An examination of student and provider perceptions of voluntary sector social work placements in Northern Ireland

Denise Mac Dermott, Ann Campbell

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12 Citations (Scopus)
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Practice based learning in Northern Ireland is a core element of socialwork education and comprising 50% of the degree programme forundergraduate and postgraduate students. This article presentsevidence about the perceptions of practice learning from voluntarysector/non-government organisation (NGO) placement providers andfinal year social work students on social work degree programmesin Northern Ireland in 2011. It draws on data from 121 respondentsfrom189 final year students and focus group interviews with voluntarysector providers offering 16% (85) of the total placements available tostudents. The agencies who participated in the research study providea total of 55 PLOs to social work students, and are therefore fairlyrepresentative in terms of voluntary sector (NGO) provision. The articlelocates these data in the context of practice learning pedagogy andthe changes introduced by the Regional Strategy for Practice LearningProvision in Northern Ireland 2010–2015. Several themes emergedincluding; induction, support and guidance, practice educator/student relationship, professional identity and confidence in riskassessment and decision-making. Social work educators, placementproviders and employers must be cognisant of newly qualified socialworkers’ needs in terms of consolidating knowledge within theformative stages of their professional development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-49
JournalJournal of Social Work Education
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Sept 2015


  • Practice placement
  • social work education
  • practice learning
  • voluntary sector social work placements
  • field education


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