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- My placement experience: highlights and reflections
13 October 2021 by Kimberley
I have now completed my 12-month placement experience as part of the uplands research team at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. In that time, I have worked with some amazing people, had lots of practical fieldwork experience and spent a year living in what must be one of the most beautiful areas of the country (around Barnard Castle, Northumberland). As I start my final year at university, I am only beginning to appreciate how much I have gained from the past year.
Hands on placement experience
Undoubtedly one of the most valuable aspects of the placement has been the practical experience. I have done everything from fieldwork to GIS mapping, these are skills I will take with me into final year and beyond. The responsibility I have for my own project taught me so much about time management and the research process. I began by writing a project proposal and finishing with a presentation of my results to staff at the GWCT. Doing this, I realised how much I enjoy science and has made me keen to explore a career in research.
Work through the seasons
As a field-based position, my work was very seasonal. I had not realised how much of a difference it would make to my enjoyment of the placement. At the start of my placement until November, I was in the lab or the office. Most of this time was spent on a single GIS mapping task that was quite repetitive. I struggled with this to begin with, especially with having confidence in my work and decision making. However, by persevering and eventually getting all the data, I was able to discover different and better ways to approach such tasks.
Spring and summer brought their own challenges, with lots of fieldwork occurring at the same time. The work means coordination is key, to ensure everyone can access the vehicles they needed. With every month came new challenges and opportunities to learn and making the most of these. This is what really enhances the placement experience.
Part of the team
Working in the research team was a fantastic experience. I enjoyed discussing my ideas with research staff and it really boosted my confidence. Especially when I was asked for my opinion or a suggestion of mine was used in their work. I am really proud of how I have become more comfortable with asking questions or suggesting things. Team meetings became something to look forward. An opportunity to discuss ideas and learn about the other work, rather than a stressful situation. Working with people with a range of knowledge and experiences was also really interesting. They gave me a lot of information and advice. This is helpful for gaining a deeper understanding of the work and thinking about potential career paths.
There were issues surrounding staff reductions due to COVID-19 and organisational politics impacted some aspects of the work. As a student I was unaffected and able to gain an insight into some of the nuances of working for an organisation like the GWCT.
Final reflections on my placement experience
Three years ago, I set myself the goal of doing a year in industry at the beginning of university. I am proud to say I have completed my placement. I have achieved what I set out to – increasing my confidence and gaining experience within a conservation organisation. However, the whole experience has been so much more than I expected. I have designed and carried out my own project and have contributed to ongoing, long-term research. I have also been able to spend time exploring and volunteering in an amazing part of the country. Doing a year in industry has been the highlight of my time at university so far, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.
Read more blogs about why our students chose York .
I am a third year biology student and am currently on placement with The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. Within biology, I am most interested in conservation, ecology and evolution whilst outside of biology I spend my time playing hockey and volunteering for various organisations and events.
3 November 2021 at 9.23 am
Your experience has provided me with a lot insight into the highs and lows experienced during placement. Thank you for sharing your story Kimberly.
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A reflection of my overall experience of the work placement
In this essay I will give an overview of my experience of the work placement mentioning how I managed to obtain the specific learning outcomes of the module. For me, this placement was mainly about getting vital legal work experience, which I could list on my curriculum vitae (CV) and which would thus help me to gain access into the legal profession. Having read several articles, I realised that recruiters at City firms have recently complained that the ‘quality of applicants has not been as good this year as previously…they had weak career motivation.’ Tromans also stated that because so many students had done extremely well in qualifications, firms are looking for new criteria to pick trainees. I have learnt that along with an impressive academic record, firms are seeking students who can demonstrate that they have chosen this career path for a reason. At this point I realised that legal work experience is a significant factor that is taken into account when deciding applicants and will prove the necessary determination and motivation required. Therefore, this placement has boosted my CV in the form of adding to my list of various legal work experiences, which will boost my employability and hopefully enhance my chances of securing a training contract in the near future.
In addition to boosting my CV, I also believe that this placement has helped me to decide whether I would be good enough and whether I would enjoy the role of a solicitor in that type of a legal environment. During the placement I always took time out to observe fellow colleagues in their roles and gained a good idea of what their daily tasks consisted of. I noticed that on many occasions they became stressed out with clients or with solicitors from other firms they had been dealing with. They also had to work punishing and tiring hours often with little breaks. This aspect of life as a solicitor is obviously a drawback but if I am to become a successful solicitor I will have to learn to cope with the pressure and stress as it will be an integral part of my work.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Recording my daily experiences in the form of a diary proved very useful to me. A weakness of mine is that I have a bad long term memory so at the end of each working day, using my organisational skills, I wrote down my personal experience at work in order to combat this weakness, which also enabled me to write my portfolio fluently without the fear of forgetting to include important events whilst they were fresh in my mind. I also learnt that effective diary keeping will help me manage my time as I will be ‘responsible for organising most of my study time which can be challenging when there are other commitments at work, family, and friends to fit in.’
On several occasions I had to apply skills developed during my study of LSP2 in order to tackle an obstacle and in order to complete a task. One occasion in particular that comes to mind is when I sought to broaden my legal research skills in obtaining information regarding access on a bridle path. On this occasion my negotiation, communication and IT skills were called upon in order to solve the problem and obtain further advice from a reluctant and stubborn operator.
I was able to demonstrate good research skills through using many different sources to acquire information. In order to complete my various tasks I visited the Law Society Library as well as seeking information from textbooks and Internet websites. These research skills will prove useful when I am a trainee solicitor and I am required to search for information. From these experiences, I have realised that I have a “preference for the ‘Reflector Style’ of learning” in that I am able to carry out some painstaking research, as I did in the Law Society Library; am able to stand back from events and listen/observe, such as when I attended the meeting at Slaughter and May. I believe it is this style that I am most suited and learn best from such activities, which I have demonstrated during my work experience.
