Presentation on theme: "1 JSWEC 2008 Exploring the Place of Values in Social Work Education Rona Woodward and Kathryn Mackay University of Stirling."— Presentation transcript:
1 JSWEC 2008 Exploring the Place of Values in Social Work Education Rona Woodward and Kathryn Mackay University of Stirling
2 Session aims To briefly set the context for a current research study that considers the place of values in social work education. To describe the study’s aims and methodology. To present and discuss early findings in terms of student social workers’ understanding of structural discrimination and the place of values.
3 Background to the study: is there a problem with values? Our evidence – some of it anecdotal – suggests that student social workers are not consistently demonstrating a critical understanding of either the impact of structural discrimination or the importance of an ‘emancipatory’ value base. This loss of emphasis on values is apparent in both academic and practice- related work.
4 The roots of the problem: social, political, professional and educational factors We suggest that the loss of emphasis on ‘the bigger picture’ element of social work values is associated: with a wider neo-liberal agenda, particularly individualism and responsibilisation; with social work’s willingness to embrace a managerial culture – bureaucratisation, proceduralisation and standardisation; with the new social work degree and its continued emphasis on competence models together with its loss of emphasis on values; with the age-old struggle between social work theory and practice.
5 The study Is a pilot project to test methods as much as it is to study values. Uses vignettes and focus groups to explore students’ understanding of values and structural discrimination, at both the start of professional education and after the first practice placement. Ought to help us develop our teaching of values and structural discrimination. Ought to contribute to wider debate about the place of values in social work.
6 Early findings (1): the vignette Students, especially undergraduates, are reluctant to participate. The findings are therefore based on postgraduate responses. Students do not have an explicit understanding of ethics, morals or values at the beginning of professional education. Structural discrimination is recognised but students are less aware of its effects on service users’ lives. Traditional values (respect, honesty, non-judgemental attitudes) dominate. Responses to service users’ problems are individual rather than structural.
7 Early findings (2): the postgraduate focus group Families are the biggest influence on students’ values and political attitudes, although their first university experiences also had an effect. Societal values are seen as dominant and difficult to resist (views of social class, gender and race particularly). The new degree and Key Capabilities are designed to ‘churn out’ social workers. Social work is hidebound by a ‘blame and shame culture’. Social work needs to be more political and more challenging of the status quo.
8 Initial conclusions Findings The focus group suggests postgraduate students are political and critical thinkers at times – why then did they struggle to demonstrate this understanding in their responses to the vignette? Methodology We need to ask whether the poor response rate is linked to this particular student group, our initial approach to them or our methodology. Lessons for us Values cannot be taught but need to be developed – there needs to be more space for discussion and debate.