A new pedagogic practice has been developed for social work as part of the development of Greater Manchester Social Work Academy. Focusing upon the Child and Adults Journey through the life stages, this new pedagogic practice could have relevance and applicability for the wider health and social care community as we move to integrated, inter professional forms of learning and service delivery.
As academics working in health and social care, we are constantly focused on pedagogic practices and ways of promoting learning for and with our students as they progress from newly registered student to an emerging professional ready to practice within their chosen field. Whilst disciplines within this area often have their own practices, the idea of a signature pedagogy for health and social care is something debated at length, particularly as we move to inter professional and integrated ways of working.
Signature pedagogies (Shulman 2005a, 2005b) have traditionally focused upon the centrality of the practicum as the definitional aspect of a signature pedagogy (Higgins, 2014; Wayne et al 2010), with the development of learning in and from practice as the distinguishing feature. Yet, little is known about the process of learning between these two domains and how as academics we facilitate learning across, between and within these two paradigms.
As part of a government led initiative to drive innovation and creativity for social work education, the Greater Manchester Social Work Academy, a partnership of 14 organizations developed two innovative learning tools and accompanying learning processes to facilitate learning between and across the Academy and Practicum contexts. In focusing on the needs of the child or the needs of the adult from a life course perspective, we developed The Child’s Journey and the Adult’s Journeys (see figure 1.1 and 1.2) as learning tools for students, practitioners, supervisors and academic tutors.
Figure 1.1 – The Adults Journey
Figure 1.2 – The Child's Journey
The explicit premise of both Learning Pathways was to redefine learning around the child and adult rather than constructing learning focused on subject disciplines, external benchmarks, higher education demands for modular forms of learning or indeed organisational policies and procedures. We started from the premise that as we develop as children and latterly as adults, our needs, wishes and desires change and fluctuate and are shaped according to both positive and negative needs and experiences. In line with human growth and development perspectives, (Green 2010), we wanted to develop pathways for learning which emphasized, factors which can positively impact upon child and adult development, thus emphasizing a strengths based approach to intervention and factors which can negatively impact upon child and adult development. These factors or experiences were thematically grouped and those identified above the chronological timeline became factors which may positively influence a child or adult journey and those factors listed below the timeline were defined as factors which may negatively impact upon a positive life journey. The final premise of conceptual development was a return to one of social works primary positions: the role and value of relationships within our life journeys. We looked closely at models of wellbeing (Stanley 2016) and determined relationships as central to our life journeys. Both Journeys contain relationship attributes which are considered positive (above the timeline) and attributes which are considered harmful or undermining of positive life development (below the timeline).
The Learning Pathways have been instrumental in redesigning our approach to learning and preparing students to practice as qualified social workers. Academic modules have been redesigned to follow the learning required for the Child and Adult Journeys, practice supervisors (responsible for the development and assessment of students in practice) utilise the Pathways as a tool for reflective supervision and as a process to encourage students to integrate theory to practice. Importantly, the Pathways have become an effective tool for the professional development of the student social worker, a visual benchmark against which learning can be explored, developed and areas for development highlighted. This reflective process of learning has in turn reflected the learning process that life situations are a process, not a definitive with a singular explanation, even at times when definitive answers are required.
For Shulman (2005a, 2005b), a signature pedagogy is both an aim and method of teaching within the professions and is easily identifiable as the educational method that is, specific and distinctive to that discipline. The Learning Pathways have enabled facilitation of learning across and between the Practicum and Academy domains enabling students to act, to think and to act with integrity, all essential components of a signature pedagogy.
A Child and Adults Journey through the life course involves many different stages, needs, experiences and wishes. This can often include involvement of many health and social care professionals and the Learning Pathways could help facilitate inter professional learning as health and social care move to integrated delivery.
How could the Learning pathways be used for allied health professionals? Could we as academics develop integrated health and social care Learning Pathways?
Higgins, M. (2014) Can practice educators be a ‘bridge; between the academy and the practicum? Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning 12 (3) pp62-78
Shulman, L., S. (2005a) Pedagogies of uncertainty, Liberal Education, 91(2), pp 18-25
Shulman, L., S. (2005b) Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3) pp 52-59
Stanley, T. (2016) A practice framework to support the Care Act 2014. The Journal of Adult Protection, (2016) Vol. 18 Iss: 1, pp.53 - 64
Wayne, J.. Bogo. M., Raskin, M. (2010) Field education as the signature pedagogy of social work education: congruence and disparity. Journal of Social Work Education, 46, 327-339