Thoby Miller<br />Senior Lecturer in Youth & Community Studies<br />Glyndŵr University, Wrexham<br />Can research be combi...
Professional Reflective Placement in the final year of a degree programme<br />    The newly validated and endorsed Honour...
The Professional Reflective Practice Placement<br />The new 40 credit module is due to be delivered for the first time in ...
An analysis using three different perspectives<br />This paper will consider the question of combining research with a pra...
The student’s perspective<br />Although they are aware of the connections, students often treat research and placements ar...
The student’s perspective<br />This constraint raises questions about the student’s academic and professional development....
The host organisation and the placement supervisor<br />Adding a research project to a conventional placement places addit...
The host organisation and the placement supervisor<br />In the absence of payment for a placement, the host organisation n...
The host organisation and the placement supervisor<br />Even if we assume that all these requirements can be met; an appro...
The visiting university tutor<br />The university tutor makes three visits to each placement. The first which they will ch...
The visiting university tutor<br />As indicated earlier, finding ordinary placements is becoming more difficult but findin...
Conclusion<br />This paper has tried to set out some of the benefits and difficulties which might arise with this research...
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Can placements be combined with action research?

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Author: Thoby Miller, Glyndŵr University
Presented at the Research - Teaching in Wales 2011 Conference, 13th -14th September, Gregynog Hall, Newtown (Powys)

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Can placements be combined with action research?

  1. 1. Thoby Miller<br />Senior Lecturer in Youth & Community Studies<br />Glyndŵr University, Wrexham<br />Can research be combined with a practice placement?<br />
  2. 2. Professional Reflective Placement in the final year of a degree programme<br /> The newly validated and endorsed Honours degree in Youth & Community Studies being delivered at Glyndwr University includes a Professional Reflective Placement for the first time. Previously students only carried out placements in the first two years of the programme and completed a dissertation in the third. <br /> The new configuration combines a dissertation with normal placement activities in an attempt to meet the Education and Training Standards Committee’s requirement for students to complete a placement in all three years of the course. <br />
  3. 3. The Professional Reflective Practice Placement<br />The new 40 credit module is due to be delivered for the first time in 2012-13 and this paper tries to set out some possible benefits and difficulties.<br />The 400 hour module is made up of 220 hours directed study time in the field, 170 hours of directed private study and 10 hour of dissertation supervision and has close developmental links with two second year modules, which provide an introduction to the methodologies and methods of action research as well as the use of a needs analysis. <br />
  4. 4. An analysis using three different perspectives<br />This paper will consider the question of combining research with a practice placement from the three different perspectives:<br />The student’s experience<br />The host organisation and the placement supervisor<br />The visiting tutor from Glyndwr University<br />While these three are being considered separately, there are substantial areas of overlap between them and it is within these areas that conflicts of interest are most likely to arise.<br />
  5. 5. The student’s perspective<br />Although they are aware of the connections, students often treat research and placements are two separate activities. In terms of the present discussion, there are good reasons for this. While placements are embedded within the needs of the host organisation, deciding on a dissertation topic involves a much broader consideration, based on a combination of the student’s personal interests and current relevance within the field of social education. Bringing these two together, means that the scope of the research will be more restricted, since the student will no longer be able to study any topic which captures their interests and imagination.<br />
  6. 6. The student’s perspective<br />This constraint raises questions about the student’s academic and professional development. At present dissertation research is often an extension of research which has been initiated in previous modules. This will become much more difficult to do and this challenges the notion of graduates as creative autonomous learners, able to drive forward new forms of practice.<br />However for some students the constraint will be a bonus; instead of taking sole responsibility for a topic, they will be working a conjunction with the host organisation and be able to access close and informed support. <br />
  7. 7. The host organisation and the placement supervisor<br />Adding a research project to a conventional placement places additional pressure on finding a suitable placement provider. At present, factoring in the student’s particular professional interests, geographical accessibility and placement availability is difficult enough and in the climate of public service cuts, becoming more so. It is not a good time to be adding a further requirement i.e. whether the host organisation is able to identify a research topic and to provide adequate support for the student to carry it out. Students may end up doing research that is simply available rather than a project that is based on their interests and expertise.<br />
  8. 8. The host organisation and the placement supervisor<br />In the absence of payment for a placement, the host organisation needs to calculate whether the benefits of accepting a student outweighs the time taken up in support and supervision. As with any practice placement, a suitably qualified supervisor will have to be identified but in this case, the supervisor will also need an understanding of action research, in order to help the student find a research topic and to offer some advice while it is being carried out.<br />
  9. 9. The host organisation and the placement supervisor<br />Even if we assume that all these requirements can be met; an appropriate placement, a suitable student and a qualified placement supervisor who is also able and willing to identify and support a research project, there are no inspections looming on the horizon and the funding stream for the project is secure. It is likely that the research will raise questions about the effectiveness of service provision and may even generate criticisms of the organisation itself. Whereas placement reports are not usually read by the host organisation, research papers certainly will be. How open will any organisation be to criticism? Will students feel obliged to tone down criticism to avoid causing offence? <br />
  10. 10. The visiting university tutor<br />The university tutor makes three visits to each placement. The first which they will chair is to ensure that arrangements between the student and the supervisor are clearly identified and agreed. The second meeting, chaired by the placement supervisor, will consider the progress of the research project and the third, chaired by the student, will review the research findings and discuss conclusions and recommendations.<br />Time will need to be set aside for the kind of detailed discussions that are a part of any dissertation supervision, raising the questions of how far the Placement Supervisor will need to be involved.<br />
  11. 11. The visiting university tutor<br />As indicated earlier, finding ordinary placements is becoming more difficult but finding placements which can accommodate a greater commitment of time and expertise may prove too problematic for many host organisations to consider. Those that are willing to commit to the new framework will need to be monitored carefully to ensure that the student is able to access relevant support and supervision, whether from the Placement Supervisor or from the visiting university tutor.<br />
  12. 12. Conclusion<br />This paper has tried to set out some of the benefits and difficulties which might arise with this research/placement combination. It may be that some host organisations come to realise that having a student who generates relevant research evidence serves both to enhance service delivery and to make funding bids more viable and so is worth the extra investment in time. The student, in turn, will be able to access ongoing support from within the host organisation, making the research project a less lonely experience. Yet there remains the question of the restricted choice of a research topic and how far this limits the development of students as creative autonomous learners.<br />

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