Supervisors’ experiences in supervising higher education students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds during work-integrated learning of health and non-health courses

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The growing number of students who are culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) relative to the host university undertaking fieldwork placements raises questions about how to best support their needs and the needs of their fieldwork supervisors so as to maximize the experience for both parties. This research aims to quantify and compare fieldwork supervisors’ perceptions of CALD versus non-CALD students’ performance during placements, the areas and levels of concern they experience in providing this supervision. Placement supervisors from health and non-health courses affiliated with an Australian University were randomly assigned to a survey containing question sets relating to their experiences in supervising CALD (n = 153) or non-CALD students (n = 168). The survey comprised Likert scale questions assessing “pressure points” to supervision and open-ended questions including strategies fieldwork supervisors typically used to assist students. Using univariate ordinal logistic regression analyses, “speaking” (coefficient, 95% CI 2.1 (1.56, 2.65)), “writing” in English (1.69 (1.17, 2.20)), and “adapting to culture of workplaces” (1.20 (0.71, 1.69)) were perceived by placement supervisors as the top “pressure points” in supervising CALD students. Interaction effects demonstrated that “difficulties in assessing CALD students’ competency” (coefficient, 95% CI−1.14 (−2.27, −0.01), “feeling competent in supervising students for placements” (1.35 (0.26, 2.45)), and the “perception of lack of support” from either the university or employing organization (−1.70 (−2.83, − 0.56)) were evident within fieldwork placement of health courses only. These results can assist universities and placement organizations to prioritize resources to address the key areas affecting CALD students’ performance on placements, and to improve supervisors’ experience in supervising CALD students on placements in health courses.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalHigher Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Jun 2020


  • CALD
  • Fieldwork placements
  • Fieldwork supervisors
  • Performance
  • Pressure points
  • Students
  • Work-integrated learning

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