social work

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A Case Study Of People Referred To Care Social Work Essay

This case-study based assignment is on the learning log and incident I shared with colleagues in my learning set. Although the learning log is used in writing the assignment, my aim is to give a reflection on my practice and not on the log thus showcasing my action as well as inaction pertaining to how I handled the case. I endeavour to reflect on how colleagues from the learning set assisted me in developing my critical thinking and analysis regarding the case described in the log. In doing so, I will briefly describe how the incident which happened while I was on placement, raised ethical issues for me and also reflect on how my view of the situation tell me about the values and ethical underpinnings that are pertinent to me. Essentially, I will use the case study to critically analyse the complexities of the messy lowland of practice and use my experience from practice to reflect on the gap between theory and practice. My approach to this task hinges on Biggs’s (1988) model of reflection (Reflective Cycle Appendix 3). Applying the model enables me to demonstrate a shift from the way I handled the situation while on placement to how I would handle a similar situation in future basing on the learning from the Unit, group discussions as well as sharing ideas with my colleagues during learning sets sessions.

TR, a seven year old boy was referred by his mother to the agency where I did my placement. His family structure is shown by the genogram attached (Appendix 2). I worked with TF and his family supporting him at school during dinner and play times on a one-to-one basis. On one occasion, I heard him say a swear word about me and that invoked in me a lot of feelings and thoughts which I wrote about on the log attached (Appendix 1). I discussed the incident with TF’s teacher, my practice assessor and colleagues during learning sets activities.

Relating the incident and the swampy lowlands of practice

Although I had e-mailed the log to my learning set colleagues, during the group discussion, I had to give my colleagues a narrative account of the incident. According to Gibbs’s (1988) Reflective Cycle, the description stage entails stating what happened. I realised the challenges associated with narration. Particularly, what I found daunting was giving my colleagues a verbatim account of the incident in a way that would make them visualise what was going on at that time. Similarly, Bain et al‘s (1999) process of incident debriefing starts with reporting. Notably, in relating the incident to my colleagues and indeed throughout writing the assignment, I realised the extent to which the assignment quotation is true as I will discuss.

Reflection and evaluation of own practice and demonstration of personal philosophy and own value systems.

The importance of personal style in working with people is reiterated by Rycroft (2004) who argues that a therapist is not only influenced by theoretical models but also by world view, values and beliefs as well as personal style. I was presented with a difficult situation after hearing TF say a swear word about me. Although I was concerned when I heard what he said, I managed to rise above the situation and acted as an adult and a professional. According to Gibbs’s Reflective Cycle, the Feelings Stage entails thinking through my thoughts and feelings during the incident as well as what caused me to feel dissatisfied with the incident. As Gibbs observed, this is the stage difficult to share with other people. One of the key issues that emanated from the group discussion was what affected me mostly about the incident. A colleague asked me if I was specifically affected by hearing the child swear at me or the effect the child’s swearing had on other children around. All I remember is that as the incident happened, there was no model, as Rycroft (2004) observed, that could signpost to me the way forward. I therefore waited for the return of TF’s teacher and related the incident to her. I believe my own cultural beliefs and personal values influenced the way I viewed the situation and how the incident impacted on me personally. Also, my actions and the manner I worked in that situation was influenced by the andragogic experience of education I had when I was at TF’s age (seven years). I did my primary education in Africa where adherence and conformity to school authority was a must do for all children (Blog 2). Not to say other children elsewhere do not have to conform to authority but as Sinclair (1992) states, children in this approach to teaching and learning become passive recipients of information from teachers. Children view their teacher, as the sole provider of knowledge and what the teacher says cannot be challenged although clarification can still be sought from teachers.

The implications of my practice in the case have a bearing on my personal philosophy. Fook and Gardner (2007) remind us of the importance of using critical reflection in articulating the underlying values and assumptions before acting because values are important to practice. I have learnt, as the assignment quote states, that social works involves working with people who are unique and in complex situations. I understand this to mean that at times theories alone are not enough in understanding the situations I may be working with hence who I am, my beliefs and values have a bearing on how I work. What is important is to ensure that, as Brookfield (1987) observed, I examine my beliefs, attitudes, values and assumptions as the basis of my understanding. Similarly, the GSCC (2002) Code of practice and Values reinforce the importance of adherence to values while practicing. I consider Value (A) on awareness of own values is to be applicable to the incident.

