Communication Resources

Maintaining a safe learning environment and open communication channels are foundational to the success of placement. The following resources relate to communication styles, effective communication and some of the potential difficulties that may arise in relation to communication.

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Listening to what students have to say is critical to the student supervisor relationship. Active listening requires you to focus attention on the other person and use non-verbal cues such as eye contact and body posture.

Paraphrasing conversations and statements, repeating the essence of what is being said in your own words, allows you to:

  • clarify a message
  • explore issues in greater depth
  • express interest
  • encourage critical thinking
  • obtain information

Questions can be open or closed in nature. Open questions require a broader more comprehensive response and can be used when you want opinions, thoughts or attitudes. They often begin with how, what or why.

Closed questions have correct answers and are used when a specific or simple response is required. They focus conversations are are may be used to check understanding and comprehension. These questions often begin with when, where and who.

Be aware not to interrogate or confuse the student and keep questioning sessions short and to the point.

Giving the students opportunities to listen, question, practice and observe incorporates the student-centred approach to teaching. By using appropriate questioning and reflection techniques deeper learning is encouraged and achieved.

An important role of the professional practice supervisor is to provide the student with regular constructive, objective and detailed feedback and to encourage active reflective practices. Providing and receiving feedback is an invaluable and essential part of the teaching and learning process. Feedback gives the student greater insight into what they have actually done to arrive at an outcome, highlighting the student's strengths and areas for improvement, thereby providing impetus for change.

Feedback should pay attention not only to the student's demonstration of knowledge and skills, but also to attitudes and feelings associated with what they are doing. The student will receive feedback not only from yourself, but also from their peers and your peers, clients and other multi-disciplinary staff and by way of self-reflection.

Types of feedback

  • Informal – a discussion at the end of a treatment session
  • Formative – improve performance (does not have a grading)
  • Summative – evaluation which is graded
  • Written – explicitly states improvement agendas
  • Verbal – allows explanation and improvement development

Be clear and explicit regarding your expectations of the student's performance and be committed to your responsibility for providing formal and informal, well documented observations.

To check whether your feedback is constructive have a look at the Feedback Health Check.

  • Bermingham, V. & Hodgson, J. (2006). Feedback on assessment: Can we provide a better student experience by working smarter than by working harder? The Law Teacher, 40 (2), 151-172.
  • Nicol, D. (2007). Principles of good assessment and feedback: Theory and practice. From the REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility, 29th-31st May, 2007. Retrieved from accessed 30 September 2015.