I was also required to demonstrate my oral communication skills when I was asked to give my views on the war on Iraq in front of a group, which is a skill I am not particularly confident at, as identified in my swot analysis. Although, at first I was intimidated and uncomfortable about discussing this issue, I believe that I benefited out of it through improving my self-confidence. From this experience I have learnt to be more confident and less shy in situations like these as it is a vital skill to possess for future success.
It is important to mention that I was able to practice the art of networking during my placement. From being sociable, polite and hardworking I was able to build useful contacts and gain a summer placement. My employer, who expressed his sincere gratitude for all my hard work, offered me a summer placement, which I kindly accepted.
Working at this firm was very demanding and as a result I was required to put my time management skills to good use in order to allocate sufficient time for my other university commitments. My weekly tasks took up a lot of my time and therefore I had to plan my time effectively in order to balance my university schedule so that my other subjects did not suffer as a result.
Through frequently reading case judgments, textbooks and articles, I noticed that my vocabulary slightly improved as a result, which I had aimed to achieve as identified in my key skills self assessment. Through my continual reading around this subject I also improved my understanding of various legal concepts in civil litigation, such as personal injury and copyright law and will ultimately benefit from this knowledge gained if I decide to specialise in this area of law. Therefore, I was able to enhance the quality of my academic knowledge, learning, and the application of that learning to the workplace.
Having provided a detailed analysis of my personal experience at the firm and researched various areas of experiential learning, I have become aware that ‘learning is supposed to occur by reflecting on experience.’ Moon states that ‘experiential learning refers to the organizing and construction of learning from observations that have been made in some practical situation, with the implication that the learning can then lead to improved action.’ With regard to my experience at the firm, I believe that I have developed and gained vital skills required in the future. I feel I have learnt from my mistakes, for example I felt the need to improve my time management skills when I failed to complete the research task given to me in the Law Society Library first time round, which I was able to correct next time. This clearly demonstrates the need to learn from past experiences.
Throughout my research and further reading on the topic of reflection in experiential learning, I came across a theory stating that ‘learning leads to the action that is, in effect, experimentation, which leads to more experience of reflection.’ This is expressed in Kolb’s cycle of experiential learning in which a learner changes from actor to observer ensuring that the learner does progress in their learning. In light of this theory, I believe that this is a correct approach to adopt in that students/learners must learn from their past experiences and aim to develop their skills for future situations. This is an approach I believe I adopted throughout my work experience.
Donald Schön makes reference to two main processes of reflection in professional practice – reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. His views suggest that ‘reflection-in-action occurs in situations where the action yields unexpected consequences whereas reflection-on-action is the form of reflection that occurs after action.’ I believe that my learning experience involved both these processes, in that I was able to look back in a critical way at what had occurred and ‘use the results to tackle new situations,’ as I did when I successfully completed the Law Society Library research second time round.
In the end I believe that I benefited tremendously from this work placement and I have my employer to thank for providing me with this opportunity. During my time with the firm, I developed a greater understanding in relation to civil litigation and put into practice key legal and work related skills, such as negotiating and interpersonal skills, respectively. I have also concluded that ‘self awareness is an essential part of interaction skills in that one has to be aware of one’s own prejudices, fears, wishes and starting points to see how they affect the interaction.’ I also enhanced my employability by developing both my “key” skills such as ‘communication, numeracy, the use of information technology and learning how to learn,’ and my “soft skills” such as self-motivation, initiative, creative problem analysis and willingness to learn. I will now be able to list these experiences on my CV and future job applications.
Tromans, R, “Tools of the trade,” Legal Week, Spring 2004, p. 5
Cottrell, S, ‘The Study Skills Handbook,’ Palgrave Study Guides, 2 nd Edition, p. 74
113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL
Honey, P and Mumford, A, ‘Using your Learning Styles’, 2 nd Edition, 1986, p. 12
Moon, J.A, ‘Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice,’ Kogan Page, 1999, p. 21
ibid n. 5
ibid n.5 p. 45
ibid n. 5 p. 59
Pohjonen, S and Lindblom – Ylänne, S, “Challenges for teaching interaction skills for law students,” The Law Teacher, vol. 36, 2002, p. 295
Bell, J, “Key Skills in the Law Curriculum and Self Assessment,” The Law Teacher, vol. 34, 2000,
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- Subject Education and Teaching
Work Experience Report.
Is work experience of value?
Work Experience at Warwickshire County Music Services.
Learning and Teaching Mathematics - Assessment - Diary of Reflection.
How to Write a Reflection Paper
Why reflective writing, experiential reflection, reading reflection.
- A note on mechanics
Reflection offers you the opportunity to consider how your personal experiences and observations shape your thinking and your acceptance of new ideas. Professors often ask students to write reading reflections. They do this to encourage you to explore your own ideas about a text, to express your opinion rather than summarize the opinions of others. Reflective writing can help you to improve your analytical skills because it requires you to express what you think, and more significantly, how and why you think that way. In addition, reflective analysis asks you to acknowledge that your thoughts are shaped by your assumptions and preconceived ideas; in doing so, you can appreciate the ideas of others, notice how their assumptions and preconceived ideas may have shaped their thoughts, and perhaps recognize how your ideas support or oppose what you read.
