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Issues » 2017/1 - ERIS Journal - Winter 2017 »

Martyn Higgins

Conflicting and Competing Roles and Expectations: the Conundrum of Failing Social Work Students on Placements


The relatively limited literature on failing students on social work placements tends to focus on the emotional reactions of the participants. The aim of this paper is different because it explores whether it is the student who is failing or whether stakeholders are failing the student by being unclear about expectations of a student on placement. This study examines whether the problem of failing students needs to be recontextualised within a wider framework of roles and expectations of social work. The paper is derived from a wider study into the expectations of participants of the social work degree. The results indicate that interviewees hold contradictory and inconsistent expectations of students, which may contribute to the difficulties encountered by tutors, practice educators, and students when a student is failing. The findings are linked to the wider context of the present reform of social work education and concerns about students’ suitability for professional practice.


failing, students, expectations, practice learning

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