Application of theories to practice

In considering the application of theory to practice, I use Gibbs’ Evaluation Stage of the Reflective Cycle to evaluate the effectiveness of intervention theories to inform practice drawing on the gap between theory and practice. Particularly, the theory I used to intervene in the case study is Transference which according to Trevithick (2005, p. 273) is a psychological approach derived from Freud which describes how in human relationships people pass on or ‘transfer’ past emotions to present situations. I used the Transference theory which I understand to mean TF had passed on to me the unhappiness he had about play time supervisors for removing him from the play ground. Applying the theory enabled me to understand TF’s behaviour and look for better ways of intervention that were to yield positive outcomes. I discussed the theory I used with my colleagues in the learning set and they mentioned that I could also have considered using approaches from ethical reflective practice such as Roger’s Unconditional Positive Regard which according to Thompson (2009) is a non-judgemental approach that entails being able to accept, work with and support those we work with in spite of what they do or say. Other theories to be considered include Bandura’s Social Learning theory. Trevithick (2005) argues that the theory enables the understanding of how people, particularly children, develop through observing and imitating the behaviour of others. Discussions that emerged from the learning set and indeed from my practice assessor regarding the incident were on where TF could be learning swearing from. That made me remember that I had once heard TF’s mother swearing when she spoke of her unhappiness about a certain services providers. While I understand the learning theory to be vital in this instance, at times I find using this approach to lead to assumptions and prejudices especially if people with certain behaviours are lumped up as such and all viewed to be behaving in the manner because of whom they are.

Another theory appropriate to the case is the systems theory which according to Healy (2005) is based on the interactions within multiple systems such as family and friendship ties, neighbourhood and organisational systems which contribute to an individual’s well being. The approach as my colleagues suggested, could have enabled me to take a holistic view of the situation in working with TF. Also, applying the Bowlby’s attachment theory could have explained TF’s inability to maintain the working relationship we had. I could also have considered using Erickson’s stage theory to ascertain the stage of psychological development TF’s is and what conflicting imperatives he could be trying to address at seven years; Erikson’s developmental stage of Industry versus Inferiority (Beckett 2002).

I view my practice in the incident to be reminiscent of working in the swampy lowland of practice and I managed with difficulty to use theories to intervene as discussed above. Rycroft (2004) did a study on what happens when theory abandons practitioners and argues that a therapist’s thinking is motivated by worldview, values and beliefs, personal style as well as by theoretical model. Importantly, Shon (1987) recommends professional artistry, as the kind of professional competence needed in unique and uncertain situations of practice. I argue that although I managed to use theory to intervene and more so to understand TF’s behaviour, I must admit that I at times felt abandoned by the theory as revealed by Rycroft’s (2004) experience of when models fail to show the way. Schon (1983) also argues that the overemphasis of technical rationality undermines what practitioners do in swampy and messy zones of practice. In a way my experience of working with validates Yelloly and Henkel’s (1995) quote used in this task that at times social work practice involves working is situations not compatible with standardised or prescribed responses. Similarly, Schon (1987) gives a comparative approach of different landscapes of professional practice. He argues that on the high ground, research-based theory and technique are applied for the easy solution of manageable problems while in the swampy lie the problems of greatest human concern. He therefore argues that the practitioner contemplates between staying on the high ground where standards are used to solve unimportant problems and descending into the swamp of important problems with no set standards. My experience of practising in the incident motivates me to argue that my practice will be more valuable in the lowlands of practice although I am aware that not only theories will show me that way but also, my personal philosophy which has to be compatible with the GSCC Code of practice, respecting a person’s individuality as well as applying Schon’s professional artistry in my practice. Notably, Johns (2004) states that Schon’s swampy lowlands analysis depicts the knowledge that practitioners need to respond to problems of every day practice that defy technical solutions although the practitioner while dwelling in the swampy lowlands, should still be able to visit the high ground for information to inform practice.

