Becoming a Social Worker: A Guide for Students
Publication Year: 2011
Becoming a Social Worker explores the journey of becoming a social worker. It is based upon the experiences of social work students themselves and therefore provides a unique 'inside-out' perspective. By showing that personal, professional and political elements are interwoven in students' journeys, the author demonstrates that integrating these elements is vital to critical reflection and relationship-based social work. Content includes social work theory, therapeutic and risk-management interventions, emotional and ethical aspects of practice, political and cultural contexts of practice, and issues around supervision and assessment. The book also: includes introductions, real-life case study exercises, points for reflection, diagrams and tables, further reading and resources equips new students to reflect upon their own journeying and to learn more effectively from modules and placements provides case ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part 1: Becoming a Social Worker in Training
- Chapter 1: Social Work in the UK
- Chapter 2: Students' Journeys
- Chapter 3: Studying Social Work at University
- Chapter 4: Practising under Supervision in the Community
Part 2: Integrating Knowledge, Skills and Values
- Chapter 5: ‘Why Do We Need Theory or Research?’
- Chapter 6: ‘What Do They Mean by Practice Wisdom?’
- Chapter 7: Mastering Key Roles on Initial Placements
- Chapter 8: Mastering Key Roles on Final Placements
- Chapter 9: Ethics and Emotions: Developing Socio-Emotional Intelligence
- Chapter 10: Politics and Cultures: Developing Cross-Cultural Sensitivity
Part 3: Becoming a Qualified Practitioner
© Caroline Humphrey 2011
First published 2011
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form, or by any means, only with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.
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A heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this book possible by sharing with me their stories of social work education. First and foremost are the students who completed surveys, signed up for interviews and volunteered their portfolios from placements. They invested time and energy in this endeavour, often disclosing sensitive material about their personal and professional journeys for the sake of enhancing the education of future generations of students. Second are the social work educators whose stories about teaching, supervision and assessment provided a richer background context to understanding student learning. Finally, I am grateful for institutional support in the form of a HEFCE grant and a period of research leave for the writing of this textbook.
List of Illustrations[Page viii]
- Table 1A The Knowledge Base of Social Work 13
- Table 1B National Occupational Standards for Social Work 13
- Table 1C Code of Practice for Social Care Workers 15
- Exercise 2A Images of Social Workers 21
- Exercise 2B Dealing with Negative Images 23
- Exercise 2C Reflecting Upon Your Own Journey 30
- Figure 2A Self-actualisation and Stumbling Blocks 33
- Figure 3A An Integrated Approach to Teaching and Learning 38
- Table 3A Surface and Depth Understandings 42
- Figure 3B The Learning Cycle 43
- Exercise 3A What Is Your Preferred Learning Style? 46
- Table 4A Practice Learning in Wales 53
- Table 4B Practice Learning in Scotland 53
- Table 4C Practice Learning in Northern Ireland 53
- Figure 4A The Drama Triangle 62
- Exercise 4A Identifying Transference and Counter-transference 64
- Figure 5A Strands in the Tapestry of Knowledge 70
- Exercise 5A Working with Numbers 74
- Table 5A The Relevance of Sociological Theories to Social Work 77
- Table 5B The Relevance of Psychological Theories to Social Work 77
- Figure 5B Approaches to Social Work Practice 79
- Exercise 5B Working with Concepts 84
- Table 6A Some Common Defence Mechanisms 98
- Table 6B Combining Approaches in Social Work 102
- Table 6C Techniques from Cognitive and Behavioural Traditions 104 [Page ix]
- Table 6D Techniques from Psychodynamic and Gestalt Traditions 105
- Exercise 6A Extending Your Reflective Repertoire 106
- Exercise 6B Developing a Multi-layered Reflexivity 110
- Table 7A Official Guidance on Child and Family Assessments 116
- Table 7B Official Guidance on Community Care Assessments 118
- Exercise 7A Relationship-Based Social Work: Engaging 122
- Exercise 7B Relationship-Based Social Work: Disengaging 123
- Exercise 7C Dilemmas in Multi-agency Working with Adults 131
- Exercise 7D Dilemmas in Multi-agency Working with Young People 131
- Table 8A Techniques from Family Therapy and Systemic Traditions 139
- Figure 8A A Genogram 140
- Exercise 8A Family Dramas 141
- Table 8B Risk Assessments in Youth Justice 149
- Exercise 8B A Risky Situation — But Risky for Whom and Why? 151
- Table 8C Cumulative Risks and Losses in Substance-dependent Careers 154
- Table 9A Values and Ethics Requirements for Social Work Students 160
- Exercise 9A Navigating Your Way Through Value Dilemmas 163
- Table 9B A Charter of Rights 166
- Exercise 9B Entanglement at Work 170
- Exercise 9C Estrangement at Work 172
- Figure 9A A Map of Social and Emotional Intelligence 175
- Exercise 9D Constructing Your Own Personal-Professional Boundaries 176
- Table 10A Status-based Discriminations 184
- Exercise 10A Challenging Oppressive Practice 189
- Exercise 10B Mobilising Power 193
- Exercise 10C Symbolic Markers of Cultural Difference 196
- Exercise 10D Ethnic Diversity in Social Relationships 197
- Exercise 10E Spiritual Contexts of Life and Death 198
- Figure 10A Cultural Relativity and Its Limits 202 [Page x]
- Table 11A Academic Criteria for Marking Essays 210
- Exercise 11A Managing Performance Anxieties 211