Types of Reflective Writing
Popular in professional programs, like business, nursing, social work, forensics and education, reflection is an important part of making connections between theory and practice. When you are asked to reflect upon experience in a placement, you do not only describe your experience, but you evaluate it based on ideas from class. You can assess a theory or approach based on your observations and practice and evaluate your own knowledge and skills within your professional field. This opportunity to take the time to think about your choices, your actions, your successes and your failures is best done within a specific framework, like course themes or work placement objectives. Abstract concepts can become concrete and real to you when considered within your own experiences, and reflection on your experiences allows you to make plans for improvement.
To encourage thoughtful and balanced assessment of readings, many interdisciplinary courses may ask you to submit a reading reflection. Often instructors will indicate to students what they expect of a reflection, but the general purpose is to elicit your informed opinions about ideas presented in the text and to consider how they affect your interpretation. Reading reflections offer an opportunity to recognize – and perhaps break down – your assumptions which may be challenged by the text(s).
Approaches to Reflective Inquiry
You may wonder how your professors assess your reflective writing. What are they looking for? How can my experiences or ideas be right or wrong? Your instructors expect you to critically engage with concepts from your course by making connections between your observations, experiences, and opinions. They expect you to explain and analyse these concepts from your own point of view, eliciting original ideas and encouraging active interest in the course material.
It can be difficult to know where to begin when writing a critical reflection. First, know that – like any other academic piece of writing – a reflection requires a narrow focus and strong analysis. The best approach for identifying a focus and for reflective analysis is interrogation. The following offers suggestions for your line of inquiry when developing a reflective response.
It is best to discuss your experiences in a work placement or practicum within the context of personal or organizational goals; doing so provides important insights and perspective for your own growth in the profession. For reflective writing, it is important to balance reporting or descriptive writing with critical reflection and analysis.
Consider these questions:
- Contextualize your reflection: What are your learning goals? What are the objectives of the organization? How do these goals fit with the themes or concepts from the course?
- Provide important information: What is the name of the host organization? What is their mission? Who do they serve? What was your role? What did you do?
- Analytical Reflection: What did you learn from this experience? About yourself? About working in the field? About society?
- Lessons from reflection: Did your experience fit with the goals or concepts of the course or organization? Why or why not? What are your lessons for the future? What was successful? Why? What would you do differently? Why? How will you prepare for a future experience in the field?
Consider the purpose of reflection: to demonstrate your learning in the course. It is important to actively and directly connect concepts from class to your personal or experiential reflection. The following example shows how a student’s observations from a classroom can be analysed using a theoretical concept and how the experience can help a student to evaluate this concept.
For Example My observations from the classroom demonstrate that the hierarchical structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy is problematic, a concept also explored by Paul (1993). The students often combined activities like application and synthesis or analysis and evaluation to build their knowledge and comprehension of unfamiliar concepts. This challenges my understanding of traditional teaching methods where knowledge is the basis for inquiry. Perhaps higher-order learning strategies like inquiry and evaluation can also be the basis for knowledge and comprehension, which are classified as lower-order skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Critical reflection requires thoughtful and persistent inquiry. Although basic questions like “what is the thesis?” and “what is the evidence?” are important to demonstrate your understanding, you need to interrogate your own assumptions and knowledge to deepen your analysis and focus your assessment of the text.
Assess the text(s):
- What is the main point? How is it developed? Identify the purpose, impact and/or theoretical framework of the text.
- What ideas stood out to me? Why? Were they new or in opposition to existing scholarship?
Develop your ideas:
- What do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge come from? What are the observations or experiences that shape my understanding?
- Do I agree or disagree with this argument? Why?
- How does this text reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How does this text challenge my existing ideas or assumptions?
- How does this text help me to better understand this topic or explore this field of study/discipline?
Reflective Essay Examples and Samples
Reflecting on a chosen topic requires deep insight, making reflective essays difficult to write. Read our samples of reflective essays to gain a greater understanding of how to write one on your own.
Introduction to Reflective Essay: An Exploration of Self
A reflective essay is a type of personal writing that allows you to explore and document your thoughts, feelings, and insights about a particular subject or experience. Unlike other forms of academic writing, a reflective essay is more subjective and focuses more on your personal perspectives and interpretations. Writing a reflective essay can be a powerful way to articulate your growth and discoveries, making it an essential tool for creative and personal writing.
The Importance of Personal Experiences in Reflective Writing
Reflective writing revolves around personal experiences. It’s through such experiences that we learn, grow, and evolve. As such, personal experience plays a crucial role in reflective essays. A well-written reflective essay should vividly describe the experience, delve into the feelings it evoked, and critically analyze the impact it had on you. Reflective essays are not just a recounting of events, but a deep exploration of how those events influenced your outlook on life, reshaped your beliefs, or contributed to your personal growth.
Creative Expression: The Heart of a Reflective Essay
Creative writing goes hand in hand with reflective essays. The very nature of reflective essays – introspective, personal, and subjective – calls for creative expression. The creative door is wide open when writing a reflective essay, allowing you to experiment with different writing styles, narrative structures, and descriptive techniques. The goal here is to create an engaging and compelling narrative that captures your personal insights and emotional journey in the most authentic way possible.
Examining Growth Through Reflective Essays: A Journey of Self-Discovery
Reflective essays often serve as a mirror, reflecting your journey of growth. Whether it’s overcoming a personal challenge, learning a new skill, or undergoing a transformative life experience, these growth narratives form the backbone of reflective essays. When writing a reflective essay, it’s essential to not only describe the event or experience but also to delve into how it contributed to your growth as a person. How did it change you? What did you learn about yourself? How have you evolved as a result? Answering these questions can lead to profound insights and self-discovery.
