Enablers, markers, and aspects of quality innovative placements across distance: insights from a co-operative inquiry

Publication Name

Social Work Education


Internationally, COVID-19 has forced educational reform and disrupted already strained social work field education systems. This inquiry began pre-pandemic, responding to placement scarcity, which was only exacerbated by the pandemic as agencies migrated to online service delivery and universities responded to sudden placement cancellations. Educators found themselves navigating two interlinked global trends: 1) workplace learning that was changing radically; and 2) the immediate need to identify and develop placement opportunities. This article presents themes from a co-operative inquiry that interrogated four innovative international placement scenarios from Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand, highlighting enablers, markers, and aspects of quality learning. The four exemplars evidence the pedagogical challenges and opportunities presented by placement innovation and online learning. These placements reveal how tensions regarding placement scarcity, rapid placement innovation, and the concurrent need to mitigate risk while preserving placement quality were managed. The authors propose that creativity and innovation guided by well-articulated educational principles, learning outcomes, and pedagogical practices, promote the construction of quality placements that transcend potential risks. The challenge moving forward is upholding contemporary approaches to placement teaching and learning that ensure social work students’ acquisition of professional knowledge, values and skills that are necessary for practice.

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