Or…… THEORY IS THE FOOD OF SOCIAL WORK THEORY AND PRACTICE:A Practice Educator Overview Siobhan Maclean July 2012
“A holistic assessment is made when the meal is judged on its overall taste, quality and presentation etc, however if one part of the preparation or an ingredient is missing or below standard, then this will impair the quality of the final product. In making an analysis of what was deficient, the process and individual components will need to be examined. Furthermore the quality standard for judgement will differ according to whether this is a corner café or a Michelin starred restaurant.” The College of Social Work (2012)
“Theory without practice is the foundation without the superstructure. Practice without theory is the superstructure without the foundation. The former is useless. The latter is dangerous.” (William Noyce Kernott 1875 in Rasmussen 2004)
Theory without practice is like a lid without a food processor… Lindsey Browne (NQSW) (2012) POINTLESS………
