Transitioning to meeting the professional development needs of supervisors of international social work students in Australia

Averil Marie Grieve, Belinda Britt Ross

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


With a continuous rise in the number of international students studying social work in Australia, research indicates student and supervisor dissatisfaction with the placement experience. Supervisors are often unwilling to take on students from non-English speaking backgrounds and students find it difficult to transition to Australian workplace settings. This calls for attention to the ways in which supervisors and international students can be supported during placement. Research to-date has focused mainly on student needs, not on those of supervisors.

This research identifies the professional development experiences and training needs of supervisors of international social work students.

An online anonymous survey was distributed to 370 individuals who have supervised Monash University Master of Social Work (Qualifying) students. Of the 123 responses, 83 had supervised international students and were asked about their experiences and their self-identified training needs.

The majority of respondents indicated they supervised international students differently to local students. However, only 25% had been trained to work with international students and an overwhelming 92% indicated such training should be offered to all supervisors.

Social work supervisors face many challenges in the transition to working with international students, particularly in terms of linguistic and cultural differences. Structured professional development programmes could equip them with tools to address these challenges and enrich the placement experience.

There is a need and desire for training that specifically focuses on working with students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, with supervisors identifying interaction and knowledge of service systems as key challenges.


  • field education
  • transcultural teaching

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