Learning to Practice: An evaluation of the social work student learning module at Southern Health.
Development of the skill of integrating theory and practice, a vital part of social work students’ education, is facilitated largely by fieldwork supervisors. Monash Health had developed a social work student education module to complement the student learning experience during field placement. The “Learning to Practice” research project evaluated the benefits of this module, with particular attention to potential differences between Bachelor and Masters (Qualifying) students.
A qualitative study was undertaken with two cohorts of students at Monash Health in 2011. Students’ learning needs and goals were explored in pre- and post-placement surveys. Focus groups were also conducted with students, fieldwork supervisors and university liaison staff to provide more detailed insights, and then transcribed and coded thematically for analysis.
Significant themes emerged relating to the support students deem important in the learning process; engagement with their own learning; and reinforcement that exposure to the practical skills and knowledge of clinicians appears to promote links between theory and practice. Differences between Bachelor and Masters students were explored but were not notable. In our current political climate it is timely to evaluate the ways in which we educate and prepare increasing numbers of students for readiness for the health workforce. This research resulted in new insights into providing improved student learning opportunities and proficiencies.