The Cake Model: A Visual Tool to Enhance Deep Learning in Social Work Students on Field Placement


  • Maree Higgins University of New South Wales
  • Mim Fox University of Wollongong


Social work, Field education, Pedagogy, Learning, Work integrated learning


Deep learning in social work field placement involves students applying multiple forms
of knowledge to manage increasingly complex responsibilities in a manner consistent with professional values. Scaffolding of learning over the course of the placement facilitates deep learning by enabling the student to develop new skills by observation, discussion and risk taking supported by formative assessment processes. Regular reflection upon practice with supervisor feedback stimulates the synthesis of knowledge, skills and values and the develop- ment of a unique professional self. The outcome of this process can be likened to cake making, an analogy that offers a stimulating method of analysing and ritualising the placement schedule. At the earliest point, a placement idea is identified and formulated into an offer just as a recipe is chosen and ingredients for the cake gathered. During the selection, commencement and orientation of the student, the individual, team and organisational elements are marshalled in the same way as ingredients and implements are laid out for baking to begin. During the work phase of the placement, students are encouraged to rise to the challenges of professional practice in the same way that one combines and bakes the cake and, once proven, the outcomes of the shared labour are enjoyed in the same way that student growth is recognised and acknowledged by the professional community at the end of a placement. This article presents a model of collaborative decision making through the placement cycle that is founded upon the rich imagery of the cake analogy.

Author Biographies

Maree Higgins, University of New South Wales

Faculty Arts & Social Sciences

Mim Fox, University of Wollongong

School of Health & Society


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