“What Are They Banging On About?”: The Student Experience Of DRUMBEAT As A Field Education Groupwork Activity



Field education, Social work placements, DRUMBEAT, Rural, Service learning


Field education plays a significant role in social work education in Australia. Providing students with a valuable and enjoyable field education placement experience is inherently complex, with multiple players and competing demands. In 2016, the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health (BHUDRH) introduced DRUMBEAT as a student-led groupwork activity for social work service learning placements in far west New South Wales, Australia. This paper outlines findings of a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews and fieldnotes to understand the experiences of social work students facilitating DRUMBEAT and determine its value for continuation as a service-learning field education activity. Students’ lived experiences of facilitating DRUMBEAT were understood in three stages: training, organisation, and delivery of DRUMBEAT and two emergent themes: professional value and personal reward. Students readily identified DRUMBEAT as relevant to their learning journey and future practice. Challenges enabled them to develop a stronger professional identity. Students enjoyed DRUMBEAT and developed self-awareness and confidence through their experience. A valuable placement activity both nourishes students as people and challenges them professionally. The BHUDRH can confidently continue to incorporate DRUMBEAT in its service-learning placements as an experience that has relevance for social work practice while providing a valuable service within host organisations. 

Author Biographies

Nicky Wright, The University of Sydney

Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health (BHUDRH), The University of Sydney

Aimee Smith , University of Sydney

Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health (BHUDRH), The University of Sydney

Emily Saurman, University of Sydney

Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health (BHUDRH), The University of Sydney


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