Key Learning Curves for me

In applying Gibbs’s Analysis Stage to my experience, I take a retrospective view of where my thinking was when I wrote the learning log regarding the incident and where I am at present. The learning from the Unit, further reading for this assignment, group discussions and indeed views from my learning set colleagues enabled me to take a step back and look at the incident with different lenses. White, et al, (2006) write about Argyris and Schon’s (1974) theory of double loop learning which entails learning to change underlying assumptions and values and the concept became relevant to me. I realised that after reporting the incident to my colleagues I viewed what happened differently, for instance when I wrote the log my thinking was on the impact the child’s swearing had on me as an individual. Contributions from my learning set colleagues enabled me to have a shift in thinking and I can now view the incident from a different angle and realise that I was there to assist TF because he needed my support and help in spite of his attitude towards me. I equate that to Bain et al‘s (1999) deconstruction process. Jasper (2003) reiterates that talking about one’s experience with others makes other people ask questions that we would have not have thought of ourselves. Similarly, one of my colleagues asked me why I viewed the case as a critical incident. I responded by mentioning that the case presented a lot of challenges which instigated me to start questioning my own values and beliefs pertaining to my practice regarding the incident. Knott and Scragg (2006) argue that a critical incident ought to relate to an aspect of the student’s own practice coupled with their own learning in response to an incident reflected upon. I also learnt the importance of reflecting with others in as far as widening my ability to incorporate a world view approach in my thinking and approach and that different people could have viewed the incident differently. Particularly, different members of the learning set shared with me how they would have handled the situation most of their contributions pointed towards considering the impact TF’s swearing had on other children and ways of helping him out of the habit of swearing.

Application and evaluation of reflective theories

It is worth considering or rather critiquing the theories and techniques that support reflection. Johns (2004) argues that all models of reflection are not prescription of what reflection is but rather mere devices to help the practitioner access reflection. Various theories and techniques to enable reflection were used in the Unit learning. I had a learning diary where I recorded my discussions with and suggestions from my learning set colleagues. Holy (1989) in Johns (2004) applauds the keeping of a reflective journal and reiterates that the practise makes possible ways of theorising, reflection and coming to know one’s self.

Using Gibbs’s Reflective Cycle as a model of reflection in this task enabled me to go through the process of reflection and I have established learning curves regarding my practice in the case. Particularly, I can now realise that my skills of reflection have improved compared to when I wrote the learning log regarding the incident. Essentially, when I started the Unit I was struggling with reflection in action (Blog 1). I found that working on the Reflective Blogs weekly enhanced my way of reflection and I could see my reflection skills developing. My understanding of the reflective practice theories such as reflection in action and incident debriefing have been developed by the learning from the unit as well as writing this task. Essentially, being able to deconstruct and reconstruct the incident in the case study with the help of colleagues from the learning set conform to Argyris and Schon’s emphasis of double loop learning as being capable assisting in the challenging and changing of existing values and assumptions.

Basing on my practice experience of the incident in the case study, my reflection on practice and linking that with reflective practice theories covered in the Unit, I am in a position to give an evaluative account of how I feel the reflective practice theories and techniques explain practice. I consider the approach to be reminiscent of critical reflection which according to Fook and Askeland (2006) is a process of reflection which entails the analysis of individuals’ thinking in relation to the influence of socially dominant thinking and also draws on Schon’s model of reflection which focuses on the analysis of the link between individually held beliefs, socially imposed ones and the ways power is exercised. I have found the theories and techniques of reflective practice to be quiet useful and to be enhancing practice. White et al, (2006, p.14) write about how reflection is carried out basing on the models that guide the process as well as the tools that may be used within these models. For me the benefits of the use of reflective tools in practice defy the critics of Schon (1983; 1987) reflection in on action. Gould and Baldwin . (2004) write that reflection-in-action is critiqued for its concern with technical efficiency and as being short term. However, they gone to suggest that reflection-on-action is viewed as being more distant, structured and capable of empowering the practitioner p. 103. Knicheloe ‘s (1991) view is that Schon’s model of reflective practice does not take into cognisance power and political context that may constrain the practitioner.