Using Books and Literature as a Catalyst for Reflection
Books and literature often serve as a catalyst for reflection. A classic novel, a thought-provoking non-fiction book, or a compelling piece of poetry can provoke deep reflection and become the subject of a reflective essay. Whether it’s a book that changed your perspective, a character you deeply resonated with, or a theme that made you rethink your beliefs, reflective essays about literature can be a powerful way to explore your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the written word.
Emotional Intelligence: Exploring Your Emotions in a Reflective Essay
Exploring your emotions forms an essential part of the reflective writing process. In fact, reflecting on our feelings and emotions is an exercise in emotional intelligence. A reflective essay offers a safe space to navigate complex emotions, understand emotional responses, and articulate emotional growth. Whether reflecting on a life-changing event or exploring your reactions to a particular book, it’s crucial to delve into your emotional journey. By understanding your feelings, you can gain deeper insights into your emotional patterns, personal triggers, and coping mechanisms.
- Understanding Emotional Responses: When writing a reflective essay, it’s crucial to delve deep into the emotions experienced during a particular event or circumstance. This could range from joy and excitement to confusion, disappointment, or even grief.
- Navigating Complex Emotions: Sometimes, experiences can elicit complex emotions that are hard to navigate. Reflective writing offers a safe space to untangle these emotions and gain a clearer understanding of your emotional state.
- Articulating Emotional Growth: A reflective essay allows you to document your emotional growth. Overcoming a difficult situation, managing negative emotions, or discovering a new perspective all signify emotional growth that can be articulated through reflective writing.
- Identifying Emotional Patterns: By consistently writing reflective essays, you can identify patterns in your emotional responses. This can help you better understand your reactions to similar situations in the future.
- Recognizing Personal Triggers: Reflective writing can help you identify personal triggers that prompt specific emotional responses. This awareness can equip you to manage these triggers more effectively.
- Developing Coping Mechanisms: Understanding your emotions through reflective writing can lead to the development of effective coping mechanisms. Whether it’s mindfulness, meditation, or simply taking a walk, recognizing what helps you manage your emotions is a significant step towards emotional intelligence.
Reflecting on College Class Experiences
College classes offer rich experiences that can provide plenty of material for a reflective essay. Perhaps it’s a creative writing class that opened up a new world of expression for you, or a challenging science class that pushed you to your limits. Reflecting on these experiences can help you understand your academic journey, recognize your learning style, and appreciate the knowledge you’ve gained. Discuss the skills you’ve acquired, the challenges you’ve faced, the friendships you’ve made, and how these experiences have contributed to your growth and development.
Time Management Reflections: Overcoming Procrastination
Reflecting on time management can lead to valuable insights about your work habits and productivity. Have you struggled with procrastination? Have you discovered effective time management skills? A reflective essay on this topic can discuss your past struggles, the strategies you’ve employed to overcome them, and the progress you’ve made. By examining your relationship with time, you can uncover patterns, identify areas for improvement, and devise strategies to enhance your productivity.
Reflective Essay Examples: Lessons and Insights
One of the best ways to understand reflective essays is by reading and analyzing examples. These examples can serve as a guide, offering insights into the structure, tone, and style of reflective writing. Whether it’s an essay reflecting on personal growth, a transformative travel experience, or a powerful book that left an impression, reflective essay examples can provide inspiration for your own writing.
In conclusion, reflective essays are a powerful form of personal and creative writing. They allow you to explore your experiences, emotions, and growth in a deeply personal way. Through reflective writing, you can gain valuable insights about yourself and your journey, making it a rewarding and transformative process.
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Examples of Reflective Writing
Types of reflective writing assignments.
A journal requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content.
A learning diary is similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.
A logbook is often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. You note down or 'log' what you have done. A log gives you an accurate record of a process and helps you reflect on past actions and make better decisions for future actions.
A reflective note is often used in law. A reflective note encourages you to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.
An essay diary can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) and a critique (where you reflect on your own writing and research processes).
a peer review usually involves students showing their work to their peers for feedback.
A self-assessment task requires you to comment on your own work.
Some examples of reflective writing
Social science fieldwork report (methods section), engineering design report, learning journal (weekly reflection).
Brookfield, S 1987, Developing critical thinkers: challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting , Open University Press, Milton Keynes.
Mezirow, J 1990, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: a guide to transformative and emancipatory learning , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Schön, DA 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner , Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.
We thank the students who permitted us to feature examples of their writing.
Prepared by Academic Skills, UNSW. This guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required.
Essay and assignment writing guide
- Essay writing basics
- Essay and assignment planning
- Answering assignment questions
- Editing checklist
- Writing a critical review
- Annotated bibliography
- How do I write reflectively?
- Examples of reflective writing
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Placement Reflective Report
My Placement journey has been one of many mixed emotions. I have found myself at times feeling very frustrated and despondent but on the upside I have been given opportunity to meet and learn from some very skilled and professional youth workers. My Placement began at my current workplace and I had completed 100 hours, but I was finding it hard to separate myself from my worker role to my student role also at times some minor conflict was present between my placement supervisor who was also my work peer when I was there on my normal employment days.
At first the dual roles worked fine but soon issues started to arise as I felt when I was in my student role and attending groups my supervisor would undermine me in front of service users who in some instances were my clients. By undertaking my placement in my place of employment often staff and management were confused about the different roles and the boundaries associated with each role.
Although I was a student I was also a paid staff member and I often felt some staff expected me to show unreasonable flexibility in work/ student activities.
I don’t feel I achived any considerable learning from the 100 hours as it was assumed I already knew how things operated. I also admit as I already knew the requirements I just got on and did what needed to be done and forgot to stand back and observe the different family support workers practice methods.
