Enhancing fieldwork education: A strategic approach?

This is the third and final blog post in response to the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board’s (SWRB) current review of their standards for recognising programmes of social work professional education. In the first blog post I discussed the question of whether required curriculum inputs should be specified in the standards and argued that an emphasis on inputs and content specification in other jurisdictions stifled innovation, overloaded the curriculum and led to students feeling pressured by the sheer amount of content to be covered. I went on to argue that, if we want to improve social work education programmes in Aotearoa New Zealand, then we must focus on the outcomes of qualifying programmes, not curriculum inputs. The second blog post responded to the question of the adequacy of the graduate attributes specified in the standards and argued that, instead of having a set of 14 graduate outcomes, in addition to a set of 10 core competence standards, we ought to articulate a single set of clear, unambiguous and realistic statements of intended graduate outcomes, competencies or capabilities. Furthermore, I argued that we could obtain clarity about the correct level of achievement for new graduates if we adopted a whole of career approach and specify the outcomes we expect at different points in the career journey of a social worker. I also pointed out that the enhance R2P project is national research project funded by Ako Aotearoa to address precisely this issue.

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An outcomes-based approach to social work education?

In a previous blog post I discussed the current review by the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) of its programme recognition standards. Since the programme recognition standards are what the SWRB use to recognise and (every five years) re-recognise a social work qualifying programme, any changes introduced as a result of the review would, in effect, reform social work education in Aotearoa New Zealand.  A consultant has circulated a survey amongst stakeholders to invite comment on the existing standards (SWRB, 2013) including: the graduate profile, the curriculum, requirements for fieldwork placement, admission criteria, modes of delivery, and staffing requirements. In my last post I discussed curriculum content and argued that specifying required curriculum content would hinder rather than help curriculum improvement. Instead, I argued that the focus of our attention ought not to be on curriculum inputs but on clarifying the outcomes of qualifying education. In this post I want to continue with that argument, reflect on the survey questions about the graduate profile, and consider what an effective, outcomes-based social work education might look like.

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Reforming social work education: the question of curriculum inputs

As a distance educator and someone who has been involved with learning technology for over twenty years I am a great fan of the Canadian educational researcher George Siemens. It was George who, along with Stephen Downes, developed the first Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC). However, the original MOOC designed by Siemens and Downes could not be less like the content driven MOOCs offered by the plethora of institutions who now occupy that space, theirs was founded on a connectivist pedagogy driven by the activity of learners and the networks they form, not by a pre-determined content driven structure.

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CYF Review- great ideas but what about the workers?

The big questions I have about the proposed reviews, on the basis of what we have so far are: will government  invest generously (or even adequately ) in the social services workforce?  Will they take social workers with them in the planning for the new services? Given the past record of poor investment and excluding social workers from the discussion I am very cynical.  Especially about the lack of investment in us. Change without workforce development and proper planning won’t achieve what they want. The history of social work as a profession in Aotearoa New Zealand is one of deficits in real resources. We have heard talk from the minister this week about social work education and registration- ‘calls for social worker registration to become mandatory‘, but no detail. She’s had a year to think about it.  We are waiting and ready to contribute our expertise.
Minister Tolley wants a social  investment strategy  – well invest in us !  And bring us to the table. And make it soon.

The Non-Linear War on Social Work in the UK: Extremism, Radicalisation, Troubled Families and the recasting of “safeguarding”

A guest post by  Jo Finch and David McKendrick

Social work has always occupied a difficult place in the UK;  its history dominated by Victorian moralised discourse, with lady almoners, later Charity Organisation Service volunteers, making decisions about who was deserving or non-deserving.  Social work thus straddles an uncomfortable place, being an agent of the state on one hand, on the other, holding ideals and values that places human dignity and self worth, empowerment and social justice at its heart.  The care versus control function, inherent in social work in many countries, continues to be challenging.

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The CYF ‘Expert Panel’ and the expertise of social workers

This guest blog post is by a Registered  Social Worker who has worked across statutory and NGO sectors and most recently in Social Work Education.

One of the areas in scope for the Child, Youth and Family “Expert Panel” is:

The professional knowledge, skills and expertise required by Child, Youth and Family to deliver improved results for children and young people they work with, and implications of this for providers of training, development and contracted services

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A surfeit of inexpert opinion and the legacy of failure to invest in social work?

On April 1 the Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley announced that an independent review, led by Paula Rebstock, would develop a business case for a “new operating model to modernise CYF, enhance its governance and assurance, and will have a wide-ranging brief to consider all aspects of CYF operations”. With not one shred of evidence presented, as is frequently the case in this current regime, Minister Tolley opined: “New Zealand used to be a world leader in the field of child protection, but I believe we are now eight to ten years behind in our thinking”. In the follow up the next day, the mainstream media failed to find any expert opinion other than the usual suspects.

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