Learning from lives: an exploration of the impact of service users’ stories within pre-registration social work education
Cecil, B. 2017. Learning from lives: an exploration of the impact of service users’ stories within pre-registration social work education. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Health and Wellbeing
This study reports the findings of an instrumental qualitative case study exploring the impact of service users' stories in professional social work education. A number of mandates -legal, practice and not least from the service user movement itself – have led to a closer involvement of service users in the pre-qualifying curriculum. Current research is beginning to consider how service user perspectives may be integrated within the social work curriculum although there has been less focus on the impact of such involvement. Located within a social constructionist paradigm, this study explores one aspect of involvement- stories of personal experience as told by service users themselves-and illuminates the understanding of 'impact' from the perspectives of students and service users as well as the lesser heard voice of the social work academic. Key questions in relation to an emancipatory approach to social work education are raised. Drawing on in depth individual and group interviews, document analysis and participant-as-observer data, key pedagogical implications emerged. Presented as thematic networks, findings identified the creative potential of using stories to promote criticality, personal reflection and reflexivity within the classroom. Emotionality and its management were also identified as significant themes as were the construction of roles and the identities of professional lecturers, students and service users. The findings revealed how aspects such as childhood sexual abuse, trauma and working with those with mental health needs may be taught via narratives. In this light, it identifies the key features of transformative learning and proposes a 'constructive' pedagogic model to promote personal and professional development. The opportunities and challenges relating to the use of stories are also scrutinized. Discussion includes the need to revisit how theory is taught including the potential of service users' told experience to enhance knowledge for practice and to practise via the creation of 'live theory' in the classroom.
The study concludes by identifying key messages for the social work curriculum and evaluates this case study methodology including its potential to generate theory amid wider calls for social work education research to be more firmly embedded in evidence-based and evidence-informed approaches.
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|Publication process dates|
|Deposited||13 Oct 2017|
|Accepted author manuscript|
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