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Since leaving school I always wanted to work within social services. I was never encouraged by school or family as in the 1980's gender roles were very 'stereotyped' so instead girls were encouraged to go to secretarial school to study office skills it was felt this, would be a good career pathway and would always be a valuable asset that would see me through adulthood.
"In 1991 nearly 90 per cent of clerical workers and 98 per cent of all secretaries in the UK were woman" Ann Oakley stated that feminism "was/is about the claiming of rights and opportunities on a non-gendered, non-discriminatory basis" Since the 1980's equality for woman is now embedded in society, ensuring that all woman are entitled to the same job prospects as males as well as equality to a certain degree in pay. (Giddens 1993:1760) (Oakley as cited in Haralambos 2008:120)
I started my journey September 2008 and enrolled on a BTEC first Certificate in Health and Social Care at South Essex College, I passed this course with distinctions, this gave me the confidence and drive to continue studying and I then enrolled onto the Access to Social Work course in September 2009. The access course proved invaluable to my perception of society and how it functions, as well as questioning if I had the skills to become a good social worker. I enjoyed the access course and all the subjects I learned.
Gaining a pass with mainly distinctions gave me so much confidence and an even greater thirst for a career in social worker.
I am excited and extremely proud to have been given the opportunity to study at degree level, the knowledge already learnt and the knowledge gained in the next three years will make me be a successful social worker.
What type of learner do I see myself as?
According to Honey and Mumford (1982) there are four different styles of learning:
Theorists: these like to think before being practical in anything that they do, such as reading and making notes before they actively start to write.
Pragmatists: are very practical and prefer group work to theory and writing.
Activists: those in this style of learning like to get things done there and then no matter what the task.
Reflector: these think more than any other before taking any action, preferring to weigh things up and dwelling on outcomes sometimes could be seen as a time waster. (learningmatters.com) (Atherton 2010)
After completing the questionnaire (appendix I) my learning style is a reflector, a lot of time is spent 'weighing things up' and 'thinking' I would like over the next three years to change this style of learning, or even incorporate all four learning styles in order that I am adaptable and flexible in all areas.
During my time studying I like to have things explained to me in detail and examples shown so I can get a clear idea of what is expected of me. Since starting the degree and studying as an access student, I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses. My main strength is my time management, this area is well organised I get more time to study and complete work and spend time with my children. My weakness is self-doubt I have written and re-written assignments thinking I am not as good as the other student's, everyone always seems to get every aspect of a lesson and look so relaxed. I need to stress less and have more self-confidence in my abilities.
"As a professional worker, you will carry responsibility for managing your workload, so you need to be aware of the processes operating, the effects they are having on you and what you can do about themâ€¦." (Thompson 2008:56)
In order to study effectively on the degree programme I have stopped working in the week and I now use this time to study, start assignments, write up notes and research material. I found by being so organised and concentrating on just my study I have reduced my stress levels (slightly) by making this decision regarding work means I can concentrate on assignments and submit within the deadlines. This in turn means that studying is more enjoyable and relaxed ensuring a healthy balance of study and home life.
"To study successfully, good organisation is essential and should avoid wasting time. It can ensure that you use your time effectively and are able to keep to the course deadlines" (Walker 2009:10)
Factors That Affect my Learning
"Studying affectively is not just about what you learn but also how, where and when you learn. It will therefore stand you in good stead to give some thought to how you learn best."
My concentration levels are best first thing in the morning, this is when free time is used constructively to study my concentration levels are at their best and motivation is at its highest.
Reading little and often ensures that my mind is not overloaded with new information. Notes are made after each reading session to make sure, that the information is not lost and the information is available to use when referencing work.
"In order to manage the course successfully you will need to read widely and effectivelyâ€¦.. read effectively, select your reading material with care and learn to skim-read and focus your best energy and attention on the chapters or passages that are relevant to you" (Walker 2008:12)
The University library has limited resources relating to social work by making sure that I have my own books means I do not rely solely on the library. This also helps as learning in my own home is preferable.
By being a visual learner during lectures and note taking I highlight relevant and important information or 'mind map' this helps when writing up assignments, the main points of the notes standout.
Learning how to use reflective practice has been invaluable. At first it is very hard to analyse your own decisions and work of others. Being reflective helps question your own and that of others values and beliefs. Reflection really makes you think of any pre conceived ideas that you might have with regard to service users and society that may have been internalised. By being so reflective means that assumptions and labels I had placed on people were questioned, one way that this was challenged was volunteering. This has given me valuable insight into the needs of others.
"We cannot stop our views getting formed in this way - what we can do is to make positive efforts to change our views, question our prejudices and not act in a discriminatory way" (CSV - ViCP Volunteers in Child Protection 2005)
In order to continue my development and learning I have given myself a short term action plan (appendix II), which shows what I am aiming for in the first semester of my degree. This will have SMART targets an example below shows how achievable meeting targets and completing of assignments within the timescales can be :
Specific - to complete all relevant assignments by due dates
Measurable - making sure there is good time management
Achievable - small goal that by starting early is then achievable
Realistic - something that can be attained
Time related - all assignments have time related deadlines
SMART targets and action plans will encourage me if ever I doubt my abilities. Being achievable targets means there will not be any feelings of being overwhelmed. (Projectsmart.com 2010)
I am also studying for my level 2 ICT this is an invaluable qualification as it has given me some good knowledge of how some of the buttons on my computer work but above all I have learnt how to do excel, spread sheets and data base, being computer literate is vital. By having a level 2 ICT qualification means that assignments are professionally presented and I will also have gained an extra qualification.
How do you Relate Your Learning to the Contemporary Context of Social work Practice?
