University of Tasmania

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Relationship-based practice: promoting the importance of human relationships

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 18:24 authored by Cleak, H, O'Connor, E, Roulston, A, Anthea Vreugdenhil
Previous research suggests that the supervisory relationship between the social work student and their practice teacher is crucial to learning, and that a negative working relationship may block the learning cycle on placement. On receipt of ethical approval, a cross sectional survey was distributed to 124 MSW and BSW social work students from two Irish Universities. The aims of this research were to identify the learning activities that social work students found ‘most useful’ in developing their competence and readiness for practice which builds on work previously undertaken in the UK and Australia. Based on a thematic analysis of qualitative responses derived from open-ended questions, five main themes emerged: the importance of a positive supervisory relationship between the student and practice teacher/supervisor; the ability of the practice teacher to actively teach and to provide regular opportunities for students to shadow their practice and that of other social workers; the opportunity for students to reflect on and deconstruct their learning experiences; the importance of socialisation into the agency and the profession; and ongoing positive links with the University. Negative aspects of the practice learning included practice teachers being rigid in their expectations and constraining students’ ability to work more autonomously. The potential for a relationship-based approach to practice teaching and learning is explored. The need for continuing professional development for practice teachers is indicated to support positive utilization of the supervisory relationship to foster students’ emerging professional identity and competence.


Publication title

SWSD 2018 Abstract Book, Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development 2018




School of Social Sciences


SWSD 2018

Place of publication


Event title

Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development (SWSD) 2018

Event Venue

Dublin, Ireland

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other education and training not elsewhere classified

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