From description to analysis, developing an embedded approach to learning advice for social work students

Donnarumma, David and Rose, Allan (2008). From description to analysis, developing an embedded approach to learning advice for social work students. In: 10th UK Joint Social Work Education Conference with the 2nd UK Social Work Research Conference, 9-11 Jul 2008, Cambridge University.



The assessment of Level 2 Social Work students’ essays for a Reflective Practice module in 2007 indicated a significant number who presented largely descriptive accounts of Social Work issues, and demonstrated a lack of ability to think critically or analyse problems. The module involves two terms of teaching on social work theory, approaches and methods. Having been approached by the students, a Social Work lecturer and Senior Learning Adviser designed and delivered teaching sessions that integrated academic skills advice within the Social Work module. This workshop will explore the processes and outcomes of this embedded approach.

Traditionally, students needing support with academic learning and writing access this from a centralised learning advice service. Although this bolt-on approach provides some support, it may fail to offer students the subject specific advice and skills they require. An embedded or ‘academic literacies’ approach, raises awareness of the varieties of disciplinary discourses (Street and Lea, 1998), and focuses attention on particular features of Social Work discourse as a regular part of students’ learning in the module.

Initial student feedback has been positive. Further exploration of this through student focus groups discussing the pros and cons of the module as well as their assignment grades for the current cohort will provide further material for evaluation.

It is anticipated that the workshop will raise questions about how social work students develop skills in analysis and reflective learning. The extent to which an embedded approach avoids deficit approaches to learning and builds academic literary practice.

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