Problem Solving Resources
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.