Ethical dilemmas in field placements: The experiences of social work students in Norway and possible implications for social work education

Main Article Content

Heidi Lie Eriksen


The study reported in this paper focuses on social work students’ experiences of ethical challenges, including dilemmas, during their field placements. Moreover, drawing on dialogical approach and the results of the thematic analysis, the authors discuss what ethical dilemmas the students experience during their in-field practice, and what implications the handling of these ethical dilemmas can have for the organization of social work education. The findings that are reported in this article are the results of the analysis of six sets of data collected with the help of interviews. The interpretive framework used in this study is a dialogical approach. The research strategy has been a qualitative approach, and the data collection has taken place in semi-natural settings. The thematic analysis of the data lead to four major themes of ethical challenges that the students experienced in their field placements. The first theme concerns structural conditions on a macro level that the students were confronted with when in practice. The second theme is about ethical challenges due to the students´ lack of knowledge and experience in the field. The third theme presents challenges in direct work with service users related to the students´ awareness of values and perspectives. The fourth theme concerns ethical challenges that occurred when students interacted with others in the organizations where the field placements took place. We argue that due to the fact that the authorial agency of any learner consists of personal attitudes, goals, values, knowledge, competences, and skills, it is important to organize supervision activities in a way that allows discussions in free and fearless environments so that the student could learn and unlearn knowledge and skills. This means that in-field placements should be viewed as learning arenas for various types of knowledge and skills, including knowledge on themselves, and not just places where the students can gain only strictly professional practical knowledge and try out their theoretical knowledge.

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How to Cite
Eriksen, H. L., & Gradovski, M. (2020). Ethical dilemmas in field placements: The experiences of social work students in Norway and possible implications for social work education. Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal, 8, SA85 - SA111.
Special Issue: Supervision and Advisement
Author Biographies

Heidi Lie Eriksen, University of Stavanger

Heidi Lie Eriksen is born in Lørenskog, Norway, but grew up in Bergen. She graduated as a social worker from Bergen University College in 2002 and finished a masters´ degree in social work at the University of Stavanger in 2017. As a social worker Eriksen was employed by The County Governor of Rogaland in connection to legal guardianship and implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. In addition, she has working experience as a social worker at the municipality level of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare administration and Social Services. This experience includes supervising social work students during their in-filed practice periods. As a researcher Eriksen is interested in the supervisory relationship that develops between social work students and field instructors. In April 2018 Eriksen started her PhD project that focuses on various aspects of supervisory relationship between supervisors and supervisees.

Mikhail Gradovski

Dr. Mikhail Gradovski is born in Minsk, Belarus. After graduation from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim as doctor rerum politicarum in 2008 with the thesis devoted to the Norwegian Dialogue Pedagogy, Gradovski has participated in both national and international research projects on doctoral supervision, professional supervision, use of dialogue in education, and mental skill development. Currently he is a main coordinator of an international EU Horizon2020 project that focuses on the development of PhD candidates’ skills. He has supervised both postgraduate, graduate and undergraduate students. As a teaching practitioner he is using a dialogical approach based on an understanding both teacher and learner as partners with equal rights to make judgements on what is relevant, important and true.



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