Beddoe L., & Maidment, J. (Eds.). (2015). Supervision in social work: Contemporary issues. London, UK: Routledge.

Bogo, M. (2015). Field education for clinical social work practice: Best practices and contemporary challenges. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43(3), 317–324.

Bogo, M., Regehr, C., Power, R., & Regehr, G. (2007). When values collide: Field instructors experiences of providing feedback and evaluating competence. The Clinical Supervisor, 26(1/2), 99–117.

Cleak, H., & Smith, D. (2012). Student satisfaction with models of field placement supervision. Australian Social Work, 65(2), 243–258.

Cleak, H., & Wilson, J. (2013). Making the most of field placements (3rd ed.)., Melbourne, VIC: Cengage Learning Australia. Connolly, M., & Harms, L. (Eds.). (2013).

Social work: Contexts and practice. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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

Doel, M. (2010). Social work placements: A traveler’s guide. New York, NY: Routledge.

Fierro, M. A. (2000). Does training make a difference? Coaching social work students in how to utilize field supervision effectively. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.

Fook, J. (2012). Social work: A critical approach to practice. London, UK: Sage.

Fook, J., & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising critical reflection: A resource handbook. London, UK: Open University Press/McGraw Hill.

Hawkins, P., Shohet, R., Ryde, J., & Wilmot, J. (2012). Supervision in the helping professions. UK: McGraw-Hill Education.

Hosken, N., Ervin, L., & Laughton, J. (2016). Professional practice standards and critical practices: Addressing the tensions in social work field education settings. In B.

Pease, S. Goldingay, N. Hosken, & S. Nipperess (Eds.), Doing critical social work: Transformative practices for social justice (pp. 176–191). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Jarman-Rohde, L., McFall, J., Kolar, P. and Strom, G., 1997. The changing context of social work practice: Implications and recommendations for social work educators. Journal of Social Work Education, 33(1), pp.29-46.

LeGeros, M., & Savage Borne, J. (2012). Building bridges: Training social work students in domestic violence work. Field Educator, 2(2), 1–16.

Maidment, J. (2015). Using visual cues to develop a practice framework in student supervision. In L. Beddoe & J. Maidment (Eds.), Supervision in social work: Contemporary issues (pp. 96–109). London, UK: Routledge.

McKee, E., Muskat, T., & Perlman, I. (2015). Students today, educators tomorrow: Shaping the social work curriculum to enhance field education. Field Educator, 5(2), 1–6.

Moorhouse, L., Hay, K., & O’Donoghue, K. (2014). Listening to student experiences of supervision. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 26(4), 37–52.

Morley, C., & Dunstan, J. (2013). Critical reflection: A response to neoliberal challenges to field education? Social Work Education, 32(2), 141–156.

Noble, C. (2011). Field education: Supervision, curricula and teaching methods. In C. Noble & M. Henrickson (Eds.), Social work field education and supervision across Asia Pacific (pp. 3–22). Sydney, NSW: University Press.

Noble, C. (2016). Towards a critical social work supervision. In B. Pease, S. Goldingay, N. Hosken, & S. Nipperess (Eds.), Doing critical social work: Transformative practices for social justice (39–51). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Noble C., & Henrickson, M. (Eds.). (2011). Social work field education and supervision across Asia Pacific. Sydney, NSW: Sydney University Press.

Rosenfield, L. (2012). Web-based supervisor training: Real relationships in cyberspace. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 82, 216–229.

Tham, P. and Lynch, D., 2014. Prepared for practice? Graduating social work students’ reflections on their education, competence and skills. Social Work Education, 33(6), pp.704-717.

Sussman, T., Bailey, S., Richardson, K. B., & Granner, F. (2014). How field instructors judge BSW student readiness for entry- level practice. Social Work Journal of Education, 50, 80–100.

Zendell, A. L., Fortune, A. E., Mertz, L. K., & Koelewyn, N. (2007). University–community partnerships in gerontological social work: Building consensus around student learning. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 50(1/2), 155–172.




Similar Articles

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.