Placement models and approaches to student supervision

Student supervisors should consider the range of placement options that are available when deciding to offer a student placement. Think about your specific work context and decide what type of placement structure and approach would be most appropriate.

There is no 'gold standard' model for student placements. When considering the various placement model options, you need to think about the advantages and disadvantages of each option and evaluate whether you could successfully implement the model in your specific work context. Remember hybrid models, which combine elements from two or more models, are also possible.

The following models will now be explored in more detail

Traditional Model

Collaborative Model

Multiple Mentoring Model

Role Emerging Model

Project Model



Traditional model 

The traditional model consists of one health professional supervising one student, both from the same profession.  The traditional model is also known as: one-to-one placement; apprenticeship model; mentorship; or role-established placement. Direct supervision is used.

Benefits Considerations
  • Closer supervision of the student
  • Facilitates modelling of skills
  • Easier for student to demonstrate autonomy
  • May be easier to accommodate one student than a group of students
  • Time available for individual student supervision and feedback
  • Limited opportunity for collaborative or peer learning
  • Often limited to service delivery practicing skills within an existing and well-defined role
  • Student is largely dependent on supervisor to facilitate learning
  • Limits supervisor’s capacity to offer placements

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Collaborative model

The collaborative model also known as: paired/group supervision; two-to-one; co-operative model; peer collaboration; multiple-student placement.  The collaborative model consists of one health professional supervising more than one student.

Benefits Considerations
  • Students experience peer-based learning, including:
    • Practising skills and techniques
    • Questioning techniques
    • Providing feedback  
  • Students develop teamwork skills
  • Students are supported by each other and are less dependent on their supervisor.
  • Supervisors require skills to facilitate peer learning and collaboration
  • There may be some incompatibility of personality/learning style between students
  • Matching of student experience and performance may be required.
  • Time available for individual student supervision and feedback
  • Time available to complete multiple student assessments
  • Adequate space, resources, clients and casemix for multiple students

Useful resources:

In this video Sarah Jackson, physiotherapist with the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health, describes a collaborative and multiple mentoring placement model.

 In this video Helen Bourne and Jayne Moyle describe the Central Queensland University student led clinic.

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Multiple mentoring

Multiple mentoring also known as: shared supervision; team supervision; shared-responsibility; inter-agency placements, consists of a team of two or more supervisors supervising a single student, or a team of two or more students.

Benefits Considerations
  • Greater flexibility as supervisors can have different practice focus or different workplaces
  • Can combine a more traditional placement model with another placement model
  • Students are exposed to a range of experiences and practice approaches, skills and styles
  • Facilitates the development of clinical reasoning skills (as one supervisor can explain why they have a different approach from another supervisor)
  • Can allow part-time staff to be involved in clinical education
  • Can allow first time supervisors to learn from more experienced educators
  • Expectations need to be consistent between supervisors including:
    • Placement structure
    • Student learning opportunities
    • Student assessment
    • Communication
  • Methods for communicating between supervisors is required
  • Methods for moderating feedback or assessments are required
  • Consideration of a primary supervisor and secondary supervisor
  • Consistency of students’ progress and learning aims needs to be considered between supervisors

Useful resources:

Benefits of the multiple mentoring student placement model 

Tips for greater efficiency using the multiple mentoring placement model 

In the following videos two experienced clinical educators from different workplaces describe their experiences of sharing students with each other. In one setting the students are involved in a project placement while in the other it is a more traditional clinical setting. The educators offer some suggestions about what makes these placements successful.


In this video physiotherapist Megan Saunders describes how multiple mentoring has been implemented in Mobile Rehab, a private practice setting.


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Role-emerging placements

Role emerging placements, also known as: non-traditional placements occur where that particular profession does not currently offer a service. The student/s explores the possibilities and establishes the provision of a professional role within that setting in liaison with key stakeholders.

Benefits Considerations
  • Provides an opportunity to partner with community organisations
  • Students raise the profile of their profession and the potential for services within the setting
  • Broadens students' understanding of their professional role and assists students to understand the broad diversity of roles within their profession
  • Direct supervision is usually provided by a staff member from a different profession
  • Indirect profession-specific supervision may be required from a supervisor working in another service or from the university
  • Paired or groups of students may feel more supported when working together in a role-emerging placement
  • Students are often concerned about the lack of opportunity to develop core clinical skills, or receive profession specific supervision to guide their clinical skills development

Useful resources:

In the following three videos Professor Lindy McAllister explains how role-emerging placements work and gives an example of a role-emerging placement in Broken Hill.




