Publication guide: The student experience

Below are some abstracts from publications from the library collection. Please contact us for more information.

Beaumont, E., Chester, P., & Rideout, H. (2017). Navigating Ethical Challenges in Social Media: Social Work Student and Practitioner Perspectives. Australian Social Work, 70(2), 221–228.

The portable, accessible nature of technology affords social workers opportunities to venture outside traditional service contexts by engaging in the virtual realm. This qualitative article uses two small-scale exploratory case studies to investigate the concept of ethical challenges in online peer networking and blogging by a social work student and social work practitioner. The article seeks to address the opportunities for and complexities of navigating technology and social media, while also emphasising the need for social workers to acquire a range of skills and competencies, and use well-established frameworks to engage in ethical online practice.


Gair, S., & Baglow, L. (2018). Australian Social Work Students Balancing Study, Work, and Field Placement: Seeing it Like it Is. Australian Social Work, 71(1), 46–57.

Completing tertiary studies can involve personal and financial sacrifices for some students. Equally, past and more recent research has highlighted financial pressures for students undertaking courses with compulsory field placements, although larger national Australian studies appear to be limited in number. In a recent study, a sample of 2,320 social work students from 29 Australian universities completed an online survey on the impact of low levels of income on students’ lives and study success. Here students’ qualitative responses reveal the burden of compulsory field placement, including significant financial constraints and changes to paid work hours that, in turn, adversely affected students’ wellbeing and jeopardised the completion of their degree. The purpose of this article is to illuminate social work students’ complex study realities in order to help inform future education, policy, and practice.


Graj, E., Sheen, J., Dudley, A., Sutherland, S. W., & McGillivray, J. (2019). Enhancing student competency in risky clinical environments: Evaluating an online education program. Australian Psychologist, 54(1), 68–79.

Trainees across the healthcare sector contend with ubiquitous risk during clinical placement. This has prompted educative action to enhance student competency in unpredictable clinical environments. The objective of this pilot study was to evaluate the impact of Risk Aware, an online blended simulation‐based learning program, upon student preparedness and confidence for clinical placement. A sequential explanatory mixed‐methods design was utilised to evaluate Risk Aware. The Risk Aware program was trialled on 149 first‐year professional psychology postgraduate students across seven Australian universities prior to their first clinical placement. Repeated measures t‐tests investigated the impact of Risk Aware learning modules upon student knowledge and confidence; descriptive statistics and analysis of frequencies summarised student competency following Risk Aware (N = 120). Follow‐up qualitative interviews explored the nature of student knowledge and confidence, and student impressions of Risk Aware (N = 8). Preliminary quantitative findings demonstrated significant increases in student knowledge and confidence (p < 0.05), and low‐to‐average competence, after Risk Aware. Qualitative results corroborated increases in student knowledge and confidence and pointed to early signs of clinical competency. Student impressions of Risk Aware were generally positive and included suggestions to improve program usability. Findings highlight Risk Aware’s capacity to increase students’ ability to identify and detail responses to risks arising during placement. Further field testing to ascertain students’ application of skills is required. Results will inform program modifications to enhance future Risk Aware iterations.


Hill, N., Cleak, H., Egan, R., Ervin, L., & Laughton, J. (2019). Factors That Impact a Social Worker’s Capacity to Supervise a Student. Australian Social Work, 72(2), 152–165.

With sector constraints and higher education economic imperatives increasingly impacting the provision of social work field education, university programs lack an understanding of the factors that enable or prohibit field educators’ capacity to provide placements. Despite the significance of field education in the curriculum, it remains unclear what the experiences and motivations of field educators are to provide universities with student placements. This research addresses this gap through surveying 101 field educators that attended statewide Victorian field education training. Results indicated that although field educators recognised the benefits of supervising students, workload relief, additional training, and further student placement preparation by the university were emphasised as the primary factors that would enable them to respond positively to placement requests. Payments for placements did not necessarily ameliorate these issues nor guarantee the provision of more placements. The implications of these findings for universities and the field are discussed.

  • It is important for social work field educators to provide voice to the factors that enable or inhibit their capacity to provide supervised student placements and participate in research to highlight the benefits and challenges of their role.
  • Workload relief and greater student placement preparation were identified by field educators as the biggest factor that would increase the likelihood they could provide a supervised student placement.
  • The impact of payment for placement arrangements requires further examination.


