A group of social work academics from countries across Europe are seeking to improve students’ preparedness for practice.
The special research group convened at The University of Cumbria ahead of the 8th European Conference for Social Work in Edinburgh, where they shared initial research findings and agreed they needed work together to improve things for their students.
“Social work education has become very political for a number of reasons. Very often politicians are deciding what makes a good social worker without talking to any students about what they need to learn and which skills they need to develop”, said Kirsteen Laidlaw, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at The University of Cumbria.
She continued, “we decided there was a need for us to work together to improve things for our students. We are going to work on understanding how well students are prepared for practice placements and their future careers. This has the potential to improve social work globally with our participation”.
The group includes social work practitioners from The University of Cumbria, London Southbank University, University College Cork, Nord Universitet, Norway and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy, who have each committed to developing research to help improve outcomes for social work students.
From their early discussions last year the researchers discovered that although they represented different countries and welfare systems, they believe they face many similar issues in teaching social work, including integrating theory into practice and teaching students the ability to critically reflect on their practice.
The next steps are for the group to apply for funding so that they may meet biannually to share their research progress and develop impactful research for social workers, education programmes and policy makers. They also hope to present this research to a wider audience through conferences and journal articles.
This comes ahead of the second annual social work conference set to take place on Friday 25 May at the University of Cumbria, Fusehill Street campus Carlisle. The conference will showcase fascinating research from graduating students as well as keynote speakers who will discuss ‘shame’ and a new model for reflection based on critical sociology.