International psychology students use multiple strengths to enhance their learning and performance on work placements

Liz Jones, Erin O'Connor, Christine Boag-Hodgson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective: Despite increasing emphasis on work placements in higher education, there has been limited research into international students’ experiences in undertaking work placements, particularly for psychology postgraduate students. Moreover, much research on international students emphasises the difficulties they experience. We argue a shift to acknowledging and building on the strengths of international students may bring benefits to both students and workplaces. Our project examined the strengths international postgraduate psychology students brought to their work placements, and the benefits of those strengths for both the students and the workplaces. Method: Semi-structured interviews with eleven international students and six supervisors. Data were analysed using thematic analysis, as part of a qualitative research paradigm. Results: We identified four key strengths international students used to enhance their learning and performance on work placements: intercultural competencies, personal attributes, transition skills, and situation awareness. The use of effective reflection and supervisory practices facilitated the use of these skills. Conclusion: We discuss the implications of our findings for higher education providers using a strengths-based approach to support international psychology students on work placements. We outline suggested changes to student orientation and professional development for supervisors that higher education providers can make to enhance the training and preparation of both students and their supervisors. Further, we suggest that some of these changes would also improve the experience of domestic students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-516
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • international students
  • reflection
  • strengths
  • work placements

Cite this