Jones, L., O’Connor, E., & Boag, H. C. (2018). International Psychology Students Use Multiple Strengths to Enhance Their Learning and Performance on Work Placements. Australian Psychologist, 53(6), 505–516

Despite increasing emphasis on work placements in higher education, there has been limited research into international students’ experiences in undertaking work placements, particularly for psychology postgraduate students. Moreover, much research on international students emphasises the difficulties they experience. We argue a shift to acknowledging and building on the strengths of international students may bring benefits to both students and workplaces. Our project examined the strengths international postgraduate psychology students brought to their work placements, and the benefits of those strengths for both the students and the workplaces. Semi‐structured interviews with eleven international students and six supervisors. Data were analysed using thematic analysis, as part of a qualitative research paradigm. We identified four key strengths international students used to enhance their learning and performance on work placements: intercultural competencies, personal attributes, transition skills, and situation awareness. The use of effective reflection and supervisory practices facilitated the use of these skills. We discuss the implications of our findings for higher education providers using a strengths‐based approach to support international psychology students on work placements. We outline suggested changes to student orientation and professional development for supervisors that higher education providers can make to enhance the training and preparation of both students and their supervisors. Further, we suggest that some of these changes would also improve the experience of domestic students.


Nicholson Perry, K., Donovan, M., Knight, R., & Shires, A. (2017). Addressing Professional Competency Problems in Clinical Psychology Trainees. Australian Psychologist, 52(2), 121–129.

Clinical psychology trainees with problems of professional competence (PPC) continue to be a challenge for courses. Despite the rapid development of competency‐based training models, the impact of this shift to the identification and management of professional competency problems is unclear. This project aims to describe how clinical psychology trainees with PPC are identified and managed within the Australian and New Zealand context. An online survey was distributed through Australian and New Zealand universities offering clinical psychology training programmes. Questions addressed approaches to monitoring progress on placements, identification and management of trainees determined to be underperforming on placements, and the perceived usefulness of a range of strategies such as the use of standardised‐rating tools. Thirty one responses were received, representing 40 clinical psychology training courses in 22 institutions across Australia and New Zealand. In all cases, at least one trainee with a PPC had been detected in the previous 5 years, most commonly attributed to psychological, behavioural, and developmental issues. Respondents reported the use of a range of preventive and remedial strategies, including the use of psychometrically validated competency evaluation rating forms to assist in the grading of placements. Trainees with PPC occur on a fairly regular basis in clinical psychology training courses in Australian and New Zealand. While some processes involved in the identification and management of these students have been refined and systematised, some opportunities to facilitate early identification and remediation may yet need further enhancement.


Ridley, S., Martin, R., & Mahboub, L. (2017). Learning from Mental Health Lived Experience and the Influence on Students’ Practice. Australian Social Work, 70(3), 372–380.

This study explored how learning from mental health lived experience influenced Australian social work students’ practice during their first fieldwork placement. Involvement of mental health consumers in social work education is gaining momentum, yet little is known about how this type of learning informs students’ practice. Ten social work students participated in semi-structured interviews and one focus group. Findings suggest that learning from lived experience promoted social work practice that honoured the expertise of mental health consumers and privileged personal recovery. Factors such as organisational culture and supervisor attitudes were found to mediate the students’ attempts to privilege lived experience


Ross, B., Ta, B., & Grieve, A. (2019). Placement Educators’ Experiences and Perspectives of Supervising International Social Work Students in Australia. Australian Social Work, 72(2), 188–205.

International social work students in Australia have reported difficulties in finding quality placement opportunities and dealing with issues such as language and cultural barriers. While placement issues have been mostly investigated from a student perspective, this study explores the experiences and perspectives of placement educators towards supervising international social work students. It draws on an online survey of 83 placement educators working for an Australian university. The majority of placement educators reported that they supervised international students differently to domestic students. These differences were negatively framed as challenges involving students’ language competence, their understanding of cultural norms, and knowledge of Australian welfare systems. This framing implies that cultural and linguistic differences between international students and placement educators are viewed in terms of student deficiency rather than as a positive opportunity for mutual learning and professional development.

