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Practitioner research and the visit of the Chief Social Workers to York

Practitioner research

The two recent reviews of qualifying social work education in the UK have both argued that teaching and practice needs to be underpinned by rigorous research. Although there are several problematic aspects to these reports, this is one point I agree with.

David Croisdale-Appleby’s independent review of social work education argued that it is important …

for the credibility of the profession of social work that it creates its own codification of beliefs and taught principles – its doctrine – based on its discipline as a social science, which means that its own rigorous research must underpin its teachings and beliefs (p. 16).

The report makes the recommendation that:

All qualifying education should equip newly qualified social workers with the capability to engage in research throughout their career, inculcating an understanding that the ability to carry out research is an essential component in their future professional capability in practice (p. 87).

Similarly, Martin Narey argued in his review of the education of children’ social workers that among many things they need to understand at graduation was:

the evidence base around successful family support and parenting capacity (p. 10).

Good research teaching is essential on qualifying social work programmes to give students confidence to critically engage with the evidence base for their practice. Ideally, where possible, students should have the opportunity to undertake their own practice research or data analysis to become more familiar with the methods and practice of social work research. This research-mindedness should then be carried into practice as a newly qualified social worker and beyond, but it is often stymied by the demands of the job.

Recent and continuing reforms in social work are providing opportunities for social workers to engage with research findings as part of their continuing professional development. Where this is supported by employers, practitioners have been able to integrate insights from research into their practice. Some go on to register for higher degrees and undertake their own research to answer practice-based questions. This is to be encouraged.

At the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research (ICMHSR) we encourage and support practitioner research. For example, we supervise practitioners who are undertaking part-time PhDs which address practice-based questions. These practitioners report that engaging in the research literature on their topic has enriched their practice and they have been able to share insights with colleagues to influence practice within their teams too. These studies help to define social work practice and contribute to our underpinning knowledge.

Visit of Chief Social Workers to York

On Friday 9th May the Chief Social Workers will be visiting York. Isabelle Trowler and Lyn Romeo provide leadership for the profession to drive forward the improvement and reform programme for social work and it will be a pleasure to welcome them to York.

They will be meeting with social work staff, students and practice educators at the University of York in the morning. In the afternoon they will be attending an open seminar jointly organised by ICMHSR and Making Research Count. This seminar has an open invitation to practitioners in the region (and beyond) to come and meet the Chief Social Workers.

The afternoon seminar begins with presentations from two social work PhD students from ICMHSR. Tracee Green will talk about her research on parenting assessments and Jonny Lovell will talk about his study on self-disclosure by practitioners in mental health services. Both are experienced practitioners whose studies have arisen from practice-based questions, highlighting the contribution to social work research which practitioners can make.

The second part of the session will be an interactive dialogue with the Chief Social Workers about their role. This will feature a panel discussion with Social Work  Directors from across the region.

There are still places available at this seminar. Please click here to find out how you can book your place.


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