Service User and Carer involvement in social work education: An examination of student discourses.

Skoura-Kirk, E. (2015) Service User and Carer involvement in social work education: An examination of student discourses. In: New Directions in Critical Sociology and Social Work: Identity, Narratives and Praxis. (Unpublished) (Full text available)

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As service user and carer involvement is forming an integral part of social work educational programmes in the UK the evidence-base for its impact and potential outcomes is still growing. Support and commitment towards such activities is widespread, but the evidence-base as to outcomes for students is limited. Some of the direct feedback from students, lecturers and service users in the literature points to values being central to this educational exchange Yet, an important question in this area, and a subject that warrants rigorous research is whether these ‘attitudes’ and ‘abilities’ can be taught on social work courses. This research aims to examine the involvement of service users and carers in the classroom and the impact on students’ values in more depth. In particular, the research will adopt a discourse analysis approach, focusing on the ways in which students use language to express and construct their understanding and relationship to the people they will work with. Are these discourses informed by person-centred values (empathy, use of self) or do they tend to be dominated by professional jargon? Are elements of the power interplay clearly articulated, or are potentially oppressive attitudes present? The research data have been collected from one BA social work student cohort at CCCU in the UK. As part of their second year, the students attend the module ‘Citizens, Service Provision and Society’; service user and carer involvement is integral in the planning, delivery and assessment of the module. The research data include a) students’ initial statements on what is a ‘service user’ and a ‘carer’, b) their reflective essays, c) their end-of-year Assessment of Practice Tools, d) a focus group a year later. Some initial findings point to professional discourses informing the students’ writing around service users and carers. The initial statements around service users represent them as needing support, as empowered and knowledgeable, as burdens and as complex (“difficult but inspiring”). The students’ reflective essays are characterised by emotional language (i.e. ‘I was shocked’, ‘I felt ashamed’, ‘surprised’), pointing to an emotional response to the service user narratives. The emotional language is not so evident in the end-of-year practice documents, yet reflective writing is present, alongside strong commitment to social work values. Finally, the focus group discussion confirmed the emotional impact of service user and carer narratives, and the difficulty in maintaining the purity of social work values when in practice. The analysis of the data is ongoing; nevertheless, this research can shed some light on areas of professional discourses and how these are shaped, affected and influenced by service user and carer involvement in social work education. Furthermore, I will argue that discourse analysis can further influence social work research, as it can shed light to issues around professional power, values and practice. The dominance of rigid professional discourses can potentially perpetuate stereotypes and stigma; we need to establish whether service user and carers as co-educators can challenge some of these tendencies.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Speech)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research > Medway
Depositing User: Eleni Skoura-Kirk
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2018 15:10 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2018 16:34 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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