Placement Based Observation Skills and Reflective Practice

The details
Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
20 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA L520 Childhood Studies,
BA L521 Childhood Studies (Including Year Abroad),
BA L522 Childhood Studies (Including Placement Year),
BA L523 Childhood Studies (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

There are three main interrelated components in this module. Firstly, the module consists of a minimum 50 hours of placement experience. You will attend a placement for a 5 hour day once a week over 10 weeks. Students will receive guidance and support to find placements from induction day and early throughout the Autumn term from our Placements Team and from the module tutor. You will be provided with a range of placement contacts but will be responsible for making contact, arranging to visit, and ensuring your Placement Agreement is signed. You will be undertaking your placement during the Spring Term

The module provides you with the opportunity to apply your learning to work-based practice at your work placement. Here, as an auxiliary member of an agency, abiding by the policy framework within which they operate, you will have the opportunity to experience the role of a professional within children's sector, e.g. a nursery, primary/secondary school or children's centre. The agency will define your duties, and their expectation of your working day. Your supervisor within your placement will make arrangements for your work, and will review various aspects of your overall work experience.

At the end of the 10 weeks your placement supervisor will write a brief report - between 300 and 500 words - summarising your progress and contribution to the organisation. This is for feedback purposes only, but may also aid you in writing your end of year reflective report.

Secondly, this module aims to provide students with a theoretical and practice-based understanding of psychodynamic observation and the skill and qualities involved. Students will be asked to undertake their own observations initially in the community and later in their placement, to write these up and present them in seminars. Students will be developing professional skills involved in assessment and case presentation.

They will learn to apply their growing grasp of psychodynamic theory to everyday events and encounters and to develop their appreciation of the role of unconscious and emotional communication in ordinary life. This will enable them to become perceptive in terms of detail and more subtle in their understanding of the meaning of what they observe, what they themselves bring and the way their own self-awareness affects their capacity to understand and provide support and care to others.

Thirdly, students will also be developing a psychodynamic approach to reflective practice. Reflective practice is represented by the following components: attending Reflective Groups, maintaining a Reflective Learning Journal and, as a specific end of year assignment, writing a Reflective Report. You will keep a Reflective Learning Journal throughout the year but especially using this to record significant aspects of your work placement experience. This can be used to help you write the assignments for this module and your end of year reflective report.

These three activities encourage and support the conscious use of self (self awareness) in social and professional relationships, the experience of 'learning from action' and a recognition of oneself as a 'participant observer' in different contexts. The reflective components bring the theoretical learning into the personhood of the student and thus more effectively into actual practice.

Note: Your placement will provide a short report on your progress and development during the placement. This is not an assessment element of the course but will provide you with important feedback which can help you develop your employability skills and can be considered and discussed in your reflective report.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:
* To undertake a placement in the children's sector
* To develop your perceptivity for the detail of human behaviour and interaction
* To increase awareness of the role of emotional communication and the unconscious in everyday events and encounters
* To lay the foundations for psychodynamic observation as a key skill in psychodynamic practice
* To develop employability skills related to psychodynamic assessment, case presentation and reflective practice
* To establish a reflective space for acknowledging and processing the emotional and psychological implications of the material and experiences on this course
* To develop the capacity for self-reflection and an awareness of the influence of one's own processes and personal experiences

Module learning outcomes

On completion of the module:
* Students will gain an experience of direct work with children, the issues and dilemmas raised by this
* Students will gain knowledge and experience in a professional setting working with children
* Students will form a working relationship with their placement supervisor and other staff
* Students will reflect upon the placement experience both in seminars and through their learning journal
* Students will gain a greater ability to observe detail and to perceive subtle indications of emotional and unconscious dynamics
* Students will gain awareness of the use of psychodynamic observation in work with children
* Students will develop a capacity to reflect on their own process in the observing and in the learning contexts
* Students will be increasingly reflexive and recognise the relationship between self-awareness and child care

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Students will be asked to undertake their own observations in the community and later in their placement, to write these up and present them in seminars. There are also three theory seminars, assignment support, reviews and reflective groups. Reflective groups are groups in which students are asked to reflect on and discuss the experience of being in the group and on the course.


  • Schön, Donald A. (2003, c1991) 'Professional Knowledge and Reflection-In-Action', in The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action, Aldershot: Ashgate., pp.3-69
  • Delderfield, Russell. (2018) 'Reflective Practice: An Introduction', in Reflective practice: writing and professional development, Los Angeles: Sage., pp.1-24
  • Sternberg, Janine. (2005) 'From instrument to Melody', in Infant observation at the heart of training, London: Karnac., pp.61-83
  • Trowell, J. (1995) 'The Contribution of Observation Training to Professional Development', in The emotional needs of young children and their families: using psychoanalytic ideas in the community, London: Routledge., pp.38-53
  • Rustin, M. (1989) 'Encountering Primitive Anxieties', in Closely observed infants, London: Duckworth., pp.7-21

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Observation commentary    50% 
Coursework   Reflective report    50% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Deborah Wright, email:
Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Student Administrator Room 5A.202 telephone 01206 874969 email



External examiner

Dr Claudia Lapping
Available via Moodle
Of 88 hours, 82 (93.2%) hours available to students:
6 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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