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Helping students learn

How can you help students to learn while they are on a placement in your organisation?

Here are some suggestions to consider:

Start them off well

Introduce them to their colleagues and work environment, explain how things work and settle them in. You can use the Day 1 checklist template to help you with this.

Set tasks

Set appropriate projects and tasks so that students learn and practice new skills, experience a range of situations and step out of their comfort zone.

Use the development objectives and learning goals agreed with the college or school and the student to focus on specific skills and behaviours. Setting realistic yet challenging tasks that give the student the opportunity to develop these, will build a direct link.

Making progress

Start with tasks which students can do comfortably, but extend the range and complexity of tasks as the student becomes more confident and self-assured.

Give them new tasks to learn, with close supervision, strong direction and clear daily objectives to provide a support structure.

Help students to see themselves as professional by giving them opportunities to learn more about other departments and roles and get more involved in projects. Let students take responsibility as soon as they’re ready to take on new tasks, manage their own time, or ‘own’ parts of projects.

Give feedback

It is really important for the student to receive your feedback regularly and frequently throughout the placement.

Effective feedback requires planning and should map into the mid and end-of-placement reviews carried out by the student’s college or school. Tell them what they’re doing well, where they’re not meeting expectations and how they can improve. 

Keep talking

Take every chance you can to tell students how they’re doing – and listen to them as well.

The students may well have valuable feedback about their placement that could offer insight about your organisation and how it feels to work with you. Tell the college or the school about students’ progress, achievements and share any worries.

4 ways to feed back:

Feedback will help students understand how they are doing and what more they can do to get the most from the placement opportunity.

At the time

Tell students immediately if they’ve done something well, and give pointers on how to improve – don’t wait for the next one-to-one or progress review.

In weekly one-to-ones

Have a short session once a week (30 minutes is enough) to tell them how they’ve done, ask how it’s going for them and agree tasks for the coming week.

Good feedback should be:

  • clear and concise
  • owned by the person providing it (“I think...” /“I noticed…”)
  • regular
  • balanced - both positive and constructive, and
  • specific - based on observable behaviour

In-progress reviews

Have these from time to time, for example, once a month or at the end of a period where the placement is split into different blocks.

Give students an overview of how they’re doing, discuss what they’ve learned and where the next few weeks will take them. Find out what they think about the placement and how it could work better.

At the end

Tell students what you think they’ve achieved during the placement.

You could base it on how well they’ve progressed with their development objectives and learning goals that were agreed at the start. Again, it will be helpful to link this to the college or school’s end-of-placement review.

You might also be able to use elements of your own appraisal system, if you have one. Write an appraisal summarising the student’s achievements and commitment, for them to use in the future. You can use the end-of-placement review template to help you.

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