What can a social work student offer to teams?
Leading up to a placement there is a focus drawn towards the learning opportunities each organisation or agency can provide to a student. Which allows students to formulate their own individual learning goals ensuring that the most is made of each placement. However, undertaking a placement is not purely a one sided learning experience, but rather placements provide learning opportunities for both students and field educators. Whereby arguably social workers in the field want to take on students, not only because it is a way to give back to the profession, but also because students bring a fresh and unique perspective to teams. That ultimately allows professionals to continue to expand their own learning.
First and foremost students bring life experience, in social work specifically life experience can be so beneficial when working in teams. However even more than life experience what makes students so invaluable is the fresh perspective they are able to offer to teams. A social work student offers fresh eyes; an unequivocal curiosity, openness to learning and overall pure outlook. By fresh eyes, that doesn’t have to mean naivety! But it can mean that students bring a unique untainted view of the sector which allows them to question practice and why things are done the way they are. Hence coming straight from the lecture theatre, students generally have a grasp on theory and ideally their curiosity around integrating theory in practice will open a dialogue where they can bring a renewed a understanding of current prominent theory and approaches.
Furthermore, this curiosity in conjunction with an openness to learning, provides a space for discussion where students are able to converse about broader issues impacting upon the sector and on a smaller scale the general practices within the organisation and agency to which a student is exposed. Whether that be the way a client referral is processed or the way client information is stored, a general curiosity which leads to questioning hopefully opens up a process of reflection for supervisors, field educators and other professionals to also question and possibly re-evaluate their practice.
Reflecting on my own experience as a student in my first placement, I can only hope that I’ve been able to not only learn as much as I can but also give something back and provide a new unique and ‘fresh’ perspective to the team.