Word count 5227 excluding reference list
MA in Education – Research Methods (EDC010-6)
Engaging with Research to Inform Practice: The experience of final year social work students
University of Bedfordshire
This proposed study seeks to build upon current knowledge of the student experience of using research in practice by engaging participants who are final year social work students (MSc and BSc) in a HEI in the UK. The hypothesis is that there are factors that help or hinder the process of understanding and using research. Therefore the aim of the study is to explore the student experience of engaging with research to inform their decision making and judgements during their practice learning placements. The call for research minded social work practitioners who can demonstrate an understanding of the research process and use it in their practice has gained impetus in the UK and internationally. This therefore calls for students to acquire knowledge of research methods, strategies and develop the associated skills (MacIntyre et al 2013) which needs to continue post qualification. However, there are authors such as Sharland (2009) who argue that the dichotomy between research and practice begins at the point of qualification. Yet a dearth of literature and studies suggest that despite recognising the value of research, prior to qualification students have a range of views that contribute to or exacerbate feelings of fear and self-doubt about their own efficacy to learn about and apply research (Bolin et al 2012). There is much discourse in various social science disciplines such as psychology and nursing, as well as social work about student perception and experience in respect of learning about research. Each discipline appears have its own epistemological viewpoint rooted in either a sociological or scientific paradigm and debate continues about social work research having its own unique epistemology (Witkin 2000). Conversely, many have suggested that there should be an interdisciplinary view that pays due attention to quality, purpose and function of research rather than there being a specific epistemology for social work (Shaw and Norton, 2008, Shaw et al., 2010; Philip and Shaw, 2011). Thus it can be theorised that the differing views contribute to anxiety and confusion for students about the use, position and assimilation of research in practice. 2. National Context
Regulation of education
The social work profession is regulated by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) that has produced a Standards of Education and Training (SET) document. However, in his recent review of social work education, Sir Martin Narey (2014) noted a lack of specificity in the SET and in the core HCPC document which sets out the Standards of Proficiency (SoPs) that students are expected to meet upon qualification. Further he noted a lack of sufficient “…guidance to universities about the skills and professional knowledge required of graduate social workers.” (Narey, 2014; pp7). The College of Social Work (TCSW) came into existence following recommendations by the Social Work Reform Board and has been pivotal in the reformation of the profession developing a professional capabilities framework (PCF) that student and qualified social workers are to demonstrate including use of evidence based methods of working. In addition to the HCPC and TCSW, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education sets out The Benchmark Statements for Social Work. Whilst the use of research in practice is mentioned there is no specific reference or direction to the teaching of research in any of the documents. Recently, in the on-going effort to improve social work education, TCSW has developed an endorsement scheme where amongst other aspects, higher education institutions (HEI’s) need to demonstrate that their programmes are underpinned by “…evidence informed practice and...
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