- Table 11B Evidence of Practice Competence 213
- Table 11C Service Users' and Carers' Person-centred Criteria 215
- Table 11D Positive Measures for Disabled Students 217
- Exercise 11B Challenging Discrimination in Practice Learning 220
- Exercise 11C Practice Educators' and Managers' Criteria for Fitness to Practise 222
- Exercise 12A Preparing for Job Interviews 226
- Exercise 12B Preventing Burnout 232
List of Abbreviations[Page xi]Research Data
CH Interviewer (author) P Portfolio report (from placement) S Student's voice (from interview) T Teacher's voice (from interview)Professional Terms AYE Assessed year in employment CPD Continuing professional development ICT Information and communication technology NQSW Newly qualified social worker PCS Personal-cultural-structural (a model of anti-oppressive practice) PLA Practice learning assessor (i.e. a qualified practice teacher) PLO Practice learning opportunity (i.e. an agency placement) PLO1 Initial placement (usually in the independent sector) PLO2 Final placement (usually in the statutory sector) PQ Post-qualification SWIT Social worker in trainingInstitutional Acronyms BASW British Association of Social Workers CCW Care Council for Wales CWDC Children's Workforce Development Council DCSF Department of Children, Schools and Families (now Department of Education) [Page xii] DfES Department for Education and Skills (now Department of Education) DH Department of Health ESWDET Evaluation of Social Work Degree in England Team GSCC General Social Care Council NISCC Northern Ireland Social Care Council NSPCC National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children QAA Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education SSSC Scottish Social Services Council SWTF Social Work Task Force (England) TOPSS Training Organisation for the Personal Social Services (now Skills for Care) UK United Kingdom USA United States of America
Although this introductory textbook covers the traditional subject matter of social work education, it is distinctive insofar as it is grounded upon real-life stories supplied during a research project.
The research was conducted during 2004–08 in England. The main focus was upon students undertaking a BA in Social Work programme and the main methods of data collection were:
- surveys at the beginning and end of the programme with a cohort of 80 students
- interviews with 30 students at different stages of the programme
- six focus groups convened during initial placements
- reading of 40 portfolios, 15 from initial placements and 25 from final placements.
This was supplemented by interviews with 30 social work educators. The majority were qualified practice teachers in the community, some of whom occupied management roles, but a few academic tutors and unqualified agency supervisors were also involved in these interviews. The result is that this book is able to go ‘behind the scenes’ in social work education in various ways.
Part 1 offers an introduction to social work in the UK, along with an invitation to students to engage with their programmes and the profession as adult learners. It provides a map of personal and political journeys into the social work profession based upon surveys and interviews. It examines styles of teaching and learning in university and community settings, and includes reference to the ‘hidden’ curriculum and practicum where aspects of students' biographies are brought to the foreground simply by virtue of studying social problems and practising social work. Reflecting upon our own biographies can be just as vital to the social work journey as any official requirements.
Part 2 covers the substantive knowledge base and skill repertoire of the social work profession, along with the ethical and political values underpinning it. It illuminates the struggles which students and educators continue to experience in relation to theory and research, as well as concrete applications of theoretical frameworks and research projects in practice [Page xiv]settings. It unpackages the meaning of ‘practice wisdom’ and shows how students develop into critically reflective practitioners. Case examples from interviews and portfolios are provided in relation to each of the Key Roles against which students are assessed, and in relation to the value dilemmas encountered by students during placements. Making mistakes and achieving breakthroughs are equally vital on any learning journey, and the case studies pay attention to both aspects of students' journeys.
Part 3 attends to the practicalities of becoming a qualified practitioner and embarking upon a social work career. It offers guidance to students on how to maximise their chances for success in academic assignments and practice placements, and how to maximise their chances for surviving and thriving in the real world of social work.
Appendix: The Study of Students and Their Educators[Page 237]
Becoming a Social Worker: A Guide for Students is based upon original research with students and their educators which was conducted during the period 2004–08 in England. Ethical approval was granted by the relevant university and financial support was forthcoming from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The focus was upon students undertaking a BA in Social Work programme, and the aim was to explore what is entailed in becoming a social worker in contemporary Britain in the hope that this would be helpful to future generations of student social workers and their educators. The students who volunteered their time and energy to participate in interviews and who volunteered their portfolios for the research expressly wanted their stories to become educational resources for future students.
