Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Recipients as resources: three examples of students helping other students to learn

Keywords: practice learning, peer learning, learning culture, placement development

Authors: Stuart Eno (Perth & Kinross Council), Bob Leeson (Perth & Kinross Council)

Very few students or learners do not bring significant previous knowledge and experience with them to the learning process. Even those who start with limited prior expertise will have a developing body of knowledge & skills as they progress through their training - not least, current experiences of that learning process. This suggests a potential pool of additional resources.

The workshop will present two examples of learners providing inputs to members of a successive cohort at an earlier stage in their course, along with a proposed new development. The first involves in-placement students hosting a visiting group undertaking an action-learning assignment. In the second example, an undergraduate student leads critical feedback on a Masters’ student's video interview with a service user. In these examples, the contributing learners were all social work students in the second half of their qualifying courses. They agreed to become involved whilst out in practice learning settings, with their inputs to their colleagues clearly located in the practice-based learning framework of the relevant course. The final example is the planned use of newly qualified staff contributing to placement preparation as part of their own post-qualifying development.

In the workshop, we will look at the experiences of all the parties involved - agencies, both groups of students, tutors and practice teachers/supervisors. We will try to identify the significant elements and outcomes for the learners. We will ask participants to explore possible opportunities for a similar approach in their different agency settings, and with a broader range of learners. We will also look at some of the likely barriers, and ways we might tackle them. The workshop will include a brief overview of the three initiatives, a summary of the elements and outcomes to date, and group discussion of the central ideas. We would hope to present short DVD clips of some of the work.

Traditionally, learners within social service settings are seen as resource-hungry. Discussion centres on the level of staff input and support required within a context already characterised by high demand. Resources delivered to learning are construed as being at the cost of service resources, especially in relation to practitioner time. But what happens if we start to view learners as potential contributors as well as recipients in the learning enterprise? Our contribution attempts to open up this question, is of interest for building capacity, with practice learning managers and practitioners as the main audience.

Date: Thursday 24 January 2008, 11.30-12.30

Venue: Harris One

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