Proficient in: Attachment Theory
“ KarrieWrites did such a phenomenal job on this assignment! He completed it prior to its deadline and was thorough and informative. ”
As I entered the placement with pre-conceived notions of “ I knew what was expected of me” I did not set any proper learning objectives or tasks, this compromised my learning greatly.
My Placement was terminated and I was back at the beginning of trying to find something new. As I am a single parent and financially could not afford to work less than three days I requested to undertake my placement on weekends. Eventually a placement was secured for me at Uniting Care within the residential out of home care division. The aim of the service is to provide accommodation for young people between the ages of 12 to 17. This accommodation can be either long term or emergency short term.
The young people who utilise the service are mostly children who have been removed from their homes because of child safety concerns, either as a result of serious parent-child conflict, or threat due to serious physical or behavioural health conditions which cannot be addressed within the family, these young people are all on child protection orders and have a Child Safety Officer who is responsible for the decisions regarding their care.
The service delivery methods within the houses include working with the young people in the placement and in some cases with their birth families. It includes assessing strengths and needs, developing case plans, implementing and monitoring case plan activities, and liaising with stakeholders such as Child Safety and schools. At first I was a little apprehensive about this placement as I had previously worked in residential care for eighteen months and upon leaving promised I would never return to this type of work.
When I was employed as a residential care worker in another organisation I felt over worker as sometimes I would be pressured to complete 50 hours shifts moving from house to house, as there was a intended sleep period between the hours of 10:00pm and 7:30am the management were not concerned by this. I would often grudgingly agree as I was afraid if I did not agree I would not be called for further shifts and I could not allow this to happen.
In the end I was assaulted by a young person and I contacted the Police whilst on shift and both I and the relief worker felt it was appropriate; however management did not agree with my decision and refused to support me. Eventually I could not cope anymore and ended up quitting feeling exhausted and burnt out. I went into this placement thinking it was going to be exactly the same service delivery but steeled myself with thinking it was not long term only 270 hours and I did have a place of employment I could return to.
However my first shift was at the emergency house went better than I had anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised at the differences between the organisations. Uniting Care operates on a two worker model and all the staff have formal qualifications relevant to the work they are undertaking. They are well trained and educated when incidents present they know how to professionally handle the situation. This is very different from my previous experience with residential care. I undertook my placement across three houses and the main office and attended student information session at the head office.
My role was to shadow shift the permanent youth worker and if needed offer assistance where needed. Other tasks I was required to completed included •Assisting to maintain high standard of cleanliness, tidiness, comfort, safety, homeliness •Creating a dinner routine with nutritious meals •Provide transportation •Assist with homework •Supporting young people to engage in suitable activities in the school holidays and after school •Assisting the Education Officer to support the young people to learn life skills in a planned and supported way •Maintain a safe environment As part of a team, identify areas where young people’s needs could be better met •Implement new filing system for all three houses •Develop holiday programs and education plans and assist in implementing these at the emergency house and evaluating if the programs were successful or not. During the beginning of my placement I was attending my paid employment on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and placement on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday 9am to 7pm. I continued these hours for three weeks but I soon found myself becoming very tired and run down.
I then applied part annual leave and part leave without pay and completed my placement on Monday- Friday which left my weekends free with my family. In regards to my placement experience I feel if I was not restricted by time restraints to return to work and if I didn’t have so many other commitment I may have enjoyed the experience more. I was at times frustrated and eager to just complete the placement as now with placement I had extra travel requirements and not a full income to fall back on and at the time had some very large unexpected bills arise and usually I would manage by trying to do overtime at work to earn extra money.
Also I had been advised that my workplace had needed to give two of my days to another worker as they were not managing with the case loads. I think this influenced my experienced as I was more intent on completing what was required and returning to work as soon as possible. However as majority of the young people are engaged with education or employment during the day, I worked mostly with the office day staff who taught me how to archive files so they could be stored legally. I also attended appointments with medical professionals such as doctors, ounsellors and allied health. On one occasion I arrived and was informed I would be required to accompany the day worker to a meeting with the principal of the Murri School. A young person in our care had recently commenced at the school and as a condition of his enrolment he was to repeat year 8 despite being 15 years of age. When we attended the first day there had been a clerical mistake and he has been placed in year 10. The young person had attended for 5 weeks in the year 10 grade before it was noticed.
In this time he had established friendships and settled in. The school was now adamant to remove him from year 10 and place him in the original year 8 class due to his low academic results. I was not made fully aware of the full details until a few days later, and went to the meeting knowing only they wanted to change his grade and remove him from his friends. I felt this was unjust and very unfair. I quickly researched the long term negative impacts of children repeating grades and learned there were no benefits of making the young person repeat.
Upon arrival I was adamant I would do my upmost best to keep this young person with his friends. I walked into the meeting and after hearing the schools perspective, I listed all the negative impacts socially, emotionally and the possibility of the young person losing all interest in attending school. I offered suggestions in which both the young person and staff at the house to do in order to help the young person reach the necessary academic levels.
In the end I had persuaded the school to allow him to stay in his current grade. At the time I felt I had advocate for the client but upon reflection. I was able to see it was a combination of negotiation and advocating. In this situation and also when engaging with the young people I feel I was also able to draw upon “the use of self”. I believe the greatest skill/ attribute is my personality I have a friendly relaxed personality with a sense of humour which allows people to quickly become at ease with me.
