Mirror, mirror… Gary Clapton and Ruth Forbes University of Edinburgh
‘Can’t go on doing more of the same’ Degree Course shortcomings re readiness for practice Curricula stuffed with content Theory and practice gap remains as wide as ever
Integrated learning What is it? • :’The integration of theory and practice, the individual and social, art and science, field and classroom. (Gibbons and Gray 2002 p.539) • Various dimensions including…
How (is it done)? • How #2 (is it measured)? • Where (does it take place)? • With whom? • When (does it happen)? • Student perspective missing but they say: “applying, blending, bridging the gap, combining, coming together, complementing, connecting, crossing over, gelling, incorporating, intersecting, interlocking, intertwining, linking, making sense, mixing, merging, pushing together, recognizing, relating, synthesizing, and tying together.”
The Light Bulb moment exists “The light bulb I guess is being able, the “Ah ha,” to take a step back to see the big picture, because now, even in my other classes, I will be able to do that. And sort of, I’ll see, “Okay, I see where this goes into this area” based on my own knowledge.”
Pilot Project questionnaire • Sent to 55 University of Edinburgh, Master of Social Work Students at the end of their training programme. • 11 returned. 5 by email, 6 by post. • Issues of anonymity linked to response choice. • Questionnaire focus – students’ perspective on how integration of learning has been enabled or otherwise by the various ‘players’ in their social work training.
Expectations of university tutor • A generally mixed range of expectations, some based on previous experience as undergraduate. • Varying from nil expectations to high. UG experiences varying from high input from personal tutor to very limited contact. • ‘Regular meetings, personal support, academic advice, professional challenge, support within department/placement’. • Identification of heightened expectation of social work tutor because of the nature of the discipline.
Expectations met? • In some instances positive expectations had been met. • No clear outcome. • However, some negative comments regarding tutors’ people skills and general availability.
Transitions • Pre-course exercise assisted with transition into university, back into student role and towards a professional social work identity. • Importance of first meeting. • Evidence of students feeling listened to, supported and valued. • ‘Definitely helped me get into ‘university mode’. Helped me connect with the academic side when I’ve been on placement.’ • Some students felt insufficiently guided until they reached practicum stage.
Involvement of University tutor • Balanced response in terms of helpfulness. • Change of tutor – not helpful. Better management necessary change would assist. • Lack of transparency about tutor/student allocation processes.
Who was or became significant in learning process? • Practice Teachers – way out ahead – ‘helped me develop professional skills and to link my academic learning with my practice’. • Tutors/lecturers – less significant • Other students featured in this process ‘Discussions with other students helped me to develop my own ideas and opinions by providing another viewpoint. Also helped to discuss complex, challenging, hard to understand aspects of our learning.’
Project limitations • Low return. • Power dynamic between students and researchers. • Lack of triangulation – additional methods – e.g. focus group and follow up interviews would have enhanced the quality of the data and allowed exploration of salient features. • ‘Toe in the water’ in terms of accessing student voice – clear need for further research
Early observations The Learning Environment • Transition to Uni • Being ‘Different’ (as SW students) • Working Harder and Smarter (ditto) • ‘Taking a Bitter Pill’ via different teaching and learning methods (i.e. ditto) • Greater learning from Peers • Nb. Increased motivation to learn is also associated with a reduction of threat and anxiety.
Individual Factors • Finding Coursework Personally Relevant • Identifying Multiple Perspectives, Knowledge is contested • Encountering Conflict (outside and inside self) and Reconciling Conflict Faculty • Importance of Relationships – we must walk and talk it • Tutorials – much capacity to be explored Teaching… • will have to shiftfrom transmission to facilitation