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Conversations between some teaching consultants and students in the classroom later get revisited during student practice placements. However, I am hopeful that mechanisms can be found to embed the initiative of welcoming social workers as teaching consultants in Goldsmiths. The teaching partnership initiative brings new insights not only to academics and students but also to social workers taking up the mantle to teach.


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I have worked for the London Borough of Lewisham for almost ten years. I have developed productive links with students and staff at Goldsmiths, and with other social workers too.

Repeated change to placement requirements has been confusing for practice educators and supervisors

As a practising social worker I have come into Goldsmiths and:. The feedback from students has been really positive. Students appreciate anonymised, real-life examples of practice, which help to bring social work to life. Students are better able to understand the topic and, crucially, to imagine themselves in the role of a social worker. In terms of my own practice, teaching has given me an opportunity to reflect on the application of theory to practice again. My experience and understanding of the nuances, practicalities and complexities of the work has led me to a deeper appreciation of theory and research.

The conversations I began around contemporary theory with social work students will continue to benefit me and improve my work. I have more energy and enthusiasm for my role and in my work — it is invigorating being around the Goldsmiths campus and working with keen and enthusiastic students who ask questions and challenge how one thinks about things. The second author transcribed notes from the focus group. The student reflection logs were already typed; the second author compiled responses to the questions. The purpose of the open coding was to discover how the students described their experiences and to look for meaning in the data.

In the first round of analysis, photocopies of the transcripts were cut into relevant strips of data and sorted into constructs. Next, similar constructs were grouped and labeled as concepts. Data and key student quotes were placed on notecards and then sorted to identify developing similarities. From this process, themes emerged.

Following the independent open coding, the authors compared their findings and worked to agree on the qualitative themes. The authors typically agreed on the sorting of key data and quotes into categories; however, much of the discussion was centered on titling the themes. This process provided interrater reliability of concepts and themes.

Included as part of their weekly logs, students recorded their reactions to their experiences. The questions required students to draw from their readings, the NASW Code of Ethics, lecture, and lessons learned from the projects. What excites you and scares you about the service-learning project? Summarize your understanding of the topic.

How does the concept apply to your work on the service-learning project? On the last day of class, students were asked by the instructor to respond in writing to open-ended questions and to discuss their responses with the class. This was not graded and students were told the purpose was to reflect on learning and for the instructor to improve the course for future students. The written responses were collected and coded by themes. Fifteen months following the completion of the course, qualitative and quantitative data were collected from the student participants.

The students were contacted via email to request their voluntary participation in the follow-up project. Nine students replied to this request. Students participated in a minute qualitative interview with the first author who was not involved with the course, but was completing data collection for her MSW thesis. If so, how and did the service-learning experience change your attitude about policy? In addition, based on the work of Rocha , participants were given a list of policy activities e.

Given the small sample size, the responses were tabulated for each question and reported; only the mean, standard deviation, and range was reported for overall participation in policy activities. Sixteen students were enrolled in the course. Of the 16, 14 were Caucasian women; one was an African American woman; and one was an African- American male.

The median age was All of the students started their senior practicum within two quarters of completing the policy course. Nine students who participated in the policy course volunteered to participate in the follow-up interviews 15 months after the course ended. Of the nine students, seven were Caucasian females, one was an African-American male, and one student was an African-American female.

Examples of skills identified were talking to people in power about an issue most common , report writing, and improving needs assessment. Examples of quotes that illustrate success in using a skill follow:. Before this project, I would hold back some questions I may want to ask. I have found a new ability to call up complete strangers and speak with them about a political policy. I have found myself becoming more comfortable in talking with people about their opinions regarding this bill and setting up interviews.

I have not always had confidence in myself and this project has been pushing me outside of my comfort zone. We edited a lot. The limitations that students recognized were more difficult to classify. The limitations were more closely tied with the nature and tasks associated with the project rather than based on a social work skill.

Limitations included not having enough time to work on the project, key informants refusing to return phone calls, lack of local interest in the bill, and frustration with group members. These challenges may have interfered with their skill development. In written format and through a class discussion, students were asked to respond to four questions posed during the last class. I wanted nothing to do with politics. I was scared. I never have been involved with politics and I was intimidated and did not think I would do well. Similarly, three students admitted that they were uninterested in being involved with politics or macro practice.

Twelve responses were classified as new skills and knowledge. Student sentiment was expressed in the following quotations:. I am very excited to say I have been a part of a bill. Helping it move forward has made me extremely proud. Advocating by doing something is what I have learned. Three students expressed that their experiences lead them to embrace their own advocacy responsibilities. I plan to become more involved in the political process. At one time in my life, politics meant only civil rights. Now politics includes social justice for everyone.

Of those 11, 4 had specific plans of action, while 6 were less specific about how to be involved. Student responses included:. Become politically active and speak up! Three students talked about being more aware of policies. A concern of the instructor of the course was that students were excited about policy and macro work because of their intense emersion in the topic and that the excitement and application of policy skills would not persist over time. Fifteen months following the completion of the course, qualitative and quantitative data were collected from nine students.

Students discussed how their learning experiences were enhanced by the project because it allowed for hands-on learning. The students reported how the projects provided a platform to apply what they had talked about in class or read to a real-world problem. With service-learning I got so comfortable with policy. I understood the material taught in class because I could apply it to what I was doing right then.


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During the qualitative interviews, students were asked to talk about their experiences with policy. Participants discussed how the service-learning projects increased their personal and professional confidence. Students felt as though the projects inspired them to know that their voices were being heard. Confidence was one of the things that I think that I took the most away from it [the course]. It was feeling that as a social work student, you have much more say about things than what you ever would have thought.

I definitely did not know we have as much power or as much of a voice as we do.

Research in Practice | Reflections on working in a social work teaching partnership

I love service-learning… it gives people the confidence. It gives students the confidence because we got to read about it and then I got to see it. Without the service-learning project, there would have been no way that I would have been able to testify in front of the Senate. A third theme that emerged was the concept of the service-learning projects creating lasting behavioral changes for students.

Following the course, the students were able to participate in a variety of experiences including testifying before the State Senate, presenting their policy project at a professional conference, interviewing senators, and talking with social work professionals and citizens in the community about their thoughts regarding policy issues.

Through these activities, students were able to participate in the political process and begin to develop a macro skill set. One student discussed her views on political behaviors. She explained:. That is what has changed after the class, because now I realize the importance of it. It is a big thing in order to produce change in laws for our clients.

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Based on the political engagement of the students and their positive regard toward policy, it is important to recognize the level of commitment demonstrated by the students after the conclusion of the course. Students may have engaged in political behaviors because of the awareness and civic duty instilled in them during the service-learning project. I sent a letter and I gave out envelopes to others. I do a step program and I do a support group and 13 of the participants sent letters about this bill.

Some of them also made phone calls. I would never have done that before this class. He keeps telling us that we are his contacts when he reinvents the bill. He is going reintroduce it and change it a little bit based on we learned and what we educated him about the bill.

How we’re supporting struggling practice educators

He has taken the changes to heart what we found. As change seems to be a constant factor in social work, the particular focus of our work has altered over time to reflect changing concerns and currently we are participating in the PEPS Review. Additionally individual members of the committee have contributed to the PCF Refresh. NOPT organises an annual conference to bring practice educators and any other interested individuals together to consider the latest social work practice and policy issues and to share good practice.