This allows me to quickly build relationships and rapport in a relaxed manner which puts the client at ease. As I grew up in a lower socioeconomic background and have faced many obstacles in my own life before I was in a position where I was able to attend university, I feel I am able to draw upon feelings and situations which I have experienced , this enables me to develop empathy and understanding for clients and the situations they find themselves in.
I consider myself to be a genuine and transparent and I will reflect my “real self” at all times. “Although fundamental to social work practice, the social worker’s theoretical orientation and mastery of skills appear to have the least impact on client satisfaction when compared to the social worker’s authenticity and how they use personality traits as a therapeutic tool (Edwards & Bess, 1998; Baldwin, 2000). During this placement I was able to begin to understand how theories actually work in practice.
Finally now I could begin to see the importance of human service values and how these values inform my thinking and practice. From my prior experiences with working in residential care, I already had some understanding and knowledge of some theories which are commonly used in residential care, and was able to reflect how I had previously applied these in practice. Two theories which have largely influenced my practice before entering and whist undergoing placement were trauma theory and attachment theory.
As many children in care have experienced some form of trauma and /or disrupted attachment relationship, I feel these two theories provide a very useful framework for understanding behaviours and outcomes in children who have experienced neglect, violence and abuse. By applying Trauma theory in my practice I have been able to develop an understanding of the effects traumatic experiences can have on a young person’s psychological wellbeing. Cairns, 2002) suggests that when humans are exposed to highly stressful and frightening circumstances that overwhelm their ability to cope, certain neurobiological adaptations can take place which compromise normal social, emotional and cognitive functioning. At times during my placement I often found it difficult to understand and comprehend reasoning for some behaviour which was displayed by the young people. But upon critically reflecting and referring back to the theory I was able to begin to understand that in most case an undesirable behaviour is usually a method for an alternative motive they are seeking.
Attachment Theory theorizes that human beings are born with a biological drive to seek proximity to protective adults (Schofield & Beek, 2006). This does not need to be the biological parent of the child but can extend to any primary caregivers that offer the child protection and nurturance. A strong and healthy attachment is the foundation for a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physiological development. Often the young people in care have not developed this secure attachment and as a result this has had impact to their emotional, cognitive-behaviour and social evelopment. However as my placement progressed I was able to observe some of the young people had formed relationships with the workers especially the house coordinators and attachments were forming. I think this a result of the consistency within the houses and to the fact most of the staff were permanent and had been employed for lengthy periods. This has led me to believe that despite facing abuse and neglect, if the needs are met, children develop and a sense of satisfaction and trust can be achieved from a worker the young people are able to develop a sense of attachment.
One aspect I did find particularly interesting was in most cases the young people had the strongest relationships with the house coordinators. They are responsible for buying the food, advocating for the young people, the youth workers are answerable to them regarding their practice (so are perceived as protectors) and the first person they contact when they need assistance. I believe these attachments are the strongest as the young people as they are able to meet the most of their needs.
Whilst observing many other youth workers, I noticed strengths perspective is most commonly drawn upon and frequently used amongst the staff when engaging with the young people. It allows the opportunity for the young person’s strengths, resources, capacities, and abilities to learn and grow to be recognised. By adapting a strength perspective young people can be viewed as taking an active part in advocating their own rights rather than be seen as incomplete adults whose rights can be ignored.
It is important to be aware that the young people need to be actively involved in negotiating their own futures, lives and outcomes but whilst remaining in the context of specific social, political and economic circumstances and processes A strengths perspective takes into consideration the involvement of young people in decisions affecting their lives and in challenging social structure and practices that impact negatively on their lives.
When I queried the senior youth workers on which theoretical perspectives inform their practice and influence them the most the consensus was Individualistic, liberalist and developmental perspectives as these tend to focus on the individual and their immediate social context or environment (e. g. family, carers, and programs they were engaged in). I also draw upon these perspectives as well as structuralist perspectives as it responds to issues that address broader social and structural issues like race, gender and sexuality.
On the whole the youth workers tended to work from a holistic approach. This is approach has many positive benefits as it addresses the many and varied complex influences within the lives of the young people in care, it also enables the youth workers to recognise ways in which the young people can be active participants within their own lives and participate in decisions regarding their outcomes and futures This placement overall was a wonderful experience for me both personally and professionally.
I feel as though I have learnt so much and have begun to grow into the human service worker that I know I want to eventually be and with the experience I have recently gained I feel this will be in the near future . Working with the young people has been very enjoyable. I have enjoyed meeting them and learning each of their stories and journeys and identifying with them their strength’s and resources they used to get them through the difficult situations they may have experienced. I have developed a level of acceptance and ability to be non-judgemental.
I have also gained a more in-depth leaning and gained a further understanding of resilience. All the young people I had engaged with have faced some form of adversity, hardship or misfortune It amazed me how these young people have been able to not only survive some of the most horrific situations but have effectively learnt to cope and deal with life’s challenges and still be able to set themselves goals and work to achieve these by being committed to education, employment and eventually transition to independent living.
I come to appreciate that resilience is not only about surviving difficult times, but is about being able to thrive despite adversity. “Resilience is not only about overcoming the odds, but being able to not only cope but recover” (Rutter, 1999). Throughout my placement I worked with many different youth workers across the three houses. As I was in a student capacity I was able to stand back and observe each worker’s direct practice and different approach to the way they interact with the young people and each have a different method of dealing with crisis.
By observing these interactions this has offered valuable opportunity for critical reflection, as each young person I interacted with, youth worker, team leader or manager I observed, and crisis or incident I witnessed, these all presented new ways of thinking and learning. This in turn gave me opportunity to develop professionally and further learn about working from the human service values system. I believe the skills and knowledge I have gained will be incredibly useful and I will be able to transfers these across many fields in which I may work in.
One of the main challenges I faced whist on placement was dealing with the amount of legal constraints and bureaucratic requirements. I decided to study Human Services as I enjoy helping people and assisting them to deal with difficult situations, but I often feel I spend more time filling in forms or I am so constrained by risk management I am unable to assist in way which I think would be most beneficial. A example of this was during a shift, a young person began to escalate very quickly.
This young person had a habit of becoming worked up very quickly then begin degrading themselves which would end in them self-harming in front of staff or absconding. As this young person began to get agitated I quickly tried to divert their attention in attempts to calm them down by engaging them in conversation . I soon began telling them about a forest near where I live that has a massive waterfall, rope swing, crystal clear running water and boulders which you can climb to jump into the water from. The young person became calm and very interested to see the forest and creek.
I agreed to take them with another youth worker and as I have taken my own children there regularly and it is visited my many locals, I did not think there would be so many formalities involved. After we had finally finished ringing around coordinators, managers and tracking down CSO’s, conducting risk assessments and completing paperwork, hours had passed and as the next shift was due there was no time left to take the young person. The young person who had been looking so forward to going to the creek was now feeling disappointed and let down. Shortly after they absconded, went to the local shops, stole some glue and a kitchen knife.
They used the glue to sniff to get high and dull the pain while they slashed their wrists. A local lady who had been walking her dog saw the young person and contacted the police and ambulance. The young person ended up hospitised for 16 days as a result of their self-inflicted injuries. I agree I also need to accept responsibility for what happened as both I and the other worker agreed to take the young person on the trip, but I feel if there had not been so much red tape and the young person was able to have experiences as any other child of their age without so many constraints the whole situation may have been avoided.
Although we are regularly made aware that the field of human services is emotionally challenging, it is not something you can fully grasp or begin to understand until you experience it for yourself. The disillusionment, frustration and dissatisfaction I experienced on placement is also experienced in my paid employment. However despite the discontent, I still truly believe social work/human services makes unmeasurable positive differences in the lives of people. I think the key learning for me is to not stop fighting for social justice and equality for all.
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Reflection on placement practice
1) IntroductionMy 80-day placement gave me another experience in not only developing my skills of working with young people with disabilities but also in transferring my skills that I had previously used in my previous job as an assessor of children with life threatening illnesses and special needs.2) The Reason for the InterventionZ had been previously prescribed Epilim medication by his GP; this medication has since been proven to controlling his epilepsy.
When Z does not have his medication he is unable to concentrate for long periods. The fitting also affects his safety, as when he is having a fit he has an increased tendency to fall. It was therefore agreed by the GP it was imperative that Z takes his medication to enable him to have as high a quality of life as possible. This work was carried out to improve Z’s ability to take his prescribed medication more effectively whilst at the unit.
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The work was carried out with unit staff members, as there were no issues at the school or within the home regarding this matter.3) The Legal frameworkAs previously mentioned the unit provides home-from-home respite care for young people between the ages of 5-16 who had been identified as having a severe learning difficulty the residents were all accommodated under section 20 of the children Act 1989. Therefore the care that the young people received was continued whilst they were at the unit, a large part of this carry over included the administering of medication.Section one of the Children Act 1989 focuses upon the welfare of the child and states that in any dealings the welfare of the child is to be considered the most important factor when dealing with children.
This section of the act also refers to the possible harm that the child would be at risk of suffering. Section 22 of the same act outlines duty of the Local Authority to safeguard and promote the well being of children in their care. As the GP had instructed the agency that the medication was necessary to stabilise Z’s health as well as reduce the possibility of injury as he has the tendency to fall during a fit, I sought to find the most effective way for this to happen that caused the minimum level of distress to Z as possible. Upon reflection I decided that anti-oppressive practice would be the best theory to combine with group work, please see section 4.
3 for more details.4) Reflective PracticeBoud, Keogh and Walker developed their own model of reflection in 1985, the model is similar to that of Kolb’s learning model but takes into account the possible effects of feelings and values upon the learning experience. Their model has three stages: -1. Returning to the experience by recalling the past event2.
Understanding and acknowledging ones own and others feelings that were felt during the experience3. Re-evaluating the experience by adding new knowledge that has been derived from this reflective process.During my sessions at the unit, I found that my values played a large part in my reflective learning when working with this service user group than when working with young people on my 50-day placement. Due to this, I found that I utilised Boud, Keogh and Walker’s model more at this time than Kolb’s learning model as outlined in the same stages below: -4.
1. During one of my sessions at the unit, I was able to observe Z being administered his medication. The young person in question has severe learning difficulties, no verbal communication but his comprehension was at a higher developmental level.The medication (Epilim) that is used to control his epilepsy is usually administered by Mom and Dad, in his drinks.
At the unit, the staff attempts to carry on with the same routine as at home. However, Z dislikes taking it in this manner when he is there.4.2.
Z became very distressed when the cup was presented. Due to Z’s limited ability to express his needs he then began to run away from staff members, the medication was eventually syringed into his mouth after ten minutes.Shortly after this Z’s behaviour was less emotional, however I noticed that during the whole evening Z refused to have any drinks that were offered to him. The unit has to be kept quite warm at times due to the mix of children in the unit at any given time; Z’s refusal to have a drink also posed issues relating to him getting dehydrated especially as he is unable to control his dribbling and looses a lot of fluid anyway.
The fact that Z tolerated having his medication via syringe I felt was a strength and this formed the basis of my intervention.After reflection on this experience during supervision with my practice teacher and placement supervisor, I explained that I understood the importance of Z having his medication and that I was aware that if he did not have his medication that would increase fitting. However, that I was not happy with the method that had been adopted to administer the medication. My supervisor was more than happy for me to suggest a new approach.