I currently volunteer for CSV in their ViCP (Volunteers in Child Protection), I have been visiting a family that I have been matched with for six months, at first I was judgemental with regards to the type of people that are placed within this service. I have always been interested in older people's services and individuals with disabilities however by volunteering in child protection as it means gaining insight into other areas of social work and how diverse all areas of social work are. I am so glad that I chose to volunteer with CSV my family are not 'stereo-typical' or 'bad parents' their children are delightful and I enjoy my visits with them.
"Prejudice operates mainly through the use of stereotypical thinking. All thought involves categories by means of which we classify our experience. Sometimes these categories are both ill-informed and rigid" (Giddens 1993:256)
Upon my first visit I was initially nervous and was pleasantly surprised my family's home was well kept the children happy and well cared for, this completely changed the way I viewed individuals and family's under child protection. The assumptions and stereo-typing I had done in my mind was completely inaccurate and made me rethink how I viewed the way I thought of families that require intervention.
Volunteering has also allowed me to practice some skills I have gained from learning, such as writing up reports, setting goals and understanding that theory informs practice, especially why individual's behaviour is affecting others and understanding the reasons behind their actions. Theories that can be used for example are transactional analysis which helps to understand different interactions within the family "transactional analysis can be used as a means of making sense of interactions that are going wrong in some way. This then gives us a foundation from which to explore the possibilities of helping to change these interactions". Carl Roger's theory is also useful when visiting the family, by listening and showing transparency and unconditional positive regard to their situation I can incorporate person centred therapy techniques to ensure that there is empathy and congruence to any crisis they may be facing. "â€¦aim is to get alongside the client in a way that shows willingness to enter the world of another human being to provide an experience that is validating, releasing and restorative" (Thompson 2008:265) (Trevithick 2009:94)
Volunteer work makes you feel a worthwhile member of society and because you are giving up you time for free it is a fantastic feeling when you see a change no matter how small, and especially when you see how theories underpin the work within social services.
"It has been said that 'social work needs to be articulate, celebrate and broadcast the theoretical frameworks which inform, structure and facilitate it operation' (Coulshed 1998:3 cited in Trevithick 2009:58)
By using theories I can observe the situation, describe in reports my findings, explain what may be going on as seen, predict what may or may not be the problem and intervene where it is required (Walker 2008)
I am looking forward to placements where I can interact with service user's and gaining more experience in my growth and development. By also registering as a student social worker, with the GSCC I am committed to adhering to the codes of practice set standards, in which individuals working within the social care sector must adhere to, in order to provide a quality of care to service users. The codes are to be complied with as a condition to my registration. (GSCC 2002)
Protect the rights and promote interests of service users and carers
Maintain trust and confidence of service users and carers
Promote the independence of service users while protecting them from danger and harm
Respect the rights of the service user making sure that there behaviour is not harmful to themselves and others
Uphold public trust and confidence in the profession
Be accountable for maintaining and improving
my own knowledge and skills
I feel if I start to adhere to them as a student they will become second nature in placements and when qualified.
"The protection of people who use social care services and public is paramount to the GSCC as a regulator"
Whilst on placement I can utilise Kolb's (1984) learning cycle. Concrete experience would be the starting of my placement then from this I can reflect on the experience, learn from experience on placement finally I can then put into action what has been learnt. This is something that I am already doing within the voluntary sector.
"Immediate or concrete experiences provide a basis for observations and reflections"
(Alan Chapman 1995-2010)
How Have You Worked Co-operatively with Others?
During group discussions I participate fully and try to be as active as possible within the classroom I try to be as much as an active participant as possible. Within a my workplace team work is extremely important in order that shifts run smoothly in order that service users stay in hospital is comfortable to their needs. In order for a team to work effectively it is important to have in mind eight core characteristics, we use the example of class discussion within groups and apply these:
Collective decision making - Discussion of the subject material
Collaboration / inter changeability - Co-operation with fellow students on ideas regarding the subject
Appreciation of conflicts / differences - everyone is entitled to their own point of view, has different thoughts and feeling to bring into the discussion
Balance of participation - by making sure everyone participates within the group, so that everyone has participated and contributed.
Focus - goal objective. Always have the goal mindful in discussions in order that the group does not deviate from the subject material.
Open communication - Make sure the communication is understandable to everyone.
Mutual support - Support one and other, some colleagues may have different strengths and weaknesses to other members.
Team spirit - work as one, everyone is in it together.
"The advantage of group work is that the frame of reference is looked after by the group as a whole, as well as the frame keeps moving onwards, while the thoughts in your mind are constantly being presented against a slightly different background" (Northedge 1990:57)
How do you become an Effective "Problem Solver" in Your Life?
Problem solving is a skill in which individuals can bring logical critical and creative thinking.
Upon researching problem solving I found below a seven stage circle which can be used in a given situation.
Diagram showing the 7 seven step problem solving cycle
This problem solving circle can be within social work settings as each identifies a stage of thinking in which you can move onto the next stage when the previous one is accomplished.
Identify the problem.
Explore the problem.
Once the problem has been explored small manageable goals can be set.
Look for alternative solutions now the problem has been explored.
From the list of alternatives pick which one is the most relevant as a solution.
Put solution into action.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the solution that I have found.
"By doing this simple cycle problems can sometimes seem easier to deal which can be applied to all areas of life not just social work situations".
(Learning and Teaching Unit 2010)
If I cannot resolve a problematic situation I often ask peoples advice as sometimes a different perspective often makes a situation seem less daunting, at college I ask fellow students if I have a problem and colleagues within work if I have a work related problem. Other people's perspectives can make a situation more simplistic or can help in finding easier solutions.
"Partnership literally means working with other people, but it is important that we use it in more than a literal sense. This is because for most part, we would find it difficult to get through a working day without work with other people in a direct and literal sense"
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