Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Confidence and community: development needs of newly qualified social workers

Keywords: newly qualified, learning and development, practive learning, communities of practice

Authors: Mrs Tikki Immins (Bournemouth University); Miss Lynne Rutter (Bournemouth University)

The learning associated with newly qualified workers centres around the development of professional competence and capability. Such development has become a wider subject for debate as recent policy emphasis suggests that the overriding purpose of universities is to prepare students for the world of work (Rickard 2002). Professional development in the form of work based learning now forms the cornerstone of government strategy to enhance both pre and post qualification competence in social work (DOH 2002, GSCC 2006).

In Autumn 2006, Bournemouth University was commissioned by Skills for Care South West to track the learning and development needs of newly qualified social workers through their first year of employment in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the new social work degree in preparing them for work; the effectiveness of their induction and their progress towards post qualifying education. Questionnaires and semi-structured interviews were used for data collection from 22 newly qualified social workers and 15 line managers from 7 local authorities. The Bournemouth University Carer and Service User Partnership Group provided an insightful user and carer perspective.

This paper will present the key findings from the report published in October 2007 and looks more closely at particular issues regarding the integration of learning and practice; and the role of the employing organisation in providing a community of practice to support learning and development needs. One factor which emerges from this research is the part confidence plays in transferring and developing skills and knowledge gained from the degree programme into the workplace.

Our research supports Eraut's findings (2004) which show the overwhelming importance of confidence as a factor that affects learning, i.e. confidence arises from successfully meeting challenges in one's work, while the confidence to take on such challenges depends on the extent to which learners feel supported in that endeavour.

Department of Health (2002). Requirements for social work training. London. Department of Health.

Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in continuing education. 26(2), 247-273.

GSCC (2006). Specialist standards and requirements for post-qualifying social work education and training. Practice education. General Social Care Council.

Rickard, W.(2002). Work-based learning in health: evaluating the experience of community agencies and teachers. Teaching in Higher Education, 7(1), 47-63.

This study builds on previous work by Marsh and Triseliotis (1996)and looks at the learning and development needs of newly qualified social workers who were part of the first intake for the new social work degree. It is of interest to practitioners, employers, educators and policy makers because it provides an insight into the changing influences on learning during the first year of practice.

Marsh, P. and Triseliotis, J. (1996). Ready to Practice? Social Workers and Probation Officers: Their training and first year in work. Aldershot, Avebury.

Date: Thursday 24 January 2008, 11.30-12.00

Venue: Ochil Three

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