Student isolation: the experience of distance on an international field placement

Mim Fox, University of Wollongong

Fox, M. (2016). Student isolation: the experience of distance on an international field placement. Social Work Education, Online First 1-13.


In an era of global awareness of the impact of social, political and environmental impact, the international field placement has become a feature of many social work programmes throughout Australia. A theoretical framework of international social work principles allows for a guiding platform for teaching and learning; however, the experience of the social work student is often one of cultural isolation and emotional vulnerabilities. Whilst cross-cultural learning is a core practice goal of the placement, the ability to engage with this learning is affected by the impact of distance on the student. In turn, the university responsibility for the student is heightened by the distance involved, creating an increased sense of risk for both the student and the social work educator. This article draws on a mixed-methods study, with data sourced from both questionnaires and in-depth interviews with university field education staff, former social work students, and field educators. Five lenses of distance are explored in the aim of increasing understanding of the student experience: geographical distance, cultural distance, emotional distance, pedagogical distance and technological distance. In doing so, the social work educators' ability to monitor and support remote students is enhanced, and the capacity for the student to engage in a positive teaching and learning environment is increased.


Link to publisher version (DOI)