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Support for Supervisors and Organisations

1. Commitment and Expectations

Thank you for your consideration in being a part of our professional experience field education programme. Your interest in supporting the learning and development of social work students is greatly appreciated. As you consider the potential for offering a placement, we have provided some information and guiding questions to support your decision making, alongside key information and resources to support you.

Field education is a key component of the Master of Social Work (Qualifying) and the Bachelor of Social Work with Honours degrees which combine attributes of being, knowing and doing in social work practice.  Placement forms a significant part of the student’s learning experience and provides a unique opportunity for them to:

  • develop social work practice skills by participating in a range of professional activities including service delivery, policy, research and project work in an agency context;
  • learn more about the practice of social work as a change agent;
  • integrate their learning of theory into practice; and
  • learn about workplace communication and team work

The placement process also prepares graduates to be self-initiating, critically reflective, innovative, and to be able to practice across a wide range of issues and situations, and in a diverse range of contexts. These attributes are informed by core values and principles including social justice, human rights, human dignity and equity.

Student commence preparation for Fieldwork placement in Semester 1, and we encourage all students  to consider their personal and professional learning goals ahead of commencing.

Supporting a social work student can be a rewarding experience for you and your organisation. Those rewards include:

  • having an opportunity to reflect on your own critical practice
  • keeping you up to date with the latest theories and approaches in social work
  • a chance for you to develop of other skills, such as teaching and mentoring
  • having additional resources to enable the further development of agency practice
  • experiencing the satisfaction of seeing a student grow
  • a chance to support your profession if you are a social worker
  • an opportunity to serve as a mentor and role model to the next wave of social work practitioners, sharing your learning and supporting your profession

Placements involve students in a variety of social work tasks and roles across both government and community-based services.  Ideally, students will have learning opportunities working directly with clients and their families, for example, case management, assessment, group work, community development, and advocacy, counselling and community education programs. Students are also involved in placements with a project, policy, evaluation or research focus and some placement activities may take place working from home.

It can be helpful for students to have a meaningful project to work on during their placement, for example, developing a database of local referral agencies, reviewing a policy or procedure, undertaking a needs analysis of the local community, planning for and delivering group work activities, organising community events.

Once students are matched, they will make contact with the organisation to arrange a time to meet and have an initial interview with you.  This is a time to get to know one another, assess suitability and confirm any other arrangements needed prior to the placement starting.

Placements are a minimum of 500 hours, 14 weeks full time and 23 weeks part time. The AASW sets the standards for Social Work Education and student placements within the ASWEAS standards (2020).

Students are not able to work more than 8 hours per day (minimum 30 minutes lunch break) and no less than 6 hours per day.  If your agency operates after normal business hours (9-5pm) please advise of this when you make your offer, and we will take this into consideration when matching a student to your organisation, in order to enable availability for this.

Student assessment areas for Fieldwork placement are aligned with the AASW Practice Standards (2013) (PDF 505KB).

The UTAS Field Education staff are happy to discuss your vision for the type of student you would like, and will endeavour to take this into account when matching students to organisations. Some questions to consider might be:

  • If this agency were to take students on placement, what characteristics would you most like the student to have?
  • If this agency were to take students on placement, what characteristics would you least like the student to have?
  • Are there any issues in your agency at the moment that might impact on students, ie staffing, resources, remote working? If so, what implications may this have for you offering placements?
  • Are there staff within the organisation that have the time to provide regular support to a student, guiding them with oversight and mentoring?
  • Would it be better for your agency to have more than one student, in order to enhance project work and support one another?

UTAS requires all students to have a valid National Police Certificate and a Working with Vulnerable People and Children Check (Volunteer) prior to undertaking field placement and you may ask for copies of these for your records.

If you require checks in addition to above, please advise us on your offer of placement, or contact the UTAS Field Education Officer in your region so that we can assist to make arrangements with students before placement commences.

All students undertaking placement are asked to agree and sign that they meet the Functional Requirements for Social Work (PDF 90.4 KB) to undertake Placement.

