Assessment and decision making under the spotlight:

The roles of student, practice teacher, tutor and university in four failed social work placements.


  • Marguerita McGovern National University of Ireland, Galway. Ireland.



In social work education failing placement is a seismic event. There are many complex reasons why placements fail; the student fails the placement, the placement fails the student, the practice teacher fails the student, the student fails themselves and the university fails or upholds all. With a failed placement the spotlight falls on the student, the practice teacher, tutor and the university. There are professional standards, reputations, academic policies and procedures at stake, notwithstanding the protection of the service user as the central concern. This article presents four failed Masters in Social Work placement assessments, two case examples from practice failures and two from portfolio failures. Analyses and reports are shared from initial difficulties and procedural organization, through to the forensics of final decision. Consideration is also given to current research and a ‘what happened next’ section is included.

Author Biography

Marguerita McGovern, National University of Ireland, Galway. Ireland.

Emeritus Practice Learning Coordinator and Emeritus Director of the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work Practice Teaching, Supervision and Management. Currently Adjunct Lecturer on Masters in Social Work programme National University of Ireland, Galway. Spicialist areas include: Groupwork, Preplacement training for students and fieldwork supervisors.


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How to Cite

McGovern, M. (2021). Assessment and decision making under the spotlight: : The roles of student, practice teacher, tutor and university in four failed social work placements. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 17(3), 64-81.