After reflection during supervision, I discussed anti-oppressive practice issues and ways in which staff could decrease some of the power and authority that was placed over Z at medication time. By making drink times more social and fun instead of a battle for example.In my experience, increased fitting would pose barriers to Z’s ability to learn in school, as the increased brain activity would be too high. Not only that but in my experience the fitting would also restrict Z’s ability to participate as fully as he could in his environment, therefore on this basis his medication was important for him to take.
RISKDue to safety reasons I felt that simply leaving the cup near to Z and allowing him to drink it at his leisure would have compromised the safety of the other young people on the unit as unattended medication may be mistakenly taken by them. I also felt it was important that staff were present when the medication was taken as they had to observe that the full dosage had been taken and not spilled elsewhere.4.3 When this had taken place, I was able to discuss with staff and advocate on his behalf and discuss ways in which we could incorporate drink time as a group social activity.
I decided that this should be done as soon as possible. The new approach involved some singing games; bubble blowing activities and then drinks time. This approach was to be adopted by all staff with all children who were at the unit at the time. I decided that medication would be syringed in the short term at least, as Z was tolerable of this.
Therefore by all staff approaching Z in the same manner Z would receive clear and consistent messages of what was expected of him and also he would not feel at a disadvantage as he was doing the same activities as the other young people. The plan was set as a long-term plan to be reviewed on a monthly basis.By decreasing anxiety and the pressure on Z and staff for his medication to be taken, this in time would win back Z’s confidence to take a drink from staff and therefore reduce the need for syringing medication, as staff were not happy to do this due to their own values. I felt that Z would feel happier having a drink once the pressure he was noticing from staff had decreased and his medication could once again be added to his drinks.
5) Anti-Oppressive IssuesAt placement, I felt able to challenge the oppression in this instance. However, there were times where I felt unable to challenge certain oppressions. For example I felt unable to challenge the minibus pick up times, some of the children were being picked up at 8pm on the school transport to travel round the borough to pick up the other young people, which in my opinion was not necessary as the school was only five minutes away from the unit.This can be identified in Freire’s three levels of consciousness.
Magical consciousness was the level at where individuals were most oppressed and disempowered. At this level, the oppressed group had also internalised the oppressor’s feelings about them.The second level which was “naï¿½ve consciousness”, this was where individuals were at the level where they had identified the oppression but felt unable to change anything (such as myself with the afore mentioned issue). I also saw my problem as individual in that I assumed the other staff had not also shared my thoughts, but after talking to them regarding Z they all felt the same way and were willing to try a new approach.
The third level was critical consciousness this was the most empowered stage. This was where individuals were aware of the oppression but also willing to challenge the inequality and oppression. To some degree I feel Z was at this stage, it appeared he was aware he had to have the drink but the only way to regain the power placed on him was to refuse it.Freire’s level of consciousness has a great level of impact on the reflective process.
For example, how empowered I am feeling also impacts on the level of service my service users receive as this determines whether I challenge the oppression.6) Effectiveness of the Models and Theories UsedThe combination of the social model and the medical model of disability was used during this piece of work. The medical model to some degree focuses on the individual as the problem and what can be done to change them to cope better in their environment. Therefore, medication was provided and continued to be administered.
The social model however looks at how the environment itself can be either enabling or inhibiting to the individual. Therefore, by changing the way we approached Z in the short term we were able to improve his circumstances in the long term.This combination appeared to be working; the medication was being administered with no upset to Z, this also limited the risk of his fits increasing and the risk to his personal safety. Z was also taking his drinks and beginning to build up his trust with staff at the unit regarding this matter, which also helped to keep him hydrated.
The approach was very effective Z was not upset any longer due to this reason and also became more sociable with staff during this time.I also felt that Boud, Keogh and Walker’s model was useful as it acknowledged the heightened feelings of the service user and myself and how negative feelings can in turn lead to a negative outcome.7) What I Have LearntI feel that this piece of work not only highlights the importance of trained staff to be aware of how to practice anti-oppressively but also how important it is to share experiences, knowledge, values and our own personal perspective.The new Department of Health guidance “Valuing People, A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century” suggests that 75% of employees working in the area of social care and health are unqualified.
The government’s objectives are to now ensure that these employees are adequately trained and skilled. The policy guidelines aim to ensure that people with disabilities receive a good quality of service that meets and caters for their needs. The policy guidelines state that this includes persons with severe learning disabilities as well as those suffering with epilepsy.I feel that this piece of work not on substantiates this need but also highlights the importance of anti-oppressive practice to be implemented in everything I do with my service users.
In essence, anti-oppressive practice is not subject to choice of use but a way of life, a method to be adopted and engrained in my practice.The staff at the agency itself were very open to me discussing my thoughts and new approach to working with them. I strongly feel that staff morale also has a direct impact on the quality of service that users receive. For example in my experience staff disempowerment is more likely to lead to magical or naï¿½ve consciousness rather than critical consciousness.
This in turn leads to a poor service.I feel that as a social worker I too need to strive to be at a critical level of consciousness as it is my job to ensure that the service my service users receive is as tailored to their individual needs as possible as well as being provided in an anti-oppressive manner that seeks to empower rather than disempower.I have also learnt that people with severe learning disabilities are able to feel and react to oppression as well as feel and think in the same manner. These individuals are to also to be given the same dignity, respect and treatment as we would anyone else.
8) UpdateDuring my last week at placement Z had started to consistently accept drinks from staff. This was observed by myself and I also used case notes to confirm this.
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