Critical Learning for Social Work Students

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This is viewed as fundamental in helping students to use and acquire culturally relevant and culturally sensitive professional knowledge, intervene skilfully, apply skills, demonstrate professional values and ensuring that the student is supported in learning and reflection on their practice. This is further reinforced by the motivation and willingness of practitioners to support social work students in practice as part of their commitment to develop social work as a profession in Malawi.

In addition, student have expressed a desire to have more opportunities to apply knowledge and skills in practice and learn from and in practice settings.

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Consequently, it was agreed to develop a 5-day programme to support the development of Practice Educators, primarily based in social work focussed practice settings, supported by partners based in the UK with previous knowledge of working with colleagues in Malawi and of developing and delivering PE programmes.

The overall aim of the Programme was therefore to introduce Practice Educators to the key knowledge and skills required to support, supervise and assess social work students in practice placements. The 5-day Practice Educator Programme was developed and delivered as a partnership with colleagues at Chancellors College to ensure local relevance and experienced social work academics and a practitioner originally from Malawi from England.

The Programme explored all aspects of supporting and assessing a student in practice, including the role and responsibilities of Practice Educators and others involved in practice placement; assessing knowledge, theories and skills; assessing social work values, ethics and anti-oppressive practice; enabling learning; dealing with challenges and difficulties and writing the student report. Critically the programme was focussed on active participation by participants and opportunities for discussion and negotiation of relevant process and practice for the development of practice placements and practice education in Malawi See Appendix One.

The wider commitment to learn and support others with their learning was reflected in the fact that applicants for the programme significantly outnumbered the places available. In total, there were 23 participants, twenty of whom were practicing social workers and three were from social work academia. Participants were drawn from all over Malawi, with many travelling significant distances over days to participate in the Programme. Participants on the programme reflected a diversity of work with different service users, for example, community-based mental health services; projects working with vulnerable children and families; projects working with children with a disability and their families; youth in prison; and services for street and vulnerable children.

Consequently, the programme participants reflected a diverse range of experiences and opportunities for social work students in undertaking placements in practice. The Programme was on a residential basis in a Community Centre in the south of Malawi. One of the other benefits of a residential programme was that participants were able to share and debate a number of key social issues and the role and responsibilities of social worker, and the development of social work as a profession in Malawi.

Participants were very active in their desire for learning, keen to develop their own practice and support learning in practice for student social workers. They were also eager for new information and ideas and enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet social work colleagues from all over Malawi. Teaching sessions were definitely enhanced by the stimulating approach to singing and dancing as energisers! All students engaged in the learning and discussion and exercises generated active debate and discussion, particularly to apply and further the learning of students and the social work profession as demonstrating relevance for social work in in the Malawian context and to supporting and prompting change for vulnerable people and citizens.

There was a real dedication by all to making a difference in the lives of vulnerable people and communities. Communities respect and value their work, and so see social work as a high-status profession. Above all their pride in being qualified social workers is evident. The enthusiasm and professionalism of all the social work practitioners and university educators was clearly evident.

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All participants completed an anonymous evaluation of their experience on the Programme. All participants were very satisfied with the Programme, that it meets the intended outcome and meets their needs as Practice Educators. A selection of comments is set out below. The Programme has supported the desire to embed learning in practice for students of social work into the curriculum as a critical component of education for social work. Participants on the programme have supported and supervised social work students on placements.

There is continuing need to train and develop social workers and other professionals working in the community. In addition, there is a real desire to continue the impetus of this Programme, particularly as participants on this programme and the previous programme have supported and supervised social work students on placements.

Helping your student develop critical reflection skills

Funding continues to be a significant issue to meet these aspirations, with significant reliance on funding from external funding agencies to support any initiatives. Work will continue to support colleagues in Malawi with funding bids. Participants were asked to comment on the transferability of the Programme to other settings.

The overwhelming response was positive. The view was content was highly relevant to the training and development of a Practice Educator, and as a contribution to their own continuing professional development as social workers. The knowledge and skills of the facilitators in teaching, support and enabling the participants was viewed as essential. The positive outcomes of this Project recognise the centrality of the social worker, particularly in the role of a PE, as a key agent for support for social work students and the development of social work education.

They also represent the visibility and importance of social workers as a key professional group in supporting and empowering vulnerable people and the citizens of Malawi. The key outcome of the conference was on the development of a five-year action plan focusing on 5 key thematic areas : regulatory framework; learning and training standards; human resource analysis and planning; resource mobilization and advocacy. A five-year Action Plan is the process of being proposed to establish these prioritise.

This represents a significant step in the professionalization of social work and the key role they have in contributing to the strengthening of the social welfare workforce and effective functioning of protection and family welfare system. To introduce Practice Educators to the key knowledge and skills required to support, supervise and assess social work students in practice placements.

PP One: Overview of Programme, including ground rules and approaches.

Feedback Overview of practice placements. Individual Exercise One: The placement stages and planning. What is a Practice Educator? Anything from yesterday?

School of Social Work - Social Work

Managing and Developing the Practice Placement. Includes: 1 individual exercise leading onto a small group exercise. Power PP Seven: Power. Includes: I large group exercise; I small group exercise; 1 individual exercise. They provide mental health services, such as diagnosis and counseling, advocate for clients who are unable to do so themselves, provide direct care services, such as housing assistance and help clients obtain social services benefits.

The ability to remain open-minded and unbiased while gathering and interpreting data, otherwise known as critical thinking, is crucial for helping clients to the fullest extent possible. In fact, according to Nadia Islam, a social work professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work, critical thinking is one of the top five skills required to be a successful social worker. Critical thinking in social work means that you are able to look at a person or situation from an objective and neutral standpoint, without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.

You obtain as much data as possible from interviews, case notes, observations, research, supervision and other means, to assemble a plan of action to help your clients to the highest level possible, without allowing your own biases or prejudices to interfere. Critical thinking is important for the development of social work skills in direct practice. Social workers help people from all walks of life and come across people or populations with experiences, ideas and opinions that often vary from their own.

To formulate a treatment plan or intervention for working with a client, you need to first consider the beliefs, thoughts or experiences that underlie your client's actions without making a snap judgment. What seems crazy or irrational to you at first may in fact be better understood in the context of the biopsychosocial factors that play a role in your client's life. Critical thinking helps you objectively examine these factors, consider their importance and impact on your course of action, while simultaneously maintaining professional detachment and a non-biased attitude.

In order to develop critical thinking skills as a social worker, you need to have the ability to self-reflect and observe your own behaviors and thoughts about a particular client or situation.

Dr Jo Finch: The emotional impact of failing social work students in practice learning settings

According to Professor Islam, self-awareness, observation and critical thinking are closely intertwined and impact your ability to be an effective social worker. For example, observing your gut reactions and initial responses to a client without immediately taking action can help you identify transference and counter-transference reactions, which can have a negative or harmful impact on your client. This is particularly important when working with clients who have very different or very similar backgrounds and beliefs to your own.

You don't want your abilities to be clouded by your own preconceived notions or biases. Likewise, you don't want to merge with a client with whom you over-identify because you come from very similar situations or have had similar experiences. All social workers should engage in professional supervision to help encourage and develop critical thinking abilities.

Critical Learning for Social Work Students Critical Learning for Social Work Students
Critical Learning for Social Work Students Critical Learning for Social Work Students
Critical Learning for Social Work Students Critical Learning for Social Work Students
Critical Learning for Social Work Students Critical Learning for Social Work Students
Critical Learning for Social Work Students Critical Learning for Social Work Students
Critical Learning for Social Work Students Critical Learning for Social Work Students

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