In this video Antoinette Fitzgerald, an Advanced (Clinical Specialist) Occupational Therapist with Queensland Health's Child Development Program, explains how community engagement has been achieved through clinical education placements. A student placement model within a kindergarten for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children has allowed relationships to develop and build the capacity of the kindergarten staff to identify and encourage children who need to access allied health services.


In this video Professor Barbara Dodd describes an innovative clinical education placement structure for a rural community where students have established services that would not otherwise have been available.



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Project placements

Project placements, also known as: non-traditional placements; macro-strategy placements; community development projects; public health placements involve student/s completing a specific project for the placement organisation. Frequently projects are focused on quality assurance; health promotion; service development; capacity building; and/or community engagement.

A project sponsor from within the workplace organisation usually provides and explains the project brief and assists the student/s to identify the parameters and scope of the project.

Benefits Considerations
  • Can occur in traditional and non-traditional placement settings
  • Develops students' critical thinking, autonomy, and communication skills.
  • Assists students to understand the broader practice context and the policy, economic, political and other factors that are often significant
  • Supervision can be provided by a student supervisor located within the placement organisation or from a university staff member
  • Students can be involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating services or resources
  • Tends to be most effective when students have already developed a range of clinical skills in other placements
  • Direct supervision workload requirements may be dependent on the strengths of the students

Useful resources:

Benefits of project-focused placements

How to set up and manage a project-focused placement 

Jodie Booth, Senior Occupational Therapist with Queensland Health's Deadly Ears program, describes in this video how project placements have been successfully offered within their service.


Project placements are also offered within the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health. Dr Alison Nelson explains how these placements are run in this video.

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Other resources:

The Superguide: a handbook for supervising allied health professionals has an informative section on student supervision. Topics include: functions of supervision, methods of supervision, setting expectations, documenting supervision and evaluation of supervision.  This site provides a number of examples documents to help supervisors.



  • Briffa, C. & Porter, J. (2013) A systematic review of the collaborative clinical education model to inform speech-language pathology practice. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1-11.
  • Copley, J. & Nelson, A. (2012). Practice educator perspectives of multiple mentoring in diverse clinical settings. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75, 456-462.
  • Fieldhouse, J. & Fedden, T. (2009). Exploring the learning process on a role-emerging practice placement: a qualitative study. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72, 302-307.
  • Fortune, T. & McKinstry, C. (2012). Project-based fieldwork: Perspectives of graduate entry students and project sponsors. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59, 265-275.
  • Lekkas, P. et al. (2007). No model of clinical education for physiotherapy students is superior to another: a systematic review. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 53, 19-28.
  • Nelson, A., Copley, J. & Salama, R. (2010). Occupational therapy students’ perceptions of the multiple mentoring model of clinical supervision.  Focus on health professional education, 11, 1427.
  • O'Connor, A., Cahill, M., and McKay, E. (2012). Revisiting 1:1 and 2:1 clinical placement models: student and clinical educator perspectives. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59(4), 276-83.
  • Overton, A., Clark, M., & Thomas, Y. (2009). A review of non-traditional occupational therapy practice placement education: a focus on role-emerging and project placements. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72, 294-301.
  • Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative (2007). Clinical Placement Models. within the Clinical Educator's Resource Kit.
  • Rindflesch, A. et al. (2009). Collaborative model of clinical education in physical and occupational therapy at the mayo Clinic. Journal of Allied Health, 38, 132-143.
  • Rodger, S., Thomas, Y., Holley, S., Springfield, E., Edwards, A., Broadbridge, J., Greber, C., McBryde, C., Banks, R., & Hawkins, R. (2009). Increasing the occupational therapy mental health workforce through innovative practice education: a pilot project. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 56, 409-417.
  • Sheepway, L., Lincoln, M. & Togher, L. (2011). An international study of clinical education practices in speech-language pathology. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 13(2), 174–185.


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