Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Identity and difference in the social work learning group: ageism exposed?

Keywords: identity, difference, age, social work education

Author: Cath Holmstrom (University of Sussex)

This paper draws upon the findings of a project partially funded by SWAP during 2006-7. Whilst details of that project are not the focus of this paper, they form the context and backdrop for the debates explored here. Tutorial work between with school leaving students about some of the discriminatory experiences they had encountered during their social work studies on the basis of their age and perceived 'lack' of experience led me to explore those issues in more depth. The subsequent research project highlighted the extent of difficulties and the power and complexity of the student learning.

Students had reported a sense of marginalisation from fellow social work students; from students in the wider university population; and from their external social networks who now regarded them somewhat differently. Social work education has a long commitment to widening participation and working with diverse groups of students. How can we extend this to include recognition of the many strengths brought by this group of students (whilst not triggering defensive/exclusionary behaviour in others) and how can we ensure our teaching and assessment does not encourage a 'deficit' approach on the basis of suspect assumptions regarding 'experience'.

Drawing upon the work of Taylor, Bowl and others in relation to the experiences of those previously regarded as non-traditional students and synthesising the work of Teacher and more explicitly sociological work relating to identity and difference, this paper attempts to explain the findings of the research project and explore issues such as:

Of interest to practitioners, students and HE teachers in professional programmes.

Date: Thursday 24 January 2008, 11.30-12.00

Venue: Carrick 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).