Relationship between social work training and practice: A student’s perspective
My learning has been so enriched by all of the lecturers and visiting practitioners sharing their skills, experience and knowledge."
I am a final year MA Social Work student at Middlesex University. My background is Social Policy and Management and I have worked in the Public sector for the last 20 years. I was in a career transition and decided I needed a new challenge. I applied to study Social Work at Middlesex University. I was excited to have been offered a place to further my studies. Now that I am coming to the end of my course, I realise that this was one of the best professional and personal decisions I have ever made. My learning has been so enriched by all of the lecturers and visiting practitioners sharing their skills, experience and knowledge. I would like to share how their experience and knowledge has helped to shape my learning and developed me to become a skilled social worker.
Firstly, I have benefited from social work practitioners who sacrifice their time from practice to prepare for our lectures and support our seminars at University. Their experience and knowledge have helped me to model good practice in both my statutory placements at Hackney Fostering and Connected Persons Unit and at Haringey Youth Justice Service. Hackney Children’s & Family Services is also the lead Partner in the North London Teaching Partnership. By sharing with us the reality on the ground this helps us, the students, to have more realistic expectations about what social work practice in the community is and thus better prepare us for the future challenges.
Secondly, they bring a wealth of experience which has been beneficial in developing my understanding of my role as a social worker. We have had a variety of Practitioners who have come to share their experience from Children’s Departments, Adult and Mental Health Services. This experience is further reinforced by attending the Inter-Professional learning at the university and the Read and Reflect Sessions in both my placement settings. They share real-life situations that they have encountered and how they dealt with them. They share reflections on why best practices are considered best practices and how they affect real-life outcomes that affect people’s lives directly.
Thirdly, they helped us develop reflective skills by giving us the opportunity to engage in lectures, role plays in seminars reviewing case studies which reinforce learning. This has enhanced my reflective skills in practice. Developing reflective skills is an important aspect of social work because we learn to evaluate the impact of our decisions and how we can better meet the needs of our service users and make better recommendations to improve outcomes.
Finally, all this would not have been possible without the dedication, commitment and planning by our lecturers and all the other professionals supporting them, who work quietly in the background planning and organising our learning to make it possible for us to have a variety of learning opportunities from Practitioners. They have helped us to develop an appreciation for the work. There is a lot of complexity and uncertainty in social work practice and certain skills are required to navigate and succeed in improving the lives of our service users. The goal of our work is to promote social change, reduce suffering and improve outcomes. This work cannot be done by individuals alone; teamwork and shared knowledge are necessary for success.
I am so grateful to all of you who have enhanced my learning. If I was a treasure box, I would be overflowing with gifts of knowledge from all my lecturers, practitioners and both my Practice Educators; knowledge which I also intend to share once in practice.