Embedding Learning as a Practice of Value: Learning from the Experiences of Early Career Social Workers in Scotland

McCulloch, Trish; Grant, Scott; Daly, Maura; Sen, Robin and Ferguson, Gillian (2024). Embedding Learning as a Practice of Value: Learning from the Experiences of Early Career Social Workers in Scotland. The British Journal of Social Work (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcae072

Abstract

Across the Global North, professional learning for social workers has become a matter of concern. Efforts to ‘fix’ the problem have focused narrowly on formal methods of learning and show limited connect with recent research. In this article, we report on findings from a mixed-method longitudinal cohort study, which examined early career social workers experiences of learning over the first five years of professional practice. Drawing on a repeat-measure annual online survey, our findings provide an inside-view of how early career social workers in Scotland experience work-based learning over time and how professional learning for social workers can be enhanced. Quantitative and qualitative data were analysed using descriptive statistical analysis and reflexive thematic analysis respectively and integrated using a convergence coding matrix to identify meta-themes. Our findings support an integrative, developmental and ecological approach to professional learning, embedded in a value-led understanding of social work as practice. We invite the profession to embrace and embed learning as a ‘practice of value’, both as an antidote to managerial approaches to practice and learning and as a way of valuing the extraordinary work that social workers do.

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