My task as the author has been to select case examples from students and their educators which best fit the pedagogic purpose of this textbook, and to supply the contexts for these case examples so that readers can make sense of them. In the process, I have drawn upon my own practice wisdom acquired over several years as a social worker, practice teacher and academic tutor. But the case examples themselves are real-life stories of social work education and practice which have not been subject to reconstruction, although of course they have been anonymised in relation to individual participants and their practice agencies. ‘Insiders’ who participated in the project may discover their own case example in the pages of this textbook, and others who were directly involved in a case may also occupy an ‘insider’ position, but ‘outsiders’ will not be able to identify any individual or agency. Readers across the UK may find that several stories resonate with their own experiences — this is a by-product of the rootedness of this textbook in the everyday life worlds of students, practitioners and educators, and similarities (as well as differences) in our life worlds are to be expected.
Certain measures were built in to the project in order to minimise the chances of identifying individuals or agencies. Case material was supplied [Page 238]by students across four successive cohorts since pilot studies were conducted simultaneously with three student cohorts in Years 1, 2 and 3 of their programmes prior to the main study which followed students in a single cohort from the start to the end of their programme. Practice teachers provided additional case examples of student learning, some of which pertained to students from other cohorts and other programmes. Portfolios were selected from students based in 23 agencies and authorities, and interviews with students and practice teachers enabled access to material from additional agencies and authorities.
Methods of data collection were combined to maximise the validity and reliability of findings:
- A survey questionnaire was administered to 80 students during their first week of the BA in Social Work programme. This was used as the basis for developing the typology of service user, personal carer and citizen routes into social work examined in Chapter 2.
- Interviews were held with 30 students at different stages of the programme. Students had a choice in whether to be interviewed as individuals or in small groups, and almost all of them opted for individual interviews, although there was one dyadic interview. An open-ended interviewing style was adopted to encourage students to discuss their experiences on their own terms, although efforts were made to ensure that specific themes were addressed in each interview in order to promote consistency. All interviews were recorded and transcribed to preserve the accuracy of accounts.
- Six focus groups were convened for students on initial placements in agencies which had a Practice Learning and Teaching Unit taking a number of students. These took place towards the end of the placement when students had formed into a cohesive group; the dynamics and discussions emerging in each of these groups were therefore quite distinctive. Focus group discussions were also recorded and transcribed.
- Forty portfolios from placements were read — 15 from students on initial placements and 25 from students on final placements. Work records provided insights into the policies, paperwork and procedures of agencies and authorities and their impacts upon practice. Placement reports proved to be an excellent source for understanding how students met their Key Roles in different settings. Reflective journals showed how students grappled with emotional, ethical, political and cultural dilemmas, and how their capacity to reflect upon casework and its contexts developed over time.
- A survey questionnaire was administered to students at the end of their programme. Not all students were available for this session, but analysis of the 50 completed questionnaires was helpful in understanding students' evaluations of professional pedagogy as well as their career intentions.
Deploying multiple methods in a longitudinal project provides ample opportunities to refine, refute or corroborate hypotheses, interpretations [Page 239]and conclusions. Themes which emerged in the pilot studies and Year 1 survey were explored further during individual interviews and focus groups. The surveys in Year 1 and Year 3 were distributed to the same cohort of students and therefore allowed for some cross-referencing of data from both surveys. Some students volunteered to participate in the project at different stages and in different ways, so that the accounts they supplied during individual or group interviews could be cross-checked with their portfolios from initial or final placements. This also enabled me to witness at first hand some of the dramatic changes students could undergo over a three-year degree programme.
The project was designed to be student-centred and therefore required a participatory approach. At key intervals throughout the project — such as the start of the academic year or the end of a placement — I met with groups of students (and sometimes an entire cohort) in order to brief them on the project, providing information sheets with consent forms for those who wished to sign up for an interview or to volunteer their portfolio. After the first year, I was able to give feedback to students about general themes which had emerged from the research and how these had been presented in conferences or publications so that they could develop a clearer sense of how their stories could be used, which furnished an additional safeguard for informed consent.
It was important to seek the views of educators in order to produce a more rounded account of social work education which would respect the diversity of stakeholders and standpoints. Practice teachers from a wide area were invited to attend initial briefing sessions on the project, and information sheets were sent out to those who were unable to attend. Academic tutors, social services managers and voluntary agency supervisors were also informed about the project. In total, 30 educators volunteered for interview, most of whom were practice teachers in the community. They were interviewed as individuals, in pairs or in small groups and all interviews were recorded and transcribed. Educators' perspectives upon university-based teaching, community-based supervision, the role of theory in practice and the dilemmas around student assessment were particularly significant and occupy a prominent place in the relevant chapters.
Service users and carers are also significant stakeholders in social work education, but it was not possible to interview them directly during this project on account of constraints around my own time and energy as a solo researcher. Readers will realise that the predicaments and perspectives of service users and carers are actually at the heart of most of the case examples supplied by students and educators. Without them, there is no social work practice or pedagogy.
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