Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Swapping roles or swapping desks?: when experienced practitioners become students on placement

Keywords: practice learning, prior experience

Authors: Associate Professor Beth Crisp (Health and Social Development, Deakin University); Dr Jane Maidment (Health and Social Development, Deakin University)

The social work education literature on the preparation of students for their first practice learning placement, and the support needs of such students once in placement, tends to include implicit assumptions that the students being placed are novice practitioners, with little experience of working in social welfare agencies. While there are some students for whom these assumptions are undoubtedly correct, another common phenomenon is that practice experience often leads to practitioners enrolling in professional degrees to qualify as a social worker. As credit for prior work experience in social welfare settings is not currently allowed for Australian social work students, we routinely work with aggrieved students who believe they should be exempted from placements, some of whom subsequently find the transition from experienced practitioner to student on placement somewhat difficult. This paper reports on a study which sought to explore the specific needs of experienced practitioners who become social work students on practice learning placements, with the aim of developing procedural recommendations for the placement and support of such students in the future. One of our findings was that several of the students continued to identify as practitioners, albeit in a different agency or program from their normal place of employment, rather than take on the student identity. The implications of this for the development of practice learning opportunities for students who are experienced practitioners will be discussed.

This paper is aimed at all stakeholders in the practice learning process. While the specific research presented originates in social work, the issue of adults with substantial experience in the workforce obtaining professional qualifications in their field also applies in some other fields of practice.

Date: Wednesday 23 January 2008, 3.30-4.00

Venue: Carrick Three

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).