Italian and English Practice Educators’ Experiences of Working with Struggling or Failing Students in Practice Placements

Authored by: Jo Finch , Alberto Poletti

Routledge International Handbook of Social Work Education

Print publication date:  April  2016
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138890237
eBook ISBN: 9781315712536
Adobe ISBN: 9781317495239


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Our attention was first drawn to the importance of robust assessment of social work students much earlier in our career when, as practising social workers in England and Italy, we encountered practitioners whose professional conduct caused us concern. Then, as we became what is known in England as practice educators, in Italy as ‘supervisori di tirocinio’, and elsewhere as field instructors, we experienced at first hand the complexities and challenges inherent in assessing students who were struggling with practice in their (field) placements (also known as the ‘practicum’). Now employed in university settings as academic tutors, our focus has shifted. Our role is to liaise between the university and placement supervisors, to ensure that due process occurs in practice assessment, that university policies are followed, that students’ rights are upheld and that emotional support is offered to both students and practice educators if there is any conflict or difference of view on the students’ competence. There is also a further dimension: namely, our responsibilities and duties towards service users, to ensure they are not subject to harm caused by an incompetent practitioner who has inappropriately passed their placement.

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