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Diversity and Progression Amongst Social Work Students in England: An Explanatory Study Dr Claudia Bernard, Ms Anna Fairtlough, Ms Joan Fletcher and Dr.

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Presentation on theme: "Diversity and Progression Amongst Social Work Students in England: An Explanatory Study Dr Claudia Bernard, Ms Anna Fairtlough, Ms Joan Fletcher and Dr."— Presentation transcript:

1 Diversity and Progression Amongst Social Work Students in England: An Explanatory Study Dr Claudia Bernard, Ms Anna Fairtlough, Ms Joan Fletcher and Dr Akile Ahmet.

2 Study Aims This study investigated the particular circumstances of black and ethnic minority students, disabled students, and lesbian and gay students to identify the specific factors that contributed to their experiences on social work courses. It sought to look at the different contributory factors to shed light on the commonalities and differences within and across the groups to provide a deeper understanding of their learning experiences.

3 Methodology Six Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) was used as case studies. In- depth interviews and focus groups were conducted with students and a range of key informants within the case study sites. The sample included programme directors, tutors, practice learning co-ordinators, and learning support staff, such as disability officers, mental health officers, and senior members of staff responsible for inclusion and access policies within the HEI sites.

4 Choosing the Sites We drew on the quantitative data provided by the GSCC on progression rates among DipSW & Degree students (GSCC, 2007) Selected sites where the progression rates of these students were either much better or much worse than the average. Included some within the middle range. Geographical diversity; including old and new universities, including both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes; programmes with large and small numbers of black and ethnic minority students.

5 The Sample The study gathered data from a total of 113 participants: 66 Black and ethnic minority students 16 Students with disabilities 13 Lesbian gay and bisexual students 18 key informants

6 Data-gathering and analysis Methods This data-gathering methods included the following: Focus groups with black, disabled and lesbian and gay students; In-depth interviews with black, disabled and lesbian and gay and bisexual students; In-depth interviews with key informants. The analysis of the data was based on the procedures and techniques from grounded theory.

7 Individual Factors Black and ethnic minority students may have to navigate a multiplicity of factors, such as balancing competing demands on their time because of caring responsibilities, having limited finances, and in many cases, English not being their first language as well as feelings of marginalisation and devaluation in the classroom. HEI providers need to understand how the cumulative effects of these factors may mitigate against students being able to make use of the available support

8 Individual Factors Because many of the black and ethnic minority students were starting from disadvantaged educational backgrounds, they needed to devote the maximum amount of time to their learning if they were to succeed. The findings suggest that this group of students had little time to devote to their studies because of the competing demands on their time. In some sites programme providers were not always able to deliver the support that students require.

9 Individual Factors Some black students were reluctant to voice that they have particular support needs, as they perceived such needs as deficient, thus constraining their access to support services. The lesbian, gay and bisexual students reported experiencing blatant homophobia on their programmes, which left them in a very isolated position.

10 Individual Factors Disabled participants valued disability support services that offered: Timely assessments and support plans Effective delivery of the resources outlined in the plans, Good communication across the university Aware, sensitive and skilled support workers, staff in disability units and lecturers.

11 Programme Level Factors In the sites that had very large intakes of students, and with much of the teaching taking place in large groups, with limited opportunities for learning in small groups: Students had less support to manage some of the value dilemmas and conflicts that arose for them in the learning process.

12 Programme Level Factors In all of the sites some form of centrally managed language and academic and disability support alongside a personal tutoring system was offered to students. A common theme emerging across all the sites are the students report of segregation around racial lines in the classroom.

13 Programme Level Factors For a minority of students interviewed, the researchers had concerns about their emotional readiness and professional suitability for social work, which raised questions about the admissions and selections processes in those HEIs.

14 Practice Learning Environment Factors In some of the sites there are some significant barriers in providing fair and equal practice learning and assessment opportunities for disabled, black and ethnic minority and lesbian and gay students. In some sites when placements are scarce, both students and HEIs may be wary of challenging discriminatory practice for fear of losing valuable practice learning opportunities.

15 Practice Learning Environment Factors For some disabled students with mobility and sensory impairment, there are barriers related to: Disabling attitudes amongst practitioners; Difficulties in finding suitable placements; Transferring the support provided by disability services into their placement.

16 Practice Learning Environment Factors Where black and ethnic minority students are undertaking their placements in predominately white areas they reported experiencing explicit racism, which created additional stressors. This emerged as a major problem in two of the sites.

17 Organisational and Institutional Factors Across the majority of the sites, there was little evidence on both a programme and at institutional level to show how equality and diversity outcomes were monitored for students based on race, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation.

18 Organisational and Institutional Factors Where there appeared to be a system wide approach, including: Strong commitment and support at a senior management level, Well-resourced learning support systems; It appeared to make a difference for the black and ethnic minority students progression.

19 Organisational and Institutional Factors In terms of good practice, one site stood out as exceptional in relation to the emphasis informants placed on staff training and development as a way of promoting a shared vision and embedding equality and diversity values throughout the institution.

20 Organisational and Institutional Factors Equality and diversity profiled within the staff induction programme; A compulsory e- learning module on equality and diversity; A forum for staff to meet and share strategies for addressing some of the complexities of managing diversity in the classroom.

21 Organisational and Institutional Factors In one site key informants reported significant investment in the disability service; In this site a number of instances of good practice were cited; These included: Screening all new students in the university and offering assessments to all those who show dyslexia related signs; Having staff to offer individual ongoing support to students with particular needs; Employing two specialist mental health workers.

22 Summary The findings suggest that a number of overt and subtle processes interact to shape the overall learning experience, both in the classroom and practice learning environment, which may have an impact on outcomes for black and ethnic minority, disabled, and lesbian gay and bisexual students.

23 Summary Whilst we cannot say with certainty that these factors in themselves will lead to poor progression outcomes, They are important factors to consider for understanding how they might compound the problems that students coming from disadvantaged groups face.

24 Summary Undoubtedly, these factors operate to place additional pressures on students in terms of the impediments they have to overcome to be active learners in the learning environment.

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