This paper arises from a transnational research network investigating social work education. University based social work programmes from four European countries (Ireland, Italy, Norway, and the U.K.) shared a similar concern: how educators can support students to prepare for social work practice. The relationship between social work education and practice is not straightforward; the partnership between educators and practitioners in helping social work students to flourish in practice remains a complex and, at times, controversial issue. Furthermore, it is not enough to help students learn the mechanics of day to day tasks, it is also important to motivate them in becoming social workers stimulated by principles of human rights and social justice. With this in mind, each educator conducted a local study using qualitative and/or quantitative methods to explore what influences the development of such practitioners. Analysis from the studies indicate three key issues for social work education in Europe: developing strategies to help students in preventing and overcoming ‘practice shock’; the promotion of coherence as a way to bring into focus the complexity of the interrelationships between theory and practice; the active engagement of students and practice teachers in the evaluation and development of contemporary social work education models.