A student reflects on her experience within a statutory Social Work setting here. And I am warning you now, this post will be a rant, not a reflective, scholarly written piece of prose because I find this abysmal. What is this about? How can employers want quality Social Workers but treat students this way??
There are two modes of reflection as identified by Schon. There is reflection in action, where you are thinking about what you’re doing as you are doing and making adjustments. Then, there is reflection on action where you take the time after an interaction to look at what you did, how you did it, what you could have done better and what you will do next time you’re in a similar position. At least this is the way I understand it.
Now, reflection in action I feel is learned and comes with practice although I am sure there are those students who are able to reflect on their own thoughts and behaviour in the moment. Reflection on action is what should be happening in supervision. Social Workers should be challenged on what they believe. They should be challenged on how their beliefs impact their behaviour. They should be challenged on how they felt their actions assisted their clients and reflected the mission and goals of the organization. Social Workers should be challenged to ensure they are not only doing what is best for the client but also representing the organization. Without these things how do we grow? How do we learn?
I am actually proud of this student. Too many would have given up. But not only did she persevere, she has been able to take away positive lessons from her experience. In addition she has spoken out and recognized that this isn’t the right way to go. I hope she goes on to become a Practice Educator in her own time and be able to pass her learning on to others.
Unfortunately hers is not an unusual occurrence. Students all over are saying they are not given the space and opportunity to reflect and are not learning as much as they would like on their placements. I can’t speak to what is going on in the private sector placements but definitely within statutory this is all too true. I understand with the pressures that Social Care are under on the frontline day to day it can be difficult to guide someone through a process you may not be able to do yourself. However, learning is a two way street. Supervisors/managers should be preparing for supervision sessions. They should make the time to ensure they and their supervisees are getting to most out of sessions. Professional development should not be a tokenistic topic. I question how well the Social Workers in this setting are being supervised if this is the experience of a student. I question the motivation of the practice educator to become a practice educator if they were not going to put in the time and effort needed to effectively guide a student social worker.
Where you have someone who wants to learn and is eager to learn, you have someone who is capable of development and success. It is a slap in the face not to give them the full extent of your knowledge and experience. If you’re not committed to helping someone develop you shouldn’t become a practice educator and if you did this years ago and are now feeling like you can’t be asked or that it is a bother – don’t do it for the money because you are more of a liability than an asset.