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In this assignment I will discuss the role of assessment in collaborative learning. It will also discuss service-user involvement in practice-based educational processes.
For the practice teacher an essential responsibility of this role is to assess whether the student has developed a satisfactory level of competence in their practice within their placement. The assessor’s responsibility is to measure the student’s performance against the national occupational standards.
I would agree with Harden and Crosby (2000 in: Walker et al, 2008, p.61) that the role of an assessor is to contribute to a student’s development in a number of ways, i.e.: facilitator, role model, information provider, resource developer, supervisor, planner and assessor.
This was my first opportunity to formally assess a Social Work student. Before this I have mentored the students however this particular role of being work based supervisor was different to my previous experiences. I felt it was essential to develop an open and honest relationship; from our first initial meeting prior to the placement starting. It was explained to the student that the students are assessed on their ability to respect, understand and support the roles of other professionals involved in health and social care. It is recognised that each member of the group brings with them relevant/different experience and skills.
Research confirms that a collaborative partnership, which allows the student the sharing of power where possible, is important and that a supportive and nurturing approach enables the development of trust and safety. These features are thought to also facilitate more accurate assessments. (Walker et al, 2008, p.83). I offered my student opportunity to be open about her expectations from me considering that this was my first time to be a work based supervisor as I was a student too. It was a challenge to take on this responsibility due to the work load we had at that time, the amount of cases which were complicated and the whole team was going through lots of changes. I had less support from my practice teachers due to his sickness. Social workers often deal with some of the most vulnerable people in society at times of greatest stress and there can be tragic consequences if things go wrong. I was mindful of this. My line manager supported me to take on this challenge in a more positive way and enabled me to be effective in my role as a practice assessor.
Following the Lord Laming Report one of the significant changes for Social Workers was the introduction of The General Social Care Council on 1st October 2001. This set out a code of practice and National Occupational Standards for employers and Social Workers. This was the first time that such standards have been set out at national level.
I attended a ‘Safeguarding’ conference recently held in our department for social workers. We were encouraged to follow a ‘SMART ‘tool. ‘SMART’ is a useful way of measuring what is needed, a simple tool to use in the work place, supervision and completing direct work. An assessment plan should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Targeted. This gives a precise explanation to the way social worker should carry out an assessment work. Social workers need to work to the core values of social work outlined by the General Social Care Council in their Code of Practice for Social Care Workers. Students during their placements need to demonstrate that they know and understand these values, which they will also be assessed against.
The assessment of students is central to the role of practice education. The relationship between a practice educator and their student and how it is perceived is important for learning between them both. (Knight, 2001, Kolevzon, 1979 in: Walker, Crawford and Parker, 2008, p.82).
The student will need to meet the six key roles set out in the National Occupational Standards for Social Workers:
Prepare for work with individuals, families, carers to assess their needs
Plan, carryout, review and evaluate social work practice
Support individuals to represent their needs, view and circumstances
Manage risk to individuals, families, carers, groups, communities self and colleagues
manage and be accountable, with supervision, for own social work practice within the organisation
Demonstrate professional competence in social work practice
As the work-based educator/ practice assessor, my aim was to give the student the opportunity to gain an understanding of working for a statutory agency and to put their academic learning into practice. As the assessor my role was to link theories to practice for the student and for the student to use the framework for assessment and to link the national occupational standards for social work to the framework for assessment. Following some shadowing my student was gradually offered to gain practical experience of handling situations through co working as well as individual pieces of work.
As social workers, we all have responsibility to safeguard the child. The inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie, recommendation 14 (Laming, 2003) stated that all national agencies for children and families should require each of the training bodies covering the services provided by: doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, housing departments and social workers to demonstrate that effective joint working between each of these professional groups features in their national training programmes.
Within my assessor role I was also required to arrange an induction programme for my student, a component of this was giving the student the time to meet other professionals that she would come into contact with. I helped my student to arrange some visits to the agencies we work most frequently such as local police, child protection units, Behavioural Resource services, family centres. We also arranged slots for my student to observe some Forums where we request different types of work with children and families.
Training together gives people the opportunity to “challenge and reframe established practices, to encourage productive dissention… to encourage new ways of thinking and acting” according to Fay who describes emancipatory personal development. (Fay in Rogers 2009). As part if the induction I arranged my student to attend the training called ‘Paris Training’ this was crucial for her to be able to access and use the software we use to put all the data in the system.
One of my aims in this placement was to give the student the opportunity to help and empower service users to have a better quality of life and to feel safe. Lymbery (2000 in Doel and Shardlow, 2005, p.21) has identified three ways of relating to service users: the traditional view, the market view and the partnership view. The first highlights the traditional power imbalance, the second divides users and providers and focuses on ‘commodity’ and finance; the third is currently the most used approach. There can be problems when there are significant conflicting interests such as child protection or mental health work but using the principles of empowerment and communication can help move things forward more positively.
Involvement of service users in training, as part of learning together and sharing information to a common end; gaining feedback through various means; planning and delivering services, involvement in budget allocation (Doel and Shardlow, 2005, p.21) helps to empower people and gives them and social workers and organisations opportunities to learn from and develop services which use strengths, knowledge and abilities to resolve problems.
Social work has to be seen as one part of the wider field of society’s responsibility for the community at all levels, in the same way that all people within the community and other agencies must. By developing structures within which people work and participate in this wider context, particularly at the starting point of people’s involvement through their education, it should be possible to reduce the levels of differences at a time when everyone should be following the same aims rather than trying to resolve their different perspectives or absolve themselves from their responsibilities.
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