Browsing Applied social sciences by Journal
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Decrypting cultural nuances: using drama techniques from the theatre of the oppressed to strengthen cross cultural communication in social work studentsDespite widening participation in social work education in the UK, social work students from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds can find that they have less positive experiences on social work courses than their counterparts. This can happen when courses do not equip students to navigate the subtle rules of communication with service users that are premised on dominant UK values. As a consequence BME students can be assessed as having poor interpersonal skills and poor skills in engaging service users. However, the issue is often more one of cultural differences and high expectations of cultural integration than one of incompetence.
Hearts and minds: aspects of empathy and wellbeing in social work studentsAlthough empathy is critical to social work practice, the extent to which it can be measured, nurtured or taught is hotly debated. Furthermore, definitions of empathy are typically one-dimensional referring to the ability to adopt the perspective of others in order to understand their feelings, thoughts or actions. Such definitions do not adequately reflect the realities of empathy in the social work context or recognise its potential to lead to distress. This study utilises data from 359 social work students to examine relationships between several dimensions of empathy (i.e. perspective taking, concern and distress), reflective ability and wellbeing with a view to using the findings to develop evidence-based interventions to help staff develop appropriate empathic responses to service users' experiences. Whilst students reported fairly high levels of empathic concern, they also disclosed considerable empathic distress. Some evidence was found that reflective ability might protect social work students from empathic distress. Findings suggest that students require support to develop their empathic and reflective skills to effectively manage the emotional demands of practice. The use of techniques such as mindfulness and experiential learning for enhancing such skills is explored. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
How not to observe social workers in practiceThe home visit is central to the practice of contemporary child and family social work, yet we know comparatively little about what social workers use them for and how. Descriptions of practice and policies and procedures that overlook the emotional, physical and relational complexity of the home visit will inevitably miss something important about the social work role. More and more researchers are using observational methods to produce descriptions of home visit practices, while the Department for Education has been trialing observations as part of a national accreditation programme in England. Local authorities for many years have been engaged in observations of students and newly-qualified workers. However, none of these developments mean that observing social workers in practice and on a wider scale is straight-forward. This paper describes an attempt to introduce regular observations of social work practice in three inner London local authorities—and discusses how and why this attempt failed. By so doing, we hope to provide helpful lessons for others who may be thinking of using observations of practice more widely within their own authorities or as part of a research project.
Putting practice at the heart of social work education: can practice skills be reliably graded by different markers in child and family social work contexts?The Frontline programme is a social work qualification route, in England, which began in 2014. Students are based in statutory child and family contexts supported by an academic staff member and practice educator. The assessment strategy on the programme includes seven graded observations of students engaging in social work, marked by both staff. This paper investigates reliability of grading of direct practice between different markers on the programme. It reports findings for 30 recordings of direct observations of practice that were graded during the first cohort. These included observations graded by an academic and by a practice educator. Each was independently then graded by an academic, blind to the original score or who marked it. An acceptable level of reliability was found between the independent grader and the first mark (r =.621). In general the level of agreement was higher between the independent grader (a social work academic) and academics. In comparison, practice educators tended to give higher grades to students. Nonetheless, overall the reliability of marking suggests it is possible to agree on marks for students, which points to the potential for grading of practice to be more widely used in social work education.