1. Commitment and Expectations
Thank you for your consideration in being a part of our professional experience field education programme. Your interest in hosting and supporting the learning and development of social work students through a placement experience is greatly appreciated. As you consider the potential for offering a professional experience field 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, participating in seminars and meeting with Field Education Officers (FEO) to ensure they are aware of commitments and expectations.
Hosting a social work student can be a rewarding experience for field placement educators and their agencies. 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 supervising
- 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. 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.
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, the number of weeks depending on the year of study and whether the placement is full or part time. Please refer to our Key Dates 2019 (PDF 90KB) for full details. The AASW sets the standards for Social Work Education and student placements within the ASWEAS guidelines (2012).
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. These hours must be completed within the normal working hours / days of the organisation hosting the placement. 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.
Students are expected to keep a log of their placement hours, please see more detailed information at Hours on Whilst on Placement. 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 and host agencies. Some questions to consider might be:
- If this agency were to take a student on placement, what characteristics would you most like the student to have?
- If this agency were to take a student 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 a student, ie staffing, resources? If so, what implications may this have for your choice of student?
- Are there staff within the organisation that have the time to provide support to a student, either on a task basis or provide social work supervision requirements?
- Would it be better for your agency to have more than one student, in order to enhance project work and support one another?
- Are there any risks for you or your team in having a student on placement at this time? If so, what implications may this have for your choice of student?
UTAS requires all students to have a complete Schedule 1 National Police Certificate (non-annulled record) and a Working with Vulnerable People and Children Check (Volunteer) prior to undertaking each field placement. The students must present their Police Check Certificate and Working with Vulnerable People and Children card to the primary field educator at the pre-placement interview. Student complete all compliance tasks in Semester 1 prior to commencing placement.
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 170KB) 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 AASW Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards (2012), in particular the Guideline 1.2: Guidance on field education programs (PDF 217KB).
In order to provide a breadth of experience and to prevent conflicts of interest between employment and education roles, field education placements will be undertaken in a different context, organisation and field of practice to the student’s place of employment.
The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) sets other minimum standards for field placements, including that:
Students must undertake field placements in at least two different fields of practice and organisations, with different clients groups, using different methods of social work practice and with a different field educator for each placement.
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 primary field educator 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. They take primary responsibility for overseeing the placement, providing task supervision on (at least) a weekly basis, coordinating the assessment and ensuring that each student receives professional supervision. The primary field educator may or may not be a qualified social worker. If they are a social worker, they will be responsible for providing supervision in line with AASW Supervision Standards (2014) (PDF 677KB) for students on placement:
- 1.5 hours for every 35 hours of placement, half of which must be one-to-one supervision at minimum),
- eligible for full membership of the AASW,
- have a minimum of two years’ full-time practice experience, (or its part-time equivalent).
If the primary field educator does not meet the above requirements, and there is not a qualified SW within their organisation or professional networks that can undertake this, UTAS will allocate an external social work supervisor (see Role of external supervisor section below) to ensure supervision requirements are met.
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 a student placement and, if so, what sort of tasks and projects would be available for the student?
- What support will you have supervising 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.
- 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. This includes regularly reviewing and signing the student’s ‘log book’ of hours.
- 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 external field educator (social work), if applicable.
- Ensure the placement reports are completed, signed and submitted by the student by the due dates (
- Attend and participate in the two Liaison Visit meetings with the student, liaison person and external field educator (social work), if applicable.
- 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 take an active role in developing and monitoring the student’s learning plan
- Commit adequate time to each student on placement, including ensuring a minimum of 1.5 hours of formal professional social work supervision (provided by a qualified social worker with 2 years full-time experience) for each 35 hours (approximately five days) of placement time as per AASW requirements. In the case of part time placements, this equates to approximately 1 hour per week for a 4 day placement and 1 ¾ hours every fortnight for a 3 day placement.
- Liaise with external supervisor, where required, undertaking joint supervision/meetings to best support the student.
Discuss any concerns that may arise, in a timely manner, with the student and external field educator (social work), if applicable, 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 external field educator (social work) is crucial to the placement of students undertaking placement in an agency where the Primary Field Educator is not a qualified social worker, or is a social worker but does not yet meet the AASW requirements for providing student supervision in field education. The external field educator (social work) is responsible for providing professional social work supervision (as required by the AASW Supervision Standards (2014) (PDF 677KB) during the placement, supporting the student to reflect on their learning, communicating and engaging with the Primary Field Educator to monitor the students progress, and contributing to the assessment of the student against the learning objectives for the placement.
- 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 set-up meeting and regular communication is essential between field educators and students where there is external supervision being provided.
- 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 placements, this equates to approximately 1 hour per week for a 4 day placement and 1 ¾ hours every fortnight for a 3 day placement.
- 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 2 liaison visits and complete assessment reports in collaboration with the student and the Primary Field Educator by the due dates
- Discuss any concerns that may arise with the student and the Primary Field Educator 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 and the field educator, providing a bridge between the University and the agency throughout the placement process. Liaison people are responsible for maintaining regular contact with the student and the field educator. The liaison person works collaboratively to clarify educational issues, monitor the progress of the placement, mediate any difficulties and support the field educator in the assessment of the student’s progress.
Where possible, students will meet liaison people at the field education preparation workshops prior to placement.
- monitoring the student’s overall performance, learning opportunities and documentation;
- making contact with students and field educators early in the placement, conducting on-site visits 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;
- reviewing the Mid-placement Summary and using this as the basis for the second on-site visit;
- ensuring that any problems perceived by either the field educator or 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 including their Learning Plan and Final Placement Report (LePARD);
- Regular interaction and liaison with the Field Education Officer to provide feedback and updates
3. Assessment & Liaison visits
Students are assessed whilst on placement via the learning plan and reporting document (LePARD) and the two liaison visits by a University staff member. 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 and their Primary Field Educator, and External Supervisor (where applicable) 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, there are 2 scheduled liaison visits, where a member of staff from the University will visit students in their placement agency. Students will be allocated a liaison person prior to placement commencing who will be the key contact for any issues arising or questions.
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 during supervision, the liaison visit, and in the preparation of the mid placement summary and final report.
Logs will be kept by the student for placement hours, supervision and peer group sessions, and shown to supervisors and liaison staff during liaison visits.
4. What supports / training are available?
Prior to placements commencing, UTAS Field Education staff liaise with agencies, offer information and advice, and deliver workshops on field work essentials to prepare and support field educators in 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 training sessions if you are able.
During the placement period, in addition to UTAS Field Education staff being available, there are Liaison staff allocated to each placement to support students and field educators. There are two formal meetings with the Liaison person during the placement, focussing on the student’s learning plan. The Liaison Person is also available to contact with any issues arising in the placement.
The following are resources to assist you to support a social work student/s. Field Education Officers also run face to face and online training and information sessions prior to matching you to a student. Details are sent once an offer of placement is received.
How to Grow a Social Worker
UNSW - How to grow a social worker (PDF 1.4MB)
The UTAS Field Education team would like to acknowledge the generosity of the UNSW School of Social Work in sharing their guide 'How to Grow a Social Worker - a comprehensive guide to student supervision'.
- Key Dates 2019 (PDF 90KB)
- Cleak and Wilson, Getting started - Supervisors (PDF 830.6KB)
- Cleak and Wilson, Chapter 7 - A good supervisory practice (PDF 1.4MB)
- Learning styles (PDF 37.0KB)
- Revisiting the knowledge base of Social Work (Trevithink, Pamela) (PDF 257.9KB)
- CSU Guide - Social Work Field Education (5.5MB)
- Reflective Learning Model (PDF 139KB)
- AASW Practice Standards for Social Workers 2013 (PDF 505KB)
- AASW Code of Ethics 2010 (PDF 510KB)
- AASW - Questions about Social Work (PDF 939KB)
- Providing Supervision for Social Work Students (PDF 429.6KB)
- Thinking about supervision (Word 35.8KB)
- Sample Individual Supervision Contract (Word 57.9KB)
- Sample Student Supervision Agenda Minutes Template (Word 63.5KB)
- Sample Supervision Log (Word 69.5KB)
- Structuring Supervision Using Solution Focused Questions (Word 38.1KB)