Engagement During Placement

First, some good news! Adequate preparation prior to the placement experience reduces the risk of problems occurring during the placement itself. If you haven’t already, go back and read the BEFORE Placement section of the module to learn more about how you can prepare as a supervisor prior to the student arriving in your workplace.

“How to say it” makes the point that engagement between the workplace and university is necessary during the WPL experience to avert the onset of issues and prevent further deterioration of any problems that do arise. Watch this 12 minute film and consider the following discussion points:

Warning: This film may raise concern for some.

Discussion Points for “How to Say It”:

  • This WPL scenario illustrates a persisting issue in WPL about student diversity, and the importance of considering a student’s special needs, resilience and confidence levels. This is not only a student issue. Organisational culture, the workplace atmosphere and individual practitioners’ attitudes also play an important part in diversity and inclusivity considerations. Even a student’s peers can influence their WPL experiences, as you will witness in this video. The intention of this film is to serve as a reminder that WPL success does not depend on students alone; the WPL community as whole creates the conditions for learning and flourishing.
  • Ideally, watch this video with your colleagues and managers. It has been designed as a discussion starter to trigger your thinking about how to make WPL experiences inclusive.
  • Here are some questions you could discuss with others after having watched the video:
    • Have you supervised a student like Joe?
    • What do you have to say about the interpersonal dynamics between Sarah and Joe?
    • Who contributes to Joe’s increasing discomfort and dwindling confidence levels?
    • Could Michelle, the WPL educator, have done anything better?
    • Did anybody support or advise Michelle? What should be her next step?
    • How would you describe the workplace culture in this scenario?

 



Assessment is one of the hot topics where university and workplaces need to work very closely together. Always contact the university liaison officer should you have queries about assessment. Remember that assessment is a shared responsibility between the university, the student and you/your workplace. Learning how to be effective in your assessor role is time and effort well spent.

Assessment occurs throughout the workplace placement:

  • At the very beginning of a student placement when you assess the student’s ability and what they bring to the placement. This is known as diagnostic assessment.
  • During each task that the student performs you provide them with feedback and ask them to self-assess their performance. This is known as formative assessment.
  • At the very end of the placement when you assess the student’s competence and capabilities. This is known as summative.

 

At each of these assessment stages it is a good idea to check-in with the university and discuss student progress. This way, there will be no surprises about assessment for anyone at the end of a placement. You may also want to consider different ways of providing feedback. For example, you can provide the student with written feedback in addition to oral feedback.


Giving feedback cannot always be rational, objective and neutral. Despite the best intentions and capabilities of both yourself and the student, feedback can become an emotional and subjective experience for both the giver and receiver. You may feel stressed and anxious. Emotional responses may interfere with the quality of feedback provision and reception. Effective feedback depends, in part, on your ability to develop and maintain awareness of both the student’s and your own emotional reactions. Being aware of these emotional reactions may better allow you to manage your responses.

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Feedback is usually most helpful when provided immediately following the behaviour in question using evidence of the behaviour. Having access to multiple sources of feedback is empowering for learners and reduces your need to continuously monitor and provide all feedback. For example, if may be useful if other people in your team or your clients are also able to provide the student with feedback about their performance. Hearing different perspectives on the student’s performance may be useful for both the student and yourself as their supervisor.

Be specific and precise – it is helpful to determine precisely what aspect of a learning task or project you are going to be assessing, what specifically you will be looking for in terms of performance indicators and criteria and examples of the kinds of feedback you should provide. The university should provide you with this information. For example, the university should provide you with an assessment form that may include a marking rubric. If you have any questions about this, be sure to contact your university contact liaison.

It is also important that you stress to the student that feedback concerns behaviour (their performance) and not their personality qualities. Wherever possible, address behaviours such as technical or communication skills that the student can change and particular knowledge areas that the student needs to learn or revise.

It is also important that student understands the feedback that you are providing, the consequences of their behaviour, and any implications for their current status and future prospects. This may involve more than simply asking the student ‘do you understand?’ Spend some time thinking about how else you could gain this information from students.

Provide concrete examples – remember to use concrete, real-life examples that mean something to the student to make your point, rather than using global or generic statements. The more specific the feedback is, the easier it is for the student to adjust their behaviour.

An aim of placement is also for the student to increase their self-assessment skills and habits. Doing so will be beneficial for the student’s lifelong learning and future career in professional practice. Where possible, provide tools and strategies for self-assessment. For example, clarify the student’s understanding of performance descriptors in assessment tools and encourage the student to use these to assess their own performance.

Learn when to step away – if either you or the student becomes emotional, strive for dialogue that is more shared, equal and constructive. Acknowledge that it is normal for students to feel upset. You might suggest a break for both parties to recompose themselves and continue the session when the student is better able to process the feedback.

Take care of yourself – if students or feedback sessions leave you stressed or anxious, seek support from your colleagues or the university contact liaison.

Here is a good practice guide from the University of South Australia that outlines how to provide quality feedback.

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