Enhancing students’ ability to apply theory to practice

Sieminski, Sandy and Seden, Janet (2009). Enhancing students’ ability to apply theory to practice. In: 11th UK Joint Social Work Education Conference with the 3rd UK Social Work Research Conference, 8-10 Jul 2009, University of Hertfordshire, UK.

URL: http://www.jswec.co.uk/2009old/programme.asp?day=1


The use of academic theory in social work practice is often a challenge for social work students and improving the practice/theorising relationship has been a longstanding concern of social work educators. This is issue is highlighted when students write about their practice learning in workplace settings. Applied Social Work Practice is a second year practice course in the social work degree at the Open University and the third cohort is in process. Students are expected to engage with theory to practice applications through assessed practice alongside their studies. The course team were particularly keen to find ways to assist those students who struggle most with this aspect of their learning. This paper presents the outcomes of an action research study day which investigated successful approaches used by tutors to enable students to enhance this aspect of learning. The method used was an action research study day involving 10 tutor ‘champions,’ drawn from across the UK and selected for their experienced and proactive approaches in teaching and learning. The research day used an appreciative inquiry approach to skills development that has emerged from the world of organisational change. It provides an alternative to problem based approaches by seeking out positive stories. It requires an open approach to sharing ideas and methods and a willingness to learn and take new ideas forward. The facilitators therefore sought to identify successful teaching strategies and learning resources that could be shared with the fifty lecturers teaching on the course. The findings include a critical evaluation of teaching approaches considered helpful, suggestions for how this aspect of delivery of the course pedagogy might be enhanced or developed and explores cross-cutting themes for other settings/teaching situations. There is a focus on practical and transferable teaching outcomes, which evidence learning for best practices and experiences of teaching success.

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