Supervising on the Think Ahead Programme. Consultant Social Workers' Perspectives.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

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DatePublished - 31 Jul 2016
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Social work training can contribute significantly to effective social work practise since it serves as a medium where knowledge is both transmitted and co-produced. This article is an appraisal of the manner in which knowledge that students acquire through class-based learning and online-learning in combination with that acquired from their placements serves to generate the co-production of further knowledge, in the context of the Think Ahead programme. What participants say or do not say often betrays taken-for-granted assumptions about themselves and about the world. The study appraises whether students believe that they are able to challenge these assumptions, and how they see themselves as active participants in the learning processes they engage in. This paper is of relevance to the overall conference theme of celebrating all that unifies social workers since this co-production of knowledge is, in effect, not only a highly personal, but also a highly political process, and one that enables social work training to be contextualised within and beyond the students’ subjective appreciation of their learning. The Think Ahead Programme is a newly set up programme and is aimed at training mental health social workers to work with individuals, families and communities. The programme is delivered over two years and leads to the award of a Master’s degree in social work practise. The program is structured in such a way as to enable students to be actively involved in their own learning. It starts off with a six week summer institute which is an intensive six-week residential study period that enables participants to be introduced to social work and the knowledge and skills required to become social workers. This knowledge is then further built up and consolidated throughout their studies at university. During both their first and second years of university studies, students attend for study days that enable them to evolve the skills, knowledge, and competencies to work effectively with individuals, families and communities; and the opportunity to participate in leadership development training. These study days take place throughout the academic year, this thereby allowing the participants adequate opportunities to apply their learnings to their placement or work-place settings. Accompanying the student training is the concurrent training of the consultant social workers to whom the students will be assigned. The main role of the consultant social workers is that of supervising and assessing the students while on placement. This paper is a consultant social worker appraisal of the learning engaged in during the initial phase of the first year of this two year programme. During their first year of studies, students spend 200 days in a community mental health team as part of a unit of four Think Ahead participants, led by a consultant social worker. This is a qualifying programme and, on successful completion, as Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW), participants would be eligible to proceed to the second year of studies. They would then undertake either a module on practise research, or else one on effective practise in systemic social work (with families and with social networks & communities). When in their second year of studies, they would also simultaneously undertake an Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE).

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