Space, Time and Relationships for Professional Growth: The Experiences of External Field Education Supervisors


  • Ines Zuchowski James Cook University


Social work education, Field education, External supervision, Supervisors


Social work field education focuses on preparing students for professional practice. It relies on experienced social workers facilitating the socialisation of social work students into the profession. Generally this socialisation is assumed to take place through an apprenticeship- type model where students are placed to work alongside experienced social workers. How- ever, providing placement opportunities for social work students with social work qualified supervisors on site is becoming more difficult. There is an increase in placements with off- site supervision, where qualified social workers situated outside the placement organisations provide the social work supervision additional to supervision provided internally in the organisations. Previous research has illuminated some of the context of off-site supervision, but little is known about external supervisors’ experience of supporting social work students on placement.

This paper seeks to illuminate the specific experiences, views and concerns shared by external social work supervisors about social work placements with external supervision. The data discussed here are a subset of data derived from PhD research exploring the experiences of key stakeholders involved in placements with external supervision in Australia. External supervisors highlighted the challenges and opportunities posed by external supervision. They discussed the importance of creating space and time for formal supervision with a primary focus on promoting student’s professional growth.
External supervisors foregrounded relationship building and role clarification as important prerequisites of working supervision arrangements.


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