Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Keynote speakers

Audio recordings of keynote sessions are now available.

Doctor Etienne Wenger

Communities of practice: a social discipline of learning

Most institutions proceed from a similar set of assumptions: that learning depends on teaching, that books and classrooms are the locus of learning, and that the rest of life is application. What if we assumed that learning happens everywhere, that it is a natural part of life, and that if institutions have a role it is to support learning wherever it takes place? An important part of this shift in mindset is to recognize that the world of human knowledge is composed of a huge constellation of practices. The living communities that develop, share, and refine these practices then become a key element of learning. As we enter, engage with, and leave these communities, learning is a social journey as well as a cognitive process. Learning transforms both our participation and our identity. This perspective entails a social discipline of learning, which has relevance for a broad range of contexts in which learning is a concern - whether these are informal or involve a substantial design component.


Etienne Wenger is a globally recognised original thinker in the field of communities of practice, who was featured by Training magazine in their series entitled 'A New Breed of Visionaries'. A pioneer of communities of practice research, he is author and co-author of seminal articles and books on the topic, including: Situated Learning (where the term was coined); Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, where he explains a theory of learning based on the concept of communities of practice, and Cultivating Communities of Practice: a Guide to Managing Knowledge, addressed to practitioners in organisations. His work as researcher, author, and consultant has influenced both thinking and practice in a wide variety of fields, including business, education, government, and social theory. His new research project, Learning for a small planet, is a cross-sectoral investigation of the nature of learning practices and institutions at the dawn of the new millennium.


Professor Sally Glen , Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton

MP3 Sally Glen keynote audio (MP3, 18MB)

A practice role for nurse lecturers: an anachronistic concept?

The wholesale movement of nursing education into higher education is now a decade old. The catalyst was Project 2000, which was a vision, not only a professional qualification, but an academic one, the diploma in higher education. A review of the literature, however, identifies how the nursing curriculum has always been subject to continuous external pressure and is a balancing act between health service needs, the educational vision of the day and the available financial resources. Its product: the registered nurse functions as both a test bed and barometer of public opinion, with some of the current ills of the NHS laid at the door of higher education and its role in nursing training (Carr 2007 ). Two constant discourses are: pre-registration nurses are emerging from nurse education programmes without essential clinical skills and the requirement for nurse lecturers to support students in the clinical environment during their preparation. This paper therefore provides a critical evaluation of the practice role of nurse lecturers over the last three decades. This paper argues that a practice role for nurse lecturers is an anachronistic concept and draws on an early paper (Glen and Clark 1999 ) and recent research On nurse lecturers' perceptions of their current role (Carr 20071) and advocates, to quote the title of an earlier paper, a new skill mix for the future.


Professor Sally Glen is Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton where she has responsibility for the academic portfolio, curriculum development, quality systems and academic standards, learning and teaching, the student learning experience, and e-learning. Before joining the University in September 2006, Professor Glen was Deputy Director of the Institute of Health Sciences, Dean of School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Professor of Education at City University. From May 1996-January 2000, she was Dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Dundee.

Her research interests include philosophical approaches to professional education in health and social care. She has published widely in the field of health and social care education and edited Supporting Learning in Nursing Practice, e-learning in Nursing, and Interprofessional Post-Qualifying Education for Nurses.

Professor Glen is currently on the Editorial Board of Learning in Health and Social Care; she is a Non-Executive Director of City and East London Mental Health Trust and chairs the Trust's Ethics Committee. She is also on the Board of the Institute of Medical Ethics.

URL: Professor Glen on

Professor Mark Doel, Sheffield Hallam University

Beyond anecdote: the quest to codify practice wisdom

MP3 Mark Doel keynote audio (MP3, 18MB)

The everyday experience of practice is rich in potential for learning, as practice educators (student supervisors) are well aware. However, there are considerable barriers to the systematic and sensitive collection of these experiences, with the result that much potential learning is lost.

Mark Doel will analyse the barriers to integrating learning and practice, and he will also present a practical, tested model to help practitioners to sample their practice in a systematic fashion and to share it with others. The model has been successfully developed with qualified and unqualified practitioners in social care and further refined to include an assessment component for continuing professional development. The richness of practice is not lost, yet it is captured in a systematic way so that it goes beyond anecdote. It begins to codify practice wisdom.

Finally, Professor Doel will consider how the practice community can learn from the stories of people who have positive experiences of practice to tell. He will report on a recent project, just concluded, which gave voice to these positive experiences of practice and the wisdom they impart.


Professor Mark Doel is Research Professor of Social Work in the Centre for Health and Social Care Research at Sheffield Hallam University. His research focuses on improving the quality of professional practice in order to improve the quality of services. He has an international reputation in the field of practice learning and teaching, and the use of groupwork and task-centred practice as empowering methods of practice. He was a practising social worker for almost twenty years.

Professor Doel is widely published, with twelve books to his name, most recently Modern Social Work Practice, Teaching and Learning in Practice Settings; The Task-Centred Book; and Using Groupwork. He is co-editor of the journal Groupwork, and associate editor (social work) for Learning in Health and Social Care. He was elected in 2005 to the Board of the US-based Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups (AASWG).

URL: Professor Doel on

Alex Wilson, Group HR Director BT plc

BT as a learning organisation

Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation Alex Wilson keynote presentation (PowerPoint, 4MB)

MP3 Alex Wilson keynote audio (MP3, 12MB)

Alex Wilson, will cover how BT puts learning at the heart of its business and uses this to develop its talent and leadership capability. Alex will explain the philosophy of learning in BT, how it is systematically integrated to the business objectives and tracked and measured against business drivers. He will talk about BT using technology to accelerate learning and as an enabler for business transformation. He will also cover how talent is identified and developed and learning is applied to grow leadership capability, from first-line managers to executives, through a segmented and structured 'leadership pathway' approach. Following his presentation, Alex will be delighted to answer questions on BT's learning and leadership strategies.

