‘I hope to find myself’ Social work students’ initial encounter with practice explored in the context of professional identity


  • Ian Mathews University of Lincoln
  • Austin Griffiths West Kentucky University
  • Rachel Hunt University of Lincoln
  • Kellye McIntyre West Kentucky University
  • Diane Simpson Teesside University




Abstract: This paper is based on a small scale research study which explores the perceptions and understandings of Master’s level students on the same professional career path but from different national backgrounds; England and the United States. In particular, this study identifies and discusses issues raised by students prior to their first experience of practice education, and explores their evolving understanding of what it means to be, or to become, a professional social worker. In order to provide a theoretical framework for our discussion we adapt and use the work of Eliot Freidson, widely regarded as one of the first theorists to consider the evolution of professions and the acquisition of professionalism.

Keywords: social work; practice placements; fieldwork education; professional development; professionalism

Author Biographies

Ian Mathews, University of Lincoln

Senior Lecturer, School of Health and Social Care

Austin Griffiths, West Kentucky University

Social Work Instructor, Department of Social Work,

Rachel Hunt, University of Lincoln

Practice Placement Coordinator, College of Social Science

Kellye McIntyre, West Kentucky University

Field Director, Department of Social Work

Diane Simpson, Teesside University

Senior Lecturer in Social Work, School of Health & Social Care


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How to Cite

Mathews, I., Griffiths, A., Hunt, R., McIntyre, K., & Simpson, D. (2018). ‘I hope to find myself’ Social work students’ initial encounter with practice explored in the context of professional identity. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 15(1), 24-38. https://doi.org/10.1921/jpts.v15i1.1117