How feedback from the learning set has been useful

The conclusion stage, of Gibbs’s Reflective Cycle entails questioning oneself about what else I could have done and drawing an action plan mapping the action or what I could do should a similar situation arise. The feedback from learning set has been quiet useful to me and did not only enable me to deconstruct the whole situation but also to make conclusions on the incident and work on an action plan. I benefited from the notion of collaborative reflection by working with the entire group to reflect on my practice then and how I could handle the situation differently. I personally think reflective collaboration defies Clauder (2001) criticism of reflective practice in which she argues that reflective practice is introspective in nature and is associated with individual knowledge. Jasper (2003) reiterates the importance of reflecting with others and adds that sharing one’s experience with others and using reflective strategies helps one to broaden one’s views of their experiences. As Jasper observed, other people see the experience differently because they are more detached and are not caught up in emotional feelings of what happened. Edwards et al, (2009) observed that sharing of values acts as glue that keeps professionals focused on children’s long term wellbeing. Essentially, my colleagues from the learning set made me realise another person in me and that I could have different approach to handling situations. Their invaluable suggestions made me step out of the incident and analyse see it from a different angle. This has had a major effect not only in how could have handled the incident but also in my approach to similar situations in my future practice.

(3003 words)

REFERENCES

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Gould, N. and Baldwin (2004) Social Work, Critical Reflection and the Learning Organization. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

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APPENDIX ONE

The Learning Log

Portfolio Item 6b: stage 2 learning log

STUDENT’S PRACTICE EVIDENCE

(Maximum word count 1,200)

Reflective Learning Logs-Summary of a significant event/learning opportunity.

STUDENT NAME: Rosemary Maphosa

DATE: 3rd July 2009 Log no: 25

THE CONTEXT: Put the reader in the picture by describing the context of the event/activity/learning opportunity - what you did and how you did it.

Supporting TF at school

I did one-to-one support to TF at his school during dinner time and play time. He was fine during dinner time. During play time, TF climbed a tree and I told him that was dangerous as he could fall and injure himself or others. I was later told by one of the playtime supervisors that TF should be in the lounge doing other activities and not in the field. They spoke to TF about it and he was upset. I persuaded him to go to the lounge and he grudgingly agreed.

TF later joined other children to queue. I was behind him and heard him say a swear word about me. I told him that was not proper and emphasised to him the need to show respect to other people. At the end of the session, I reported the incident to his class teacher. She had a word with him and said the message needs to be passed on to his mother.

Word count 150 words

VALUES EXPRESSED: Which social work values/ codes of practice does this provide evidence for and how have these been demonstrated, e.g. not just ‘I treated the service user with respect’ – value 2, but how was respect shown?

Value A. When TF said a swear word about me that teased my value system and I was confronted with the dilemma of which of my values between professional values and personal values should prevail in that instance. Naturally, as a human being and an adult to hear a child showing disrespect brings so many feelings and thoughts. Although I did compare the situation with how I was brought up and particularly to respect other people and more so grown ups, I was able to let my professional values prevail and spoke to the child in the manner he understood and also reported the incident to his class teacher.

Value D. When I reported the incident to TF’s teacher, I respected her experience in working with TF as his class teacher.

What are the issues of the potential for discrimination?

When I asked the play time supervisors why TF was being removed from the play ground they told me his teacher recommended he played in the lounge following an incident when he had accidentally kicked another child. I still felt I should have been told about that decision before letting TF play in the field. It appeared to be unfair to first let him play with his friends in the field then later tell him to move to the lounge.

While the previous incident may not be condoned, I still argue that removing TF from the field was not the best solution considering that I was there to assist him and it had been agreed that the incident referred to was an accident. The child might have felt being segregated from his friends and that may have contributed to his anger.

REFLECTION/CRITICAL ANALYSIS: Choose one of the following headings on which to focus your reflection:

Identity/difference or

feelings/emotions or

the system or

Self-evaluation.

