Learning activities during practice placements: developing professional competence and social work identity of social work students

Katja Kuusisto, Helen Cleak, Audrey Roulston, Riikka Korkiamäki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Downloads (Pure)


Social work is a demanding profession requiring a range of skills, competencies, and knowledge. Students are expected to learn about these practice related issues through immersion in real world experiences during their practice placement. A cross-sectional, retrospective survey was used to explore Finnish social work students’ (N = 95) experiences of learning activities employed by their supervisors during the practice placement, and the usefulness of these activities for developing professional competence and a sense of social work identity. Findings confirmed that students received a wide range of learning opportunities during their placement, but that there was considerable variation in the regularity of learning activities. The most useful learning activities included a collaborative working relationships and activities involving the student and their practice teacher, such as feedback, reflecting on work, feelings and values, observing others, and being assisted to learn new skills. In contrast, providing theoretical perspectives and linking theory to practice were regarded as least useful. Students with a lower overall learning activity score, were less likely to develop an understanding of social work identity during their placement. These results contribute to a growing evidence base, which can inform social work academics and practice teachers about learning activities that need to be offered to promote practice competence and professional identity of students, in preparation for professionally qualifying.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • competence
  • placement
  • practice learning
  • professional identity
  • Social work education

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Learning activities during practice placements: developing professional competence and social work identity of social work students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this