How social work students develop the skill of professional judgement: Implications for practice educators


  • Joanna Rawles Open University


This article is based on findings of research into how social work students begin to develop expertise in professional judgement during their practice placements and what enables, facilitates and supports them to do so. The research sought to understand the ‘authentic professional learning’ that took place for social work students who were at the point of qualification.  The findings indicate that the optimal environment for the development of the skill of professional judgement is one in which there is the presence and positive inter-relationship of three domains of learning: professional responsibility, the facilitation of the professional voice and learner agency.


The role of the practice educator was pivotal to this development but the findings go beyond merely re-articulating the positivity of the student/educator relationship to illuminating what it was about the practice educators’ pedagogical approach that facilitated the development of the skill of professional judgement.


This article has a particular focus on implications for practice educators and others who support professional work-based learning. The research indicates the benefits of adopting an autonomy-support approach and the article provides ideas for how this might be incorporated into practice placements.



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How to Cite

Rawles, J. (2021). How social work students develop the skill of professional judgement: Implications for practice educators. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 17(3), 10-30. Retrieved from