Learning to be a social worker in the 21st century

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Learning to be a social worker in the 21st century

Learning to be a social worker in the 21st century

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  • 1. Learning to be a social worker in the 21 st century Lesley Cooper and Joan Leeson Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada
  • 2. The 21 st century workplace
    • Recognition that learning occurs in every workplace.
    • Government policy acknowledges value of workplace learning.
    • Changing patterns of technology and competitiveness in global economy demand immediate work skills and workplace knowledge.
    • Job specific skills: to an organization and industry.
    • Workers require ability to continuously learn and reconstruct practice in the light of these challenges.
    • Linking of individual learning needs with the organization: cannot be provided by educational institutions.
  • 3. The 21 st century workplace
    • Greater emphasis on ‘learning organizations’ and their continual evolution of practice throughout the workplace.
    • The importance of learning with others to ensure competition and innovation in a global world.
    • From training (transmission learning) to using the construction and reconstruction of knowledge in work places.
  • 4. The 21 st century workplace
    • Human service organizations: also respond to competition for funds and other resources and demands for efficacious services eg. foundations.
    • Doing much more with much less.
    • Structure of agencies changing with less hierarchy, flatter structures, devolution of decision making, increasing number of work teams, collaborative workplaces and cross functional decision making.
    • A more diverse workforce; less toleration for workers not adding value (IR legislation)
    • What is the impact of these changes on the practicum and the educational institutions’ relationship with the sector and can we maintain separatist structures?
  • 5. Is what we profess, what we practice?
  • 6. Paradigm for social work practice education
    • The profession, university and students value learning in the workplace.
    • Focus is on instruction, teaching and supervision
    • Roles are supervisor, instructor, practice teacher and student
    • A one-to-one learning relationship with the instructor only being a social worker
    • Development of professional identity
    • A professional curriculum, regulated by government, registration boards, or the profession
  • 7. Paradigm: theory to practice
    • The transfer of knowledge from the classroom to the placement, the acquisition of an application of skills and the development of a professional identity are considered to be the essential learning processes in practice learning regardless of the country of origin (Rogers 1996)
  • 8. Paradigm continued
    • Approaches to practice learning grounded in psychotherapeutic practice often irrespective of the setting.
    • Theoretical frameworks based adult education frameworks including Kolb, Knowles and more recently Schon
    • Students as learners.
  • 9. Work based learning
    • Definition of work based learning:
    • Acquisition of knowledge and skills by learners as they learn authentic practice whilst being supported by skilled peers and experts (Billett 1994)
    • Theoretical framework: situated learning and the importance of a community of practice
  • 10. Situated learning and community of practice
    • Situated learning: Dewey, Vygotsky, Bateson, Lave and Wenger and social construction of ideas and knowledge.
    • The focus is on how learning occurs and the way knowledge is constructed. It is a dynamic process, that includes talking, responding, interacting, reflecting and thinking about what is happening.
    • It happens in workplaces with novices, peers and a range of experts. Knowledge construction in an evolutionary process.
  • 11. Concepts underpinning situated learning
    • Learning involves the whole person in a complex system of social interaction with others
    • We learn from others in a process of guidance, scaffolding and immersion in activities
    • We learn through our interactions with others in a culture whether that is a team, office, project group or professional collective
    • We learn with others so that practice becomes part of the knowledge of the collective.
  • 12. Research on work based learning
    • Affordances and engagement in a process of co-participation.
    • Unintended and intended learning.
    • A process of guided learning (coaching, scaffolding, cognitive apprenticeship).
    • The workplace curriculum: a socially organised stock of knowledge in use in the work place as experienced by participants especially newcomers (Billett 2001).
    • The work based curriculum has several stages.
  • 13. Analysis based on changing workplaces and situated learning
    • Learning in workplaces is valued.
    • Move from teaching, instruction and supervision to learning.
    • Move from transmission and expertise to learners and learning and co-construction of knowledge.
    • The learner to be at the centre not the supervisor, practice teacher or instructor.
    • Review our theories of social work practice education to include situated learning and communities of practice. In addition include understandings of cognition, meta-cognition and human development for adults.
  • 14. Analysis based on changing workplaces and situated learning
    • Students do learn from every person in the workplace: other students, work groups, other professionals, peers and those with greater expertise. There are multiple learning relationships.
    • Identity comes from work place culture and from SW’s, the field of practice, the occupational area, other professionals and the community of practice.
    • Rethink concept of curriculum: it comprises core occupational skills (problem solving, communication, group work skills) required for all SWs, the regulated curriculum and the work place curriculum.
  • 15. Analysis based on changing workplaces and situated learning
    • Revalue the constructed knowledge from practice.
    • Revisit the separatist nature of theory and practice.
    • Revisit placement process by acknowledging concepts of affordances, engagement and co-participation.
  • 16. Where to from here?
    • Review our mental schemas on social work practice education and re-conceptualize.
    • A collective change process for social work educators, profession, industry, and government.
    • Higher education has to review its separatist views on learning and respond to the changing workplace.
    • International research…in a community of practice.
    • An invitation for other researchers and practitioners?