Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

A study of social presence in blended social work education

Keywords: blended education, social work, social presence, community of inquiry, community of practice

Author: Prof Walter LaMendola (University of Denver)

Over the past two years, the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver has undertaken a study of the development of social presence in blended social work education. One premise of the work was that blends of social work education needed to coherently address the salience of social presence to both the development of a community of inquiry related to academic work and to any community of practice related to the student's field experience. An effect of interest was the student's consequent adoption of professional values and ethics. Our research over the past six months indicates that while social presence develops community and can be measured, there seem to be major areas of incoherence between indicators of the inquiry community and that of practice. Preliminary findings also seem to support the conclusion that the many communities of practices at work during the student's field learning are the primary influences on the student's professional identity as well as the font of value and ethic adoption.

This paper reports the preliminary findings of the study. Implications for blended education are explored, focusing on notions of reorganizing social work education from the perspective of creating virtual and geographic sites of public scholarship in human service organizations.

The intended audience is field educators, academics, and, social work students. The participant learning outcomes may include:

  1. understanding the notion of social presence and its relationship to the development of a social work community
  2. appreciating the role of situated action as a site for the assumption of a social work practice identity that rests on value and ethical learning and adoption
  3. dialogic attention to possible strategies and tactics for addressing the issues raised

Date: Wednesday 23 January 2008, 4.00-4.30

Venue: Harris Two

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).