Frontline Training

21 May 2024

The Susan McKinnon Foundation has a vision for Australia’s publicly funded services to be world class. Public servants who manage frontline services need to be empowered and incentivised to deliver better outcomes. The Training the Frontline project focused on driving excellence in service delivery, through improving the way we design and deliver tertiary training for crucial frontline public sector workforces. 

The Susan McKinnon Foundation commissioned Impact Economics and Policy & Monash Social Work to examine tertiary-level training and skill-building for frontline workers in social work and education. 

 This project aimed to identify innovative solutions to address the identified challenge of teacher and social worker preparedness for the workplace. For both teachers and social workers, there is an identified disconnect between what is learned in a tertiary setting (the theory) and what they do in a classroom or client setting (the practice). Digital simulations are increasingly being recognised as a useful tool to address this disconnect, enabling trainee teachers and social workers to practice skills on real world problems and situations.  

These reports provide a synthesis of the global evidence-base of ‘what works’ in immersive simulation training for both education and social work, and the sector-specific opportunities and barriers to the adoption of simulation training for tertiary-level teacher and social work training in Australia.

 Key findings 

The evidence shows that digital simulations work. There is strong global evidence that immersive simulations – and corresponding supports – can create significant positive shifts in trainee teacher and social worker skills, competencies, knowledge, and self-efficacy to better prepare them for future real-world settings.  

 Six active ingredients are essential to achieving improved outcomes: 

  1. Directive and targeted instructional coaching 
  1. Feedback and reflection 
  1. Peer observation 
  1. Modelling of best practice 
  1. High dosage (frequency of use) 
  1. Strong underpinning theory and content aligned with coursework 

 While the Australian education and social work tertiary sectors are at different stages of their journey to adoption of digital immersion technologies, both sectors show a growing trend in the adoption of digital simulation products for training.  

 There is strong evidence that digital simulations can deliver positive impacts for trainee teachers and social workers and a growing appetite from Australian tertiary education providers in adopting such technologies to enhance our future frontline workforces. 

 For sector-specific findings and recommendations, see our evidence summary reports: