Enhancing academic success and resilience in Social Work students: An application of self-determination theory - NET2017 Conference

Strand 1: Developing the future healthcare workface

A major concern for the Social Work profession concerns the frequency of burn-out and high turnover of staff, with the average career lasting just 7-8 years in the UK (McLenachan, 2006). The characteristic of resilience has been identified as playing a crucial role in the ability of social workers and other health and social care professionals to have a satisfying and successful career, thus a critical role for health and social care education is to develop resilience in students (McAllister & McKinnon, 2009). However, a recent UK government investigation into education in Social Work, the Neary report (2014), recently condemned its effectiveness, concluding that the introduction of the social work degree had not increased the academic standing of social work, nor the rigor of social work practice. Therefore, we currently need to know more about how to train resilient social workers who will also increase the academic standing of the profession. Although previous research has examined these factors, this field would benefit from a stronger theoretical foundation (Sheppard, 2016). Self-determination Theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 2000) is a robust, evidence-informed psychological theory that has been applied internationally to numerous contexts including health and employment (www.selfdeterminationtheory.org). It predicts that when our needs for competence (effectiveness at mastering the environment), autonomy (sense of control and freewill), and relatedness (interacting and connecting with others) are satisfied, we experience higher degrees of motivation to succeed and wellbeing. Thus when these three needs are met in social work students (and students in allied health and socialcare professions), they have the potential to raise academic standards and promote wellbeing characteristics that contribute to the development of resilience.


Dr Louise Bunce (Oxford Brookes University)

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Wednesday, 6 September, 2017

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