Kodele, T., & Rape Žiberna, T. (2023). How has COVID-19 affected mentoring in social work practice teaching?. European Journal of Social Work, 1-15.
Summarized by Saniya Soni
About the Study
The Covid-19 pandemic posed significant challenges to social work education, including practice teaching. Schools and universities shifted to online learning, creating a less than ideal environment. New terms like ‘e-placement’ emerged as virtual spaces replaced traditional placements. Mentoring support became crucial during this time, as mentors had to find ways to support students in uncertain situations. This study examines how mentors adapted their support during the pandemic in Slovenia, comparing the situation before and during the epidemic. Researchers evaluated the practice teaching in the undergraduate program of the Faculty of Social Work (FSW) in the academic years 2014/2015 and 2019/2020. The findings were categorized into 3 main themes: adjustment of practice teaching, satisfaction with practice teaching, challenges of mentoring.
- Adjustment of Practice Teaching: Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Faculty of Social Work (FSW) in Slovenia made efforts to maintain practice teaching and adjust its delivery as needed. Students reported a variety of forms of collaboration with different stakeholders, both in correspondence and personal contact. There were changes in students’ fields of work, with some areas experiencing significant decreases while others saw slight increases. Mentors generally rated the adjustments in practice teaching as successful, although there were variations in workload and the nature of social work tasks.
- Satisfaction with Practice Teaching: Overall, student satisfaction with practice teaching during the Covid-19 academic year was lower than in the pre-pandemic year. However, mentors expressed higher levels of satisfaction with practice teaching in both years. Students’ satisfaction correlated positively with the support received from mentors and supervisors, and their perceived acquisition of skills. The achievement of intended goals in practice teaching, such as learning about the organization and collaborating with service users, received positive ratings from students, albeit with lower scores in some areas.
- Challenges of Mentoring: Mentors cited enjoyment of working with students as the primary motive for mentoring. However, the increased workload and changes in working conditions due to the pandemic posed challenges. Lack of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and equipment for service users hindered remote work. Mentors also faced individual challenges with students, such as reluctance to work remotely or delayed decisions to participate in placements, affecting the agencies’ ability to prepare effectively.
Implications for Mentoring
The Covid-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the practice teaching of social work students in Slovenia, affecting both the content of their work with service users and the nature of mentoring. Mentors acknowledged the increased demands and challenges of mentoring during emergencies like the pandemic, highlighting the importance of providing support and training for mentors. Despite the changed circumstances and lower satisfaction, students were still able to acquire necessary practical skills with adapted support from their mentors. These findings reinforce the crucial role of mentoring in preparing students for contemporary social work practice, emphasizing the need for ongoing mentor support and training to adequately prepare students for diverse situations.
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