  • Enhancing international social work student supervision practice involves a focus on supervisor interaction with international students and professional training for placement educators.
  • An inclusive approach towards cultural and linguistic diversity in supervising international social work students is needed.


Shires, A., Vrklevski, L., Hyde, J., Bliokas, V., & Simmons, A. (2017). Barriers to Provision of External Clinical Psychology Student Placements. Australian Psychologist, 52(2), 140–148.

With increasing focus on the treatment of mental health problems the need for clinical psychologists is expanding, driving strong demand for postgraduate clinical psychology training programs. Although the number of training places in Australia has increased, the availability of external placements appears to have lagged behind, causing significant challenges to students. Using a survey of clinical psychologists in New South Wales, Australia, and this study evaluated the capacity for placements and explored issues that may impact on field placement capacity. A survey was developed in order to identify potential student placement capacity and factors that may prevent potential supervisors from offering placements to students. The survey was distributed electronically through clinical psychology networks targeting those employed in NSW. One hundred and forty endorsed clinical psychologists completed the survey. Of these, 42% stated they felt unable to offer field placements to students within the next 12 months. The most commonly cited barriers to offering a placement included a lack of time (21%); not being a PsyBA supervisor (18%); being employed part‐time (18%) and the concern that clinical supervision time did not attract funding under the current public health funding model (16%). The study provides an estimate of clinical field placement capacity in NSW. The results suggest that the capacity in the existing clinical psychology workforce could meet clinical field placement demand. The authors discuss reasons why anecdotally, this does not appear to reflect the reality of field placement coordinators and students. The authors provide possible strategies for addressing the issues raised.


Watts, L. (2019). Reflective Practice, Reflexivity, and Critical Reflection in Social Work Education in Australia. Australian Social Work, 72(1), 8–20.

Reflective practice, reflexivity, and critical reflection are now widely accepted as important in contemporary social work practice. Despite this, there remain differences in how the terms are discussed within the literature. This results in confusion in how students are instructed about reflective practice, reflexivity, and critical reflection. This paper presents a proposal for clarifying these concepts based on the results from an interpretive study of reflective practice in social work education and practice in Australia. The study utilised three different methods: autoethnography, an archaeological analytic, and qualitative interviews. It found that reflective practice is understood as a capability, a form of critical thinking, a discipline response to a changing sector, and a way of theorising from practice. Conceptual clarifications of reflective practice, reflexivity, and critical reflection are presented.


Whiteside, M., Bould, E., Tsey, K., Venville, A., Cadet-James, Y., & Morris, M. E. (2017). Promoting Twenty-first-century Student Competencies: A Wellbeing Approach. Australian Social Work, 70(3), 324–336.

In Australia and internationally, universities are preparing students for the twenty-first century through building the competencies fundamental for both social sustainability and wellbeing. However, there is little evidence on how these competencies can be fostered in curricula. This article presents the findings of a mixed-methods pilot of an Aboriginal wellbeing intervention that seeks to build such attributes when integrated into an undergraduate social work curriculum. A questionnaire incorporating the validated Growth and Empowerment Measure, the Australian Unity Personal Wellbeing Index, and open-ended qualitative questions was administrated to 64 first-year social work students before and after the intervention. Significant changes on both measures suggest that the intervention is highly relevant for student wellbeing, particularly for those who rated themselves as below the median at baseline. The qualitative findings highlight the relevance of the program for promoting social competencies that enable people to problem-solve and adapt in a complex world.


Zuchowski, I., Cleak, H., Nickson, A., & Spencer, A. (2019). A National Survey of Australian Social Work Field Education Programs: Innovation with Limited Capacity. Australian Social Work, 72(1), 75–90.

Social work field education programs globally are struggling to meet the demands of providing suitable placements for students and need to consider new and innovative placement models to both meet professional accreditation requirements and deliver high quality field education opportunities for social work students. This article reports on the qualitative responses of a national survey of Australian social work field education programs, which explored current challenges, innovative responses, and recommendations for the Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards (ASWEAS) review, as well as hopes for the future of field education, and their capacity to undertake research into this area. Findings suggested that field education programs have been using incremental innovation in field education, including collaboration, partnerships, and new ways of responding to the changing student body. However, it is argued that radical structural change and additional resources will be needed for innovation to be more than merely incremental.

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