Models of supervision

Find out about the various practice education models

Models of student supervision/practice education

The CSP promotes the use of a variety of student supervision models when facilitating practice based learning. Peer-assisted learning, learning within interprofessional teams, long-arm supervision and multiple student-to-educator models are encouraged and need to become part of normal practice and education.

  • Collaborative learning:  These useful models commonly used within physiotherapy include models involving one educator and multiple students (usually 2:1 but may also be more). Peer support is often a feature of these models and can really help the development of different skill sets. 
  • ‘Split/Shared’ models: These models describe situations where one student is shared between two or more members of a team, ideally with one lead educator to co-ordinate activities. This can be beneficial for part time staff or enabling a student to have a placement with two different teams.
  • Non-traditional placements: The term ‘non-traditional practice placement education’ is used to describe a variety of practice placement models and contexts. Generally, non-traditional practice placement education does not involve constant one-to-one supervision by a practice educator and may involve sites where physiotherapy services are provided but not on a regular basis, such as the voluntary and independent sectors.

  • Role-emerging placements: Designed to promote physiotherapy in a setting where there is not an established physiotherapist role. Students may receive supervision from a staff member who is not a physiotherapist and will also have further supervision off-site by a physiotherapist or an university educator.

  • Project placements: Students complete a project during their practice placement. The project is developed to address a need identified in collaboration with the placement setting. Supervision may be provided by a physiotherapist on site or direct supervision may be by a non-physiotherapist staff member, with off-site supervision by a physiotherapy educator or physiotherapist.

  • TECS placements (previously known as digital, telehealth, virtual and remote): These placements can take many different forms, but they all involve delivering patient care where the patient is not in the same room as the clinician. The students may be in a clinic with a practice educator, at home delivering care either via a virtual platform or over the telephone. Putting students in these settings will give them exposure to digital skills.  

What to consider when exploring different models of student supervision

  • Adequate preparation of students and educators (on site and long arm)
  • Effective communication between student, practice placement educator and university staff;
  • Pre-placement briefings, interviews and relevant and coursework preparation;
  • Students must have a clear expectation of their role, the on-site practice placement educator’s role and the role of university educators;
  • Practice placement educators must ensure that students are aware of the relevance of skills that are gained during traditional and non-traditional placements;
  • Development of suitable evaluation is required to ensure that all professional experiences in practice placement education are valued.

Please note: While each practice placement model offers different learning opportunities and experiences (for students and practitioners), not every model will suit every placement provider, practice educator, placement setting or individual student. Skillful and comprehensive planning by the HEI and practice educator is therefore required before a new model of practice education is tested with a student or students.

Use the pointers below to support discussions between HEIs and practice placement educators/providers to explore new models of student practice education:

  •  Identify potential barriers for change (for example, concerns about patient or student safety or resistance of teams to trying new models of practice placement);
  • Discuss, clarify and reach mutual understanding of the motive(s) for change;
  • Consider the possibilities within the physical location/environment;
  • Plan necessary health and safety risk assessments of any change in practice;
  • Make sure that relevant workplace health and safety policies (such as those that cover lone working) clearly apply to student activities;
  • Consider the potential required input and likely buy-in from potential partners/stakeholders to convert an idea for a new practice placement model into reality;
  • Discuss and plan the student preparation required and the student placement induction; 
  • Take into account the fact that the student may have to move between cultures as well as workplaces;
  • Consider any risks to insurance cover and how these may be alleviated;
  • Highlight any patient/client consent or record keeping issues (see CSP Guidance on Record Keeping)
  • Consider how the student will be supported throughout the placement;
  • Consider how expected learning outcomes for the placement will be met;
  • Consider whether it would be wise to select suitable students to participate in a new practice placement model. Students are individuals who may react to various practice placements in unique ways. The HEI may be able to carefully select a student who, perhaps because they have more life or practice experience, can be expected to cope well with a new placement model and provide appropriate feedback;
  •  Prepare contingency plans – what action could be taken if the new placement model fails to support the student and their learning as planned? Students should never be disadvantaged by experimenting with new placement models.
  •  Plan the placement evaluation.
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