Social work

experience and methods

Mentor’s activity in indeterminate situations

Review

During qualification practice course social work students (baccalaureates) are learning to identify, define, describe, analyse and apply theoretical knowledge practically in the social work. In this process of practical learning student is consulting a university practice teacher – tutor and a person responsible for the student practice in the particular organization– mentor.
Teaching how to apply theoretical knowledge practically is a complicated process that requires special knowledge and skills both from the tutor and mentor. Mentors have to answer the question not only "what to teach?" i.e. how to transfer explicit knowledge, but also "how to teach?" i.e. how to transfer tacit and implicit knowledge.
While supervising student's practice, mentor is not only teaching a student to reflect a practice, but he is reflecting own social work practice through identification, generalisation, conceptualisation of practical experience. Sharing of practical experience is the background for mentor's professional growth. Work with students is a accessory experience.
Though mentor plays a very important role in the education of social workers, situation of mentor is very indeterminable. On the one hand mentor has to meet high requirements in the terms of competence, knowledge, skills, time and personal characteristics; on the other hand supervision of the social work practise is a volunteer work. Attitude of higher educational institution towards mentor has great importance in this situation, i.e. how mentor is treated – as a volunteer or as a partner.
What motivates mentors to supervise students practice when relationship between higher educational institution and a place of practice (mentor) is based only on the social interchange? This article is an attempt to answer this question with reference to the theoretical sources and results of the survey of mentors of social work students of Vytautas Magnus University Social Welfare faculty (survey accomplished in 2008).

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