Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Preparation for practice: constructing a framework for learning

Keywords: preparation for practice, observational learning, reflection

Authors: Louise O'Connor (London South Bank University); Robert Cecil (Canterbury Christ Church University)

Assessed preparation for practice prior to undertaking social work practice placements is a requirement for social work students in the UK (DOH 2002). This paper describes and evaluates a pre-placement preparation module for Level 1 undergraduate social work students at a London University. The module includes taught workshops, a virtual placement (CD-Rom), shadowing a qualified social worker and completion of an observation journal and written assignment. Questionnaires, observation journals and a focus group were utilised in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the module in preparing students for learning in the workplace. Analysis of students' experience and reflections highlighted the complexity of factors which may contribute to effective pre-learning and the integration of theoretical learning and practice. Key themes which emerged from this qualitative study included the importance of work shadowing, observational learning and the centrality of critical reflection in aiding students' personal and professional learning in preparation for their first practice placement. The findings led to the development of a framework for learning, prior to practice placement opportunities. Explicit attention to skill and knowledge development in areas such as emotional literacy, reflection, anti-oppressive practice and service user and carer perspectives are combined with theory, interpersonal skills and an understanding of the reality of social work practice. The proposed framework for learning has been informed by our developing understanding of how students construct their experience of pre-practice learning activities. The framework dimensions also echo themes in professional education discourse nationally and internationally and support the integration of learning and practice.

This presentation provides an overview of a new development in the social work curriculum in the UK which requires educators to deliver and assess 'preparation for practice'. The analysis draws on the experience of one of the first student cohorts to undertake this element of the new BA in Social Work. The proposed framework reflects the complexity inherent in preparation for practice learning and will be of interest to educators, service users and practitioners in health, education and social care.

Date: Thursday 24 January 2008, 2.00- 2.30

Venue: Carrick One

Return to list of abstracts

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