© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Social work fieldwork placements are recognized as a core element of professional training. This article analyses the experiences of students who have completed a social work placement, examining tools that facilitated learning on placement. The research utilized an innovative methodology that enabled first-year students to design an online survey which they administered to second-year students. Using this approach students gained research experience, and also an insight into what assisted learning on placement. This two-phase cross-sectional research surveyed a 2014/15 cohort of postgraduate social work (MSW) students. This article focuses on students’ perceptions of the tools which assisted learning on placement. The article explores student-driven tools such as self-reflection, writing case notes and critiquing one’s own work. Interaction with the practice teacher, supervision and feedback were other tools discussed by the students as well as formal inputs such as induction, training and safety instructions. An interesting finding was that whilst students recognized the importance of self-directed learning, many did not engage in it routinely. Moreover, self-directed learning was, at best, weakly correlated with perceived learning and satisfaction with the placement. In fact, learning and satisfaction were primarily vested in the practice teachers and other external contributors even over and above casework.