UTAS strongly believe in supporting students with health conditions to access education and alongside that, Fieldwork placement. FEO’s work closely with students who identify any personal, physical or mental health conditions to further prepare them and ensure a Health Assessment has been completed. Students are encouraged to be open with agencies and supervisors about any additional needs or support they may require for the duration of their placement.

Many of our students are currently working within community organisation, and you may wish to offer an existing staff member a Fieldwork Placement. Requirements for placements in the student’s place of employment (or work-based placements) are detailed in the ASWEAS 2020.

If you would like to look into the option of offering a placement to an existing staff member, please talk this over initially with them to see if it is something they would like to pursue. The student will then contact their FEO who will guide you both through the application and decision making process.

Footnote: Questions for reflection have been adapted from the work of Helen Cleak and Jill Wilson in: Cleak H and Wilson J 2019, Making the most of Field Placement, Cengage Learning Australia Pty. Ltd., p 13 – 17.

2. Key supervisory roles

Fieldwork placement is a collaborative effort between community organisations, UTAS and casual staff that support our program delivery.

The Organisation Supervisor is based in the placement agency and is usually involved directly in programs and tasks that are relevant to social work or human service practice. Their role is crucial to facilitating a positive learning environment to guide students in their everyday activities, debrief and ongoing mentoring over the placement. The Organisation Supervisor will be responsible for arranging project work and tasks for students to undertake during the placement, providing oversight and assisting to maintain focus and motivation.  They have regular contact with students and work closely with the FEO's and UTAS Social Work Supervisors to monitor and review student’s skill development.

When considering the expectations of task management and the supervision requirements outlined above, the following questions are worth reflecting on:

  • Do you have time to spend with a student?
  • Is your organisation able to support student placements and, if so, what sort of tasks and projects would be available for the student?
  • How will you determine the right fit between you, the agency and the student?
  • How confident are you about being in a teaching role?

Key tasks of the Primary Field Educator:

  • Preparation and Orientation - Arrange resources, including space, stationery and computer access needed to participate in learning opportunities, and facilitate or conduct orientation to the agency. This will include policies, procedures, confidentiality requirements, physical layout, WH&S (including fire and personal safety) and COVID-19 Safety plan.
  • Tasks and Activities - Make opportunities available for the student to be involved in social work tasks, interventions and the general functions of the agency; accept responsibility for all tasks and interventions undertaken by the student; and be accountable to the agency for outcomes from this work.
  • Hours - Ensure students complete a minimum of 500 hours of placement time within the normal working hours/days of the organisation.
  • Training - Update their own skills and knowledge by undertaking training and field educator seminars offered by UTAS or others.
  • Contribute to and monitor the student’s progress against their learning plan, and complete the two placement assessment reports (LePARD) in collaboration with the student, and UTAS Social Work Supervisor.
  • Ensure the placement reports are completed, signed and submitted by the student by the due dates.
  • Attend and participate in the Liaison meetings with the student, liaison person and UTAS Social Work Supervisor.
  • Share relevant knowledge and practice wisdom with the student and demonstrate appropriate ethical, personal and professional standards of practice.
  • Ensure that the student’s practice is observed and that students have the opportunity to both observe and to demonstrate their own professional practice.
  • Provide timely feedback to the student, encourage critical reflection on an ongoing basis and support their development of their learning plan.
  • Liaise with UTAS Social Work Supervisor, undertaking joint supervision/meetings where required, to best support the student.

Discuss any concerns that may arise, in a timely manner, with the student and UTAS Social Work Supervisor and contact the liaison person as soon as possible if difficulties or potential impediments to the successful completion of the placement are identified.

The role of the UTAS Social Work Supervisor is key to assisting students to make connections, consolidate theoretical learning and ensure that students develop deep reflective skills whilst undertaking placement. UTAS Social Work Supervisors provide clinical supervision throughout placement to students in both group and individual settings. They provide guidance on students learning plans, assist students to navigate difficult experiences, and provide valuable feedback on their learning and development.

The UTAS Social Work Supervisor is a member of the staff team employed by UTAS and  is responsible for providing the professional social work supervision as required by the AASW Supervision Standards (2014) (PDF 677KB) during the placement, supporting the student in their learning, communicating with organisations and contributing to the assessment of the student against the learning objectives for the placement.

Key tasks for UTAS Social Work Supervisor:

  • Provide professional social work supervision in line with the AASW requirements; assisting the student to link practice to social work theory, values, principles and ethics; and examining practice skills and methods.
  • An initial introduction and regular communication is essential between Organisational Supervisor and students
  • Commit adequate time to provide a minimum of 1.5 hours of formal professional social work supervision for each 35 hours (approximately five days) of placement time as per AASW requirements. In the case of part time 3 day placements, this equates to approximately 1 ¾ hours every fortnight.  This will be a mix of individual and group supervision.
  • Provide timely feedback to the student, encourage critical reflection on an ongoing basis and take an active role in developing and monitoring the student’s Learning Plan.
  • Share relevant knowledge and practice wisdom with the student and demonstrate appropriate ethical, personal and professional standards of practice.
  • Ensure that the student’s practice is observed and that students have the opportunity to observe professional practice.
  • Monitor the student’s progress against their learning plan; participate in liaison visits and complete assessment reports in collaboration with the student and the Organisation Supervisor by the due dates.
  • Discuss any concerns that may arise with the student and the Organisation Supervisor and agree to contact the liaison person as soon as possible if difficulties or potential impediments to the successful completion of the placement are identified.
  • Update their own skills and knowledge by undertaking training in supervision and field education offered by UTAS or others.

The liaison person is appointed by UTAS and is responsible for building a consultative relationship with the student, the Organisation Supervisor and UTAS Social Work Supervisor, providing a bridge between the University and the organisation throughout the placement. Liaison people are responsible for maintaining regular contact and they work collaboratively to clarify educational issues, monitor the progress of the placement, mediate any difficulties and support the students supervisors in the assessment of the student’s progress.

  • monitoring the student’s overall performance, learning opportunities and documentation;
  • making contact with students and organisation early in the placement, conducting liaison meetings and providing follow-up contact;
  • providing supportive educational consultation; assessing that the learning environment provides the student with appropriate opportunities for learning and practice development;
  • ensuring that any problems perceived by either Supervisors and the student are addressed, documenting any performance issues and developing a plan to address them;
  • reviewing and providing feedback to the student about their placement progress and the documentation of this within their Learning Plan and portfolio, including signing off Mid and Final Placement Reports (LePARD);
  • Interaction and liaison with the Field Education Officer to provide feedback and updates.

3. Assessment & Liaison

Students are assessed whilst on placement via the learning plan and reporting document (LePARD), participation in supervision and peer learning sessions, evidence gathered within portfolio and at liaison meetings. The LePARD is a ‘living document’ which students will add to and modify during the placement. It is also the place where supervisors will note their feedback and assessments are progressively recorded.

The learning plan and reporting document (LePARD) sets out the learning objectives, tasks, strategies, evidence and methods of evaluation and is the reference point for the student’s learning throughout the placement. The 5 Learning Objectives used to measure a student’s capability align with the AASW Practice Standards (2013) (PDF 505KB).

Students, UTAS Social Work Supervisor and the Organisation Supervisor will complete two placement assessment reports (within the LePARD known as ‘mid-placement summary’ and ‘final placement report'). These are done via PebblePad, an online cloud-based system that allows input from various people prior to students submitting for assessment. During the placement, liaison meetings by a member of staff from the University will occur.

Field education units have the same status as academic units and are awarded academic credit accordingly. The practicum units are assessed as ‘ungraded pass’ or ‘fail’.

Students are required to keep a portfolio of evidence to document their learning and progress, and could include critical reflections, presentations, case studies, photos, agency flyers and journaling throughout placement. Students are required to regularly show and discuss their portfolio with you and will do so by sharing this via Pebble Pad where it is collated.

4. What supports / training are available?

Prior to placements commencing, UTAS Field Education staff liaise with organisations, offer information and advice, as well as arrange for opportunities to meet, connect and prepare supervisors as they commence their role. We welcome feedback and ideas that you may have, or resources you have found helpful in past supervisory roles. Please do keep in touch and attend information sessions if you are able.

Support Documents

The following are resources to assist you to support social work students.