Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Please note that all times are shown in the time zone of the conference. The current conference time is: 27th Jan 2022, 03:58:19am EET

Session Overview
Paper Presentation Session 10: Field Placement/Education
Thursday, 17/June/2021:
10:45am - 12:15pm

Session Chair: Alessandro Sicora
Location: Parallel Session 3

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Field Education in Social Work in the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond. Lessons from the Reactions of Participants to the Italian Digital Internships Activities

Elisa Matutini1, Riccardo Guidi2

1Ca' Foscari University - Venice, Italy; 2University of Pisa - Italy

The European institutions of tertiary education (e.g. Universities) have tackled the COVID-19 pandemic mainly through the switch from face-to-face to distanced activities (e.g. on-line lessons). In this scenario, one of the most serious problems has been about the learning of practice skills which require field education initiatives (e.g. internships) which are usually developed through face-to-face relationships. Being the latter impossible or heavily restricted by the pandemic, lockdown and distancing measures, students in health and human services (social workers, physicians, psychologists etc.) risk not to learn crucial technical and relational skills with potential negative consequences on their future employability as well as on users.

To face this challenge, new and original initiatives of “digital internships” have been designed and carried out in Italy through bottom-up practices from March 2020 onwards. This Paper:

1. accounts for the processes through which two Italian Universities (Venice and Pisa) in different regions of the country seriously hit by the pandemic have designed and implemented these initiatives for BA and MA students in social work;

2. analyzes several aspects of the students’ and supervisors’ participation to the new digital internship activities carried out in 2020/2021 (point of view on these, learning outputs and changes, resources etc.). What fears and uncertainties have accompanied this experience? What new opportunities for reflexivity and learning have been created? What cognitive, relational and emotional resources have been fielded by trainees and social workers engaged in supervisory activities?

Methods are mixed and include brainstorming, focus groups and questionnaires. The analysis allows to enrich the growing debate about the role of ICT in social work education. It namely focuses on the opportunities provided by “digital internships” within and in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic.

How to improve practice placements in social work education – social workers’ view

Florin Lazar1, Mihai Bogdan Iovu2

1Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, University of Bucharest, Romania, National College of Social Workers from Romania; 2Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca, Romania, National College of Social Workers from Romania

Social work education in Romania has a longstanding tradition of more than 90 years, being re-established after more than 20 years of banning during the communist regime. Currently more than 20 accredited universities offer 38 social work education programs. Although more than 40,000 social workers graduated accredited universities in the last 30 years, only about 9,200 were registered in the National Register of Social Workers in December 2019, whilst there is a gap of 11,100 social workers in social services at national level. Social work schools need to prepare students to adapt to a changing labor market and practitioners’ perspective on practice placements is very important.

Thirty-one focus groups were carried out (July-October 2018) with 482 registered social workers within a wider project financed by UNICEF aiming at strengthening the social services workforce. We focus here on the proposals to improve practice placement for students.

The proposals of social workers to improve the practice placement of students were grouped into 3 categories: (1). on the content of learning programs (e.g. adapting curricula to legislative changes, use of real social work tools/forms in teaching, learning new practice methods, better link theory with practice and specialization in a specific area of practice during the last year of study); (2). on the organization of practice placement (e.g. more practice hours and for longer time, promoting internships, payment of practice supervisors from agencies or an interview for the admission as student); (3). for the social service providers/agencies (e.g. designating a practice supervisor, valuing better students’ work, a better collaboration with schools/universities, encouraging registered social workers to supervise students).

Better practice placements could increase recruitment and retention of social work graduates by becoming student-friendly learning environments. Efforts are needed before, during and after the placement, but also by social work schools and practitioners.

Social Work Students’ Placement during the COVI-19 pandemic - Challenges in Republic of Srpska

Vesna Sucur Janjetovic, Andrea Rakanovic Radonjic

University of Banja Luka, Faculty of Political Sciences, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The School of Social Work at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina) has allocated placements for students throughout three years of their studies, mandatory thee subjects/units specially designed by the Curriculum. During their year three of the studies, students have to complete 120 hours in their placement (practical education) in institutions/organizations whose primary or secondary activities are social work activities. In March 2020, 30 students commenced their placement/practice in different institutions: social welfare, education, health organizations and civil society organizations/NGOs. This practical education/students’ placement is planned for the duration of four weeks in March each year, but this year it was interrupted due to the declaration of the State of Emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This paper represents the analysis of all challenges faced by students and academic staff/professors during the process of organizing and realization of the practical education for students of social work during the lockdown period. The analysis includes factors that contributed to the changes regrading students’ placements, as well as presentation of alternative models of support that were introduced due to specific circumstances, through reflective group and individual support provided. Also, the analysis of Student’ Weekly Reports enabled tracking all changes that took place during students’ practical education/placement.

The methods used for the analysis included content analysis of specifically designed Weekly Report Forms, structured observation of the process, and analysis of data collected through structured interview, carried out in focus groups (three groups, each with 10 students).