Ms Myra Pearson, University of Aberdeen

Scottish Teachers for a New Era: Transforming Teacher Learning and Development

Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation Myra Pearson keynote presentation (PowerPoint, 1MB)

The School of Education at the University of Aberdeen is engaged in two major research and development projects, Scottish Teachers for a New Era and the Inclusive Practice Project, designed to transform approaches to Teacher Education and continuing professional development.

Scottish Teachers for a New Era (STNE) is a partnership initiative involving the University of Aberdeen, the Scottish Government, the Hunter Foundation and six local authorities in the North of Scotland. The six STNE pilot initiative Developing Teachers: Increasing Pupil Gains provides the opportunity to develop and research a new model of teacher education that aims to provide a continuum of teacher learning and development through undergraduate teacher education programmes, the Induction year (first year of teaching) into an extended year of mentoring and support leading to a framework for Continuous Professional Learning for teachers in the early years of their career.

The STNE vision is to develop:

The STNE team is a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and practitioners who are responsible for the development of:

The STNE project is focussed on an ever-changing complex landscape involving students, teachers, tutors and local authority personnel. Research has essentially focussed on the impact of change within the landscape particularly in areas of continuous personal and professional learning and development, the role of partnership and collaboration, and the emergence of communities

Piloting a new approach to teacher education challenges long-held beliefs about the nature of student learning and the roles and responsibilities of all partners in the process. This presentation will highlight the new approaches being used to develop our 'Teachers for a New Era' and the evidence being generated from the research related to the key themes of partnership, community and empowerment.


Myra Pearson was appointed Head of the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen in January 2006. She was previously Depute Registrar of the General Teaching Council of Scotland.

She has an extensive educational experience. Prior to her appointment to the GTC she was Co-Director of the Professional Development Unit and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Education, University of Strathclyde, with responsibility for developing the Faculty's portfolio of modular postgraduate programmes. She was involved in developing curricular materials and delivering a wide range of customised professional development courses in Mathematics, ICT and Science for primary schools. Myra was also responsible for leadership and management development programmes for Headteachers and aspiring Headteachers.

She was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Primary Education and prior to that held a variety of posts in primary schools and was a staff tutor for Mathematics and Science in Ayrshire. She has also been a member of a number of national working groups related to mathematics, assessment and professional development for teachers and headteachers.

In addition to her work for the university, she is also a member of the Scottish Primary Mathematics Group (SMPG), one of the most successful educational writing partnerships in the area of primary mathematics in the United Kingdom.

URL: Myra Pearson on

Mr John Geates Director, Scottish Police College

Traditional - You Tell Me

Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation John Geates keynote presentation (PowerPoint, 1MB)

MP3 John Geates keynote audio (MP3, 12MB)

The title Traditional - You Tell Me challenges thinking in relation to Police training. There is a perception that still exists about traditional, old fashioned methods in the way that officers are trained and groomed for service. Nothing, in this modern day could be further from the truth.

Current training and development of officers whether recruits, specialists or leaders is designed in the application of academic practice, principles and accreditation. The training and development delivered now is at the forefront of progressive and lateral thinking and in this risk managed environment while endeavoring to maintain the standards values and ethics that the public rightly demand of their Police Service. Whilst such standards are the same, the developmental process that officers go through to achieve them differ greatly from previous years. The Police professionalisation in this regard has changed significantly.

In addition there is now a strong drive to add meaningful personal development to the professionalisation package and recognise this through the enhancement of a qualification that hopefully encourages future growth. The investment in Police Officers has been extended now to an educational and development investment in Police Staff who now have a similar raft of opportunities available to them.

The Scottish Police College is being recognised within the United Kingdom and International Policing Arenas as an exemplar in the continued exploration of development in training and education. This recognition has also extended into academic circles through the achievement in the past six months of two SQA Awards (including the Pride of Worth Award) and a UK National Training Award for the Probationer Training Programme. While such awards go a considerable way to providing assurance that the right path is being taken, this journey of development and improvement is only beginning.


Assistant Chief Constable Geates started off his career in 1981 in Ayrshire. He subsequently worked in Glasgow Divisions in uniform and CID, has been attached to the Serious Crime Squad and was Head of Strathclyde Police's Surveillance Unit.

In 1998, he was appointed Detective Superintendent and given responsibility for the investigation of serious/major crime, strategic CID management functions and policy making responsibilities, together with territorial accountability.

Since then Mr. Geates has been Deputy Divisional Commander within the Maryhill Division in Glasgow, has introduced a Professional Standards unit into Strathclyde Police and also served as Head of Corporate Planning and Development.

In 2004 Mr Geates headed a joint external review team who conducted an investigation into Fife Constabulary and Fife Councils Management of a non registered sex offender who had murdered a 16 year old girl. Their report, which contained 20 strategic change recommendations, was fully endorsed by the Scottish Executive.

In August 2005 he was appointed head of the Engaging Criminality review Team, where he led a review of the work of the CID within Strathclyde Police.

In January 2006, he headed a reinvestigation into the Nat Fraser murder enquiry and subsequently reported the findings to the Lord Advocate for Scotland.

He was appointed as Deputy Director of the Scottish Police College which took effect from Monday 12th June, 2006 and on 21 August 2007 took up the post of Director.

URL: Scottish Police College

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