Problem Solving Resources

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For many students their professional practice experience may be their first workplace experience of any kind. As a supervisor you may be required to help build some of their general skills and may be called upon to model and facilitate conflict management.

There are a myriad of reasons that conflict may arise, including:

  • a lack of professional skills;
  • a lack of information or misunderstanding;
  • conflicting interests or values;
  • discrimination or harassment;
  • mental illness;
  • personality clashes; and
  • organisational problems

To resolve and manage conflict a supervisor must have well developed dispute resolution and negotiation skills. The Fair Work Ombudsman has produced best practice principles for dispute resolution and recommend the following steps:

  • quick - the issues should be resolved quickly rather than allowing them to escalate through inaction
  • fair - all relevant parties should be consulted so that all sides of the story are taken into account
  • handled sensitively - disputes should, where possible, be resolved in a confidential way to minimise impact on other employees
  • transparent - the procedure should be clear to every employee.

A students' progress and performance should only be discussed with the necessary people in the placement setting and/or at the university.

The following steps may assist with managing what can often be a difficult situation.

  1. Identify the problem: point out the concerns you have in a timely manner and provide opportunity for the student to discuss the background to any difficulties. Try to take a collaborative approach to assist the student toward ownership of the concerns as well as finding the solutions. Include the student in reflecting upon their situation and considering contributing factors.
  2. Maintain open lines of communication: Brainstorm solutions with the student. Try to keep strategies and outcome measures concrete. Be supportive and maintain the student's confidentiality.
  3. Modify your approach: Consider the student's preferred learning style, for example, would further demonstration or more step-by-step instructions be helpful?

We advise you to document the process, including important observations, discussions and decisions and seek advice from the Professional Practice Coordinator.

Professional Practice Coordinator Contacts