The main conclusions include the fact that many students had to change their placement organizations/institutions, and many challenges occurred during the lockdown. However, each challenge had to be approached on individual basis and students were provided with all necessary support and finally managed to complete their practice/placement.

Emotions and “bonsai” micro-stories in social work practice and education

Alessandro Sicora

University of Trento, Italy

Emotions have often been described as obstacles to effective social work practice and education. A detached attitude towards service users is still considered by many as one of the fundamental components of being a good practitioner in any helping profession. This idea excessively simplifies a more complex reality in which empathy, intuition and other ‘non-rational’ components appear, on the contrary, key ingredients of many successful helping interventions. Nevertheless many social workers and social work students still consider their emotions as a source of shame rather than a way to enrich their understanding of the world around them.

This presentation aims at highlighting the importance of a mindful and self-compassionate use of emotions in social work practice and education. Basic emotions (anger, fear, disgust, sadness and joy) can be seen “messengers” able to enhance the quality of any reflection process social workers may develop. Using an adapted version of the Gibbs’ reflexivity cycle and a form of synthetic reflexive writing (“bonsai” micro-stories) social workers and social work students involved in workshops carried out in Italy, Israel, England and South Africa have explored the world of their emotions at work. The most significant micro-stories will be presented as examples of the positive outcomes from social workers’ reflection on some of their professional experiences that involved strong emotions. This demonstration of the application of the proposed techniques is intended to clarify the educational value of reflective learning applied to the sphere of emotions in social work field practice. Especially in situation of crises and unexpected events when difficult emotions are more frequent, this promotes the well being not only of the social workers, but also of social worker students, involved in similar form of reflection applied to their field practice, and indirectly of the social work service users.

Politicization as a key topic in Social Work Practice and Education.

Elke Plovie, Peter Raymaekers

UC Leuven vzw, Belgium

In 2018, 1000 participants attended the conference ‘Strong Social Work’: lecturers, researchers, policy makers but mostly social workers active in various social work practices in Belgium Flanders came to Brussels to discuss and identify the common ground of social work. This discussion is necessary as changes in society and policy developments put the final goal of social work, i.e. social justice, under pressure. The current Covid-19 crisis makes this sense of urgency even more visible.

In the report that resulted from that conference, politicization is identified as one of the five major lines for future social work (Vanderkinderen, Roose, Raeymaeckers & Hermans, 2018). We argue that politicization is a necessary response to the current challenges. In the report, politicization is described as follows.

“Social work should ensure that citizens make use of their social rights and benefits. Therefore social work points to the structural mechanisms that contribute towards social injustice and looks for collective solutions to change these mechanisms. Social workers act as public and democratic professionals by expressing their voice, by identifying the social constraints, by challenging dominant patterns and by taking a normative position. Politicization is about putting issues of social deprivation and social exclusion on the public agenda.”

The focus on politicization does not go unnoticed. There are strong supporters but also opponents. It raises questions among social workers and lecturers discuss how to prepare future social workers. Although we discuss politicization a lot, there is limited research on how politicization is put into practice by social workers.

Therefore we initiated a research project whereby we conduct semi-structured interviews with 130 social workers active in the field. In these interviews we are interested in how social workers understand politicization and the importance of it in the social work organization. We want to learn about politicization practices: which issues are put on the public agenda and what is the role of social workers? We also identify the needs of social workers to realize this role.

At the conference we present the results of this research and discuss the implications for the education of current and future social workers.

The Creation of Understanding of Migration-related Developments in Social Work and Social Policy Education in Serbia

Natalija Perisic, Danijela Pavlovic

University of Belgrade - Faculty of Political Sceince, Serbia

The impact of different types of migration on Serbian society has been profound. Migration trends have been versatile: forced and voluntarily, regular and irregular, inward and outward. It can be reasonably expected that all of these will intensify in the near future. As a result, vulnerable populations will be in heightened need of support, and also the concept of the development of society will need to be re-designed. All of the mentioned calls for innovative approaches in social work and social policy education, which have been rather underdeveloped so far from the point of view of their intersections with social work and social policy.

The focus of this presentation is on the impact of a Horizon 2020 funded project MIGREC on the creation of understanding of migration related developments in social work and social policy education in Serbia. The thematic areas of the Project are fivefold: migrant integration, migration governance, migration-development nexus, theories and methods in migration studies and knowledge, debates and representations. By exploring each of the thematic areas and brining them under the umbrella of a Research Centre to be established within the Project, the objective is to develop theoretical, practical and policy knowledge and understanding of importance for social work and social policy education at the PhD level of studies. The social work and social policy education does not have any migration related “lenses” and vice verse: the migration studies in Serbia lack the social work and social policy perspectives. The aim of this presentation is to debate the intersections between education in social work and social policy on the one hand and education in migration on the other hand in order to improve their synergies. The knowledge and understanding of intersections between these fields have been co-created and co-produced in the processes of close collaboration between the stakeholders from various fields (academic and non-academic) and three countries (Serbia, United Kingdom and Greece).

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