See guidance on Page 33 for further breakdown of areas, and ensure that each of the 4 sections are covered throughout the logs.

Feelings/emotions:

What are my feelings (not thoughts) towards this client/situation? How does this affect our relationship?

Initially when I heard TF swear I was not pleased and I felt the child did not have respect for grown ups and authority. I had to allow my professional values to prevail in that situation and that enabled me to assist the child in realising what he had done was not positive behaviour. Although TF did not want to be told what he had done is wrong, the incident added another dimension to our working together as I had seen the other side of the child I did not know. I ensured that I worked with his teacher in correcting that behaviour.

What do I think are the client’s feelings towards me? How might this affect our relationship?

I think the child had feelings of anger towards me because he had been told to move from the field to the lounge where he did not want to go. He was looking upon me to challenge that decision as someone working with him.

What were my feelings/thoughts while being in contact with the client/person?

When I heard him swear I did not know whether I should take him straight to his teacher or wait for the teacher to come. I thought of strategies that could be followed to make the child aware of what behaviour is not proper. We then decided with his teacher that letting his mother know of the incident will also engage her in guiding him towards positive behaviour.

THEORIES AND METHODS: Standard social work texts may be used sometimes, but most of your entries should be to theory related to the particular area of work or to the particular client group (that means getting away from the basic texts you worked with in earlier Stages). The ideal entry here would have a quote (in inverted commas and referenced) or an idea from a theory, followed by your interpretation of the ideas involved, and then how they link with the piece of practice... During the Practice Learning Experience you should have several entries related to:

Books written for those working with the particular client group

Relevant articles from social work (or specialist) journals

Research, some of which should be within the last 3 years

Websites with material helpful to the work

The theory applicable in this activity is ‘Transference’. Thompson and Thompson (2008, p. 220) state that the concept of transference is derived from the work of Freud and it refers to the process by which an individual may transfer their feelings towards one person to another such as from Person A to Person B. In the same way, when the play time supervisor told TF to move from the field to the lounge he was not happy and he did not want to leave the field. When I told him it was time to move the feelings of anger he had for the supervisor who had brought the message that he has to move from the field were directed towards me. This could also explain, although not justify, why he used a swear word when referring to me.

Legislation: What is the legal framework connected to this activity/piece of work that informs your practice and that of the agency? Please identify relevant legal rules and how they might be interpreted in this context.

The legislation connected to this activity is the ‘Every Child Matters: Change for Children in the Criminal Justice System 2004 (Brammer 2007, p.381). Brammer further states that one of the key focus of the criminal justice system include Every Child Matter’s outcome; Making a positive contribution. A key element of this is encouraging young people to choose to engage in law-abiding and positive behaviour. Similarly, the agency focuses on providing children and young people with services and activities that will keep them occupied and out of engaging in anti-social and inappropriate behaviour. I also ensured that I emphasised to the child the importance of positive behaviour.

EVIDENCE PROVIDED: In this section simply write in the numbers (a maximum of 4 Units) which you feel are evidenced by this piece of work followed by a brief explanation about how you feel you met the unit. This will help you to keep a check on how you are doing in gathering evidence, and will enable you and your Practice Assessor to identify evidence for entering into the SPEC, and for the Final Summary Report.

4.3 When I heard the child swear, I spoke to him about how inappropriate such behaviour is. I planned how I could calmly talk to the child in the manner that was effective and easily understandable by him.

5.1 I supported the child on a one to one basis and continued to maintain the relationship I had developed with him. I also communicated with the school authorities regarding TF and also maintained my working relationship with them.

6.3 I did my responsibility of supporting the child on a one-to-one basis. When I was told TF’s teacher had recommended that he plays in the lounge and not in the field, I talked to him trying to make him understand that his teacher felt it was best for him to be in the lounge.

20.1 In handling the effects the child’s behaviour had on me, I decided which option was best between waiting for the child’s teacher to come so that I could report the incident to her and talking to her at that moment. I assessed how leaving the child unsupervised to look for his teacher could impact on my practice and working with the children. I then decided to maturely handle the situation. I then waited for the teacher and related the incident to her.


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