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W ORKING WITH S TUDENTS WHO ARE S TRUGGLING OR F AILING IN P RACTICE L EARNING S ETTINGS : P RACTICE E DUCATORS ’ P ERSPECTIVES U NIVERSITY OF S USSEX,

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Presentation on theme: "W ORKING WITH S TUDENTS WHO ARE S TRUGGLING OR F AILING IN P RACTICE L EARNING S ETTINGS : P RACTICE E DUCATORS ’ P ERSPECTIVES U NIVERSITY OF S USSEX,"— Presentation transcript:

1 W ORKING WITH S TUDENTS WHO ARE S TRUGGLING OR F AILING IN P RACTICE L EARNING S ETTINGS : P RACTICE E DUCATORS ’ P ERSPECTIVES U NIVERSITY OF S USSEX, W ORKSHOP FOR P RACTICE E DUCATORS T UESDAY 14 TH J ANUARY 2015 Dr Jo Finch – University of East London

2 C ONTENTS Brief Introduction Getting in touch with “Feelings about Failing” Introduction to the research undertaken Literature Review - Why practice educators find it difficult to fail students) Findings Possible ways forward? Concluding Comments Discussion/comments/questions

3 I NTRODUCTION Senior Lecturer in Social Work and programme leader of the MA Social Work and Step-Up. Deputy Director – Centre for Social Work Research Course Tutor – Tavistock Clinic – Professional Doctorate in Emotional Well Being & Social Work/Social Care. Long standing research interest in the issues raised by struggling or failing students in practice learning settings. Former children and families social worker, play therapist and practice educator.

4 I NTRODUCTION Senior Lecturer in Social Work and programme leader of the MA Social Work and Step-Up. Deputy Director – Centre for Social Work Research Course Tutor – Tavistock Clinic – Professional Doctorate in Emotional Well Being & Social Work/Social Care. Long standing research interest in the issues raised by struggling or failing students in practice learning settings. Former children and families social worker, play therapist and practice educator. So why am I interested in failing students?

5 “Horrible” experience assessing a practice teacher (2002/2003) 1 st experience of managing student failing in placement as a new tutor (2002/3) – oppressive PE. “ The straw that broke the camel’s back” – SSD assessment 2001 “Who let that one through?”

6 F EELINGS ABOUT F AILING On piece of paper, write down: 1) Something you have failed at in the past (i.e. O’level maths, driving test, relationship) 2) How did it make you feel at the time? 3) Pass paper to me (will come back to later)

7 1) Qualitative study of practice educators experiences of working with failing students and why difficult to fail (Finch, 2010; Finch and Taylor, 2013). R ESEARCH U NDERTAKEN 2) Qualitative study of tutors experiences of working with struggling or failing students in placement (Finch, 2014) 3) Mixed method study of practice assessment panels, including an ethnographic exploration of PAPs, looking at decision making around failing students (Finch, 2013)

8 1) Qualitative study of practice educators experiences of working with failing students and why difficult to fail (Finch, 2010; Finch and Taylor, 2013). R ESEARCH U NDERTAKEN 2) Qualitative study of tutors experiences of working with struggling or failing students in placement (Finch, 2014) 3) Mixed method study of practice assessment panels, including an ethnographic exploration of PAPs, looking at decision making around failing students (Finch, 2013) Comparative study – UK and Italian practice educators experiences (Finch and Poletti, 2013) Exploration of how far the concept of projective identification may help us to understand the difficulties in failing social work students in placement. (Finch, Schaub and Dalrymple, 2013) Discussion of anxiety and defences against anxiety in social work more generally (Finch and Schaub, 2014)

9 1) Qualitative study of practice educators experiences of working with failing students and why difficult to fail (Finch, 2010; Finch and Taylor, 2013). R ESEARCH U NDERTAKEN 2) Qualitative study of tutors experiences of working with struggling or failing students in placement (Finch, 2014) 3) Mixed method study of practice assessment panels, including an ethnographic exploration of PAPs, looking at decision making around failing students (Finch, 2013)

10 1) Qualitative study of practice educators experiences of working with failing students and why difficult to fail (Finch, 2010; Finch and Taylor, 2013). R ESEARCH U NDERTAKEN

11 W HY IS IT DIFFICULT TO FAIL STUDENTS IN PLACEMENTS ? ( LITERATURE R EVIEW ) PEs not using competency model of assessment appropriately (Kemshall, 1993; Eraut, 1994; Shardow and Doel; 1996, Furness and Gilligan, 2004; Shapton, 2006) Procedures for dealing with placement issues, not being followed properly (Illot and Murphey, 1999; Burgess et al, 1998a, 1998b; Duffy, 2004; Vacha-Haase et al, 2004; Kaslow et al 2007) PEs not adequately supported by agency and/or HEI (Sharp and Danbury, 1999; Finch, 2004b; Vacha-Haase et al, 2004) Role strain or confusion (Fisher, 1990: Proctor, 1993;Owens, 1995; Cowburn et al, 2000, Duffy, 2004) Fear of litigation (Duffy, 2004; Cole, 1991; Cole and Lewis, 2003; Royse, 2000; Raymond, 2000; Vacha-Haase et al, 2004) Rule of Optimism (Vacha-Haase, et al 2004; Finch, 2005) Hope that things “sort themselves out” without intervention (Good et al, 1995; Hoffman et al. 2004)

12 L IMITED ( BUT GROWING INTERNATIONAL AND MULTIDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH BASE ABOUT THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT Bogo at al (2007) – failing students causes value conflicts for practice educators. Gizara and Forest (2004) – “ “I think that it’s an extremely emotional, gut-wrenching kind of experience…I don’t think it feels good on any level.” Basnett and Sheffield (2010) – experience of failing student a negative one Schaub and Dalrymple (2013) practice educators reported feeling stressed, isolated and did not feel supported. Finch (2010) found the experience caused a range of challenging emotions

13 Emerged strongly from similar studies in Nursing (for e.g. Duffy, 2004; Rutowski, 2007; Lawson, 2010) Narrative also emerges in social work (i.e., Shapton, 2006; Finch and Taylor, 2013; Finch et al, 2013) Suggest Practice Educators are NOT failing students when they ought to. Based on perception of low failure rates Some self reports in some qualitative studies But no empirical evidence to support this (Jo’s next research article?) Some exploration as to the reasons (as seen previously) But phenomena much more complex (as following shows) “T HE F AILING TO F AIL N ARRATIVE ”

14 1) Qualitative study of practice educators experiences of working with failing students and why difficult to fail (Finch, 2010; Finch and Taylor, 2013). R ESEARCH U NDERTAKEN

15 1) Qualitative study of practice educators experiences of working with failing students and why difficult to fail (Finch, 2010; Finch and Taylor, 2013). R ESEARCH U NDERTAKEN

16 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER THE ANGRY STORY The Dramatic Event Story The Guilty Story The Lack of Reflection Story The Internalising Failure so I Couldn’t Always Failure them Story The Idealised Learner Story The What is My Role/Assessment Story

17 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER The Dramatic Event Story

18 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER The Dramatic Event Story …what I was going to do was to ask for her placement to be extended a bit but when I tried to discuss it with her, she threw a hysterical fit…which I sorted with the ambulance being called…if it had been one of my clients I would have recommended a psychiatric assessment…she was hyperventilating and throwing herself on the floor…she was kicking the locker…

19 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER THE ANGRY STORY The Dramatic Event Story The Guilty Story The Lack of Reflection Story The Internalising Failure so I Couldn’t Always Failure them Story The Idealised Learner Story The What is My Role/Assessment Story

20 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER THE ANGRY STORY “I was really pissed off with him….I felt angry”. (Claire) “I was just very angry at times….I was angry with the student.” (Jenny) “…and I did actually think the next time you shout at me, I might actually shout back at you because who the fuck do you think you are…” (Daisy)

21 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER THE ANGRY STORY “I was really pissed off with him….I felt angry”. (Claire) “I was just very angry at times….I was angry with the student.” (Jenny) “…and I did actually think the next time you shout at me, I might actually shout back at you because who the fuck do you think you are…” (Daisy) “I just thought…I thought, ‘Fuck You’! You are not going to apologise for your fucking behaviour with a period. Every fucking woman in the world gets a period, yes some have difficulties, some get emotional, your deafness didn’t wash, so now you’ve like resorted to like, fucking bottom of the barrel…” (Daisy)

22 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER The Guilty Story

23 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER The Guilty Story “…and then the guilt really set in….the sacrifices she’s made…this is her livelihood, her career and its all my fault…I felt like I am a rotten shit.” (Dais y “it was the first fail, I felt terribly guilty, I felt really…I had sleepless nights, felt quite sick, I felt incredibly guilty….” (Claire)

24 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER THE ANGRY STORY The Dramatic Event Story The Guilty Story The Lack of Reflection Story The Internalising Failure so I Couldn’t Always Failure them Story The Idealised Learner Story The What is My Role/Assessment Story

25 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER The Internalising Failure so I Couldn’t Always Failure them Story “I actually felt it was my failing because I wasn’t getting it [evidence] out of her….” (Martha) That was the issue I was struggling with through this whole thing. How much of her failure was my fault? (Terry) “I would say probably 90% of the time, if a student fails, there’s something wrong with the practice teacher”. (Terry) Ignored initial misgivings or gut feelings Discourse of “we” and “our work” emerges

26 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER The Internalising Failure so I Couldn’t Always Failure them Story “I actually felt it was my failing because I wasn’t getting it [evidence] out of her….” (Martha) That was the issue I was struggling with through this whole thing. How much of her failure was my fault? (Terry) “I would say probably 90% of the time, if a student fails, there’s something wrong with the practice teacher”. (Terry) Ignored initial misgivings or gut feelings Discourse of “we” and “our work” emerges “…I still feel that I must have done something wrong with that one because I couldn’t enable him or work with him to see why his way of thinking was inappropriate in social work, never mind in society”. (Lily) “..I think the team just felt helpless in a way. They felt…they couldn’t see what they could do to turn it around.” (Tim )

27 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER THE ANGRY STORY The Dramatic Event Story The Guilty Story The Lack of Reflection Story The Internalising Failure so I Couldn’t Always Failure them Story The Idealised Learner Story The What is My Role/Assessment Story

28 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER The Idealised Learner Story Concern about “passive” learners “Learned Helplessness” Fantasy of student not realised “I was thinking that…I am going to have a student who will take responsibility…that was my fantasy that I was going to have somebody that would just…kind of gel, adapt to the team…come with a variety of knowledge…up to date…” (Ola) Good Learners and Bad Learners

29 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER THE ANGRY STORY The Dramatic Event Story The Guilty Story The Lack of Reflection Story The Internalising Failure so I Couldn’t Always Failure them Story The Idealised Learner Story The What is My Role/Assessment Story

30 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER The Lack of Reflection Story Transference/Counter transference Mirroring Parallel processes Projective Identification “…out of my depth…I felt really out of my depth…I was completely out of my depth at that point” (Lily) Lack of containment “A nameless dread”

31 T HE S TORIES – FORMS BASIS OF MY FINDINGS CHAPTER THE ANGRY STORY The Dramatic Event Story The Guilty Story The Lack of Reflection Story The Internalising Failure so I Couldn’t Always Failure them Story The Idealised Learner Story The What is My Role/Assessment Story

32 Explicitly or inexplicitly acknowledged gate keeping role and implications. Acknowledged potential for role confusion, yet had brought “split” together. Clarity around boundaries and role of PA Clear expectations of student as an “adult learner” Clear differentiation between your work and my work Reflective approach – lack of drama – saw experience as a learning opportunity 4 of 5 were/had been ASWs/AMHPs PE S WHO APPEARED TO FIND PROCESS OF FAILING STUDENTS EASIER THUS : 5/20

33 On piece of paper, write down: 1) Something you have failed at in the past (i.e. O’level maths, driving test, relationship) 2) How did it make you feel at the time? 3) Pass paper to me (will come back to later)

34 S OME S TRATEGIES When there are difficulties avoid both over-reacting and do not ignore situation/your feelings/intuition. Ensure conditions for learning are being met – you will need to change your approach. Try to eliminate blocks to learning – i.e. explore issues with student, negotiate a different teaching style/approach. Be clear about the difference between a “normal”, short term learning block and something more serious. Do not take the decision to fail in isolation (seek support) Keep the student informed at all times – let student know as soon as possible that there are concerns about their practice/conduct/behaviour etc. Follow the university procedure Evidence and Documentation, Mantra - Student failure is not your failure You have a moral and professional gate keeping duty. No-one has the right to become a social worker no matter how “nice” and hardworking they are

35 P OSSIBLE WAYS FORWARD FOR ALL STAKEHOLDERS Acknowledge and reflect on the difficult and painful emotional feelings that can emerge when working with a struggling or failing student (may include, anger, guilt, rage, shame, frustration…) These feelings may well tell you something about the student’s state of mind And if not acknowledged, could impact adversely on the assessment process. Need for support (line manager, tutor, colleagues, friends). Remind ourselves of our gate keeping responsibilities. Remember the issue of very complex – easy to blame and be angry at others.

36 P OSSIBLE WAYS FORWARD FOR ALL STAKEHOLDERS Acknowledge and reflect on the difficult and painful emotional feelings that can emerge when working with a struggling or failing student (may include, anger, guilt, rage, shame, frustration…) These feelings may well tell you something about the student’s state of mind And if not acknowledged, could impact adversely on the assessment process. Need for support (line manager, tutor, colleagues, friends). Remind ourselves of our gate keeping responsibilities. Remember the issue of very complex – easy to blame and be angry at others. Transference? Projective Identification? Try and see as a form of communication rather than attack Student tryin to communicate unconsciously something very painful

37 C ONCLUDING COMMENTS Working with failing or struggling students can cause unpleasant, difficult and confusing emotions. Students (or supervisees) will be projecting difficult and challenging feelings onto you. Can remind us of our own previous experiences of failure Important for practice educators, tutors and PAP members to reflect upon these difficult feelings…..and use them to aid the student in their development and learning... But I would encourage you to be reflective and consider these feelings as a form of communication …but be able to fail the student if necessary, in a reflective and “calm” way, ensuring due process has occurred.

38 C ONCLUDING COMMENTS Working with failing or struggling students can cause unpleasant, difficult and confusing emotions. Student will be projecting difficult and challenging feelings onto you. Can remind us of our own previous experiences of failure Important for practice educators, tutors and PAP members to reflect upon these difficult feelings…..and use them to aid the student in their development and learning... But I would encourage you to be reflective and consider these feelings as a form of communication …but be able to fail the student if necessary, in a reflective and “calm” way, ensuring due process has occurred. Thank you for listening. Any questions or comments?

39 B IBLIOGRAPHY Finch, J & Schaub, J. (2014) Projective Identification as an Unconscious Defence: the Example of Social Work Practice Education in Armstrong, D. & Rustin, M.(eds) Social Defences against Anxiety: Explorations in the Paradigm, Karnac, London Finch, J. (2014) “Running with the Fox and Hunting with the Hounds:” Social Work ‘Tutors’ Experiences of Managing Students Failing in Practice Learning Settings, British Journal of Social Work, (advanced access) doi: /bjsw/bcu085 Finch, J. (2014) A Critical Exploration of Practice Assessment Panels: Participation, power, emotional and decision making in relation to failing social work students, York, Higher Education Academy, Work-and-Social-Policy/A_critical_exploration_of_PAP_Finchhttp://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/disciplines/hsc/Social- Work-and-Social-Policy/A_critical_exploration_of_PAP_Finch Finch, J., Schaub, J. & Dalrymple, R. (2013) Projective Identification and the Fear of Failing: Making Sense of Practice Educators’ Emotional Experiences of Failing Social Work Students in Practice Learning Settings, Journal of Social Work Practice, Finch, J and Parker, J (2013) Editorial, Special Edition – Failing Students, Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, Vol. 11 (3) p3-6 Finch, J. and Poletti, I. (2013) ‘It’s been hell.’ Italian and British Practice Educators’ Narratives of Working with Struggling or Failing Social Work Students in Practice Learning Settings, European Journal of Social Work, DOI: / Finch, J. and Taylor, I. (2013) The Emotional Experience of Assessing a Struggling or Failing Social Work Student in Practice Learning Settings, Special Edition – Field Education, Social Work Education, 32 (2) pp: DOI: / Finch, J (2010) Finch) Can't fail, won't fail - why practice assessors find it difficult to fail social work students: a qualitative study of practice assessors' experiences of assessing marginal or failing social work students. Doctoral thesis, University of Sussex. Available free:


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