Journal Article

An Unfinished Reflexive Journey: Social Work Students’ Reflection on their Placement Experiences

Ching Man Lam, Hung Wong and Terry Tse Fong Leung

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 37, issue 1, pages 91-105
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online October 2006 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcl320
An Unfinished Reflexive Journey: Social Work Students’ Reflection on their Placement Experiences

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The fieldwork placement is recognized as one of the major components of social work education and a major determinant of its quality. A key aspect of the learning process in the fieldwork placement is the exposition of practice encounters to the students’ critical reflection. Given the importance of the process of ‘reflection’ or ‘reflective learning’, a qualitative study based on the reflective logs of social work students was conducted to explore the meaning of social work field education and the learning experiences of social work students during their placement. The study findings revealed that disturbing events experienced by students in their fieldwork were a catalyst to their reflective process. Meanwhile, their undue concern with knowledge and skills application within a circumscribed knowledge frame suggests the dominant influence of scientism and competence-based practice in social work, in which learning outcomes and instrumental and technical reasoning are highly emphasized. Discovery of ‘self’ was also the major premise in the students’ reflection logs, in which a majority of them took their prevailing self-identity as a constant state to be verified in interaction with others in the fieldwork placement. Reflexivity is manifested in asking fundamental questions about assumptions generated by formal and practice theories; it addresses the multiple interrelations between power and knowledge, and acknowledges the inclusion of self in the process of knowledge creation in social work practice. Its realization in social work education requires the social work educators’ reflexive examination of the dynamics that influence the construction of curriculum, which in turn construct our prospective social workers.

Keywords: social work placement; reflection; reflexivity

Journal Article.  6393 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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