Improving outcomes for children and young people through effective social work practice requires skilled engagement and communication with the children and young people themselves. Social work qualification programmes play a key role in ensuring practitioners are equipped for this role. However, recent research by the presenter and colleagues noted an absence of empirical evidence on what constitutes effective methods of teaching and learning communication skills with children and a lack of academic consensus regarding curriculum structure, content or delivery, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at least. That previous research did enable the authors, though, to identify a taxonomy of knowledge, values, personal qualities and micro-skills which underpin effective communication with children and young people in social work practice and, consequently, what might need to be covered by qualifying programmes. Hypotheses were developed regarding the kinds of pedagogical methods which might be effective in teaching these. Rather than considering disparate ways of teaching discrete skills, a ‘whole programme’ approach was proposed. This approach was then instituted in a Masters degree qualifying social work programme in England, where this presenter teaches. This paper will present the findings of a 2 year evaluation of the effectiveness of this pedagogical approach (linked to the Outcomes in Social Work Education project). Qualitative and quantitative data was collected at four points during the programme, including at the beginning and end of the programme. Quantitative measures included students rating their subjective perception of what aspects of the programme (or other experiences) contributed to their enhanced confidence in communicating with children and young people. Qualitative measures included a vignette tool which indicated students’ underpinning knowledge about what constituted effective communication and how best to achieve it. The paper will end with considering implications for both curriculum structure and programme evaluation.
10th UK Joint Social Work Education Conference with the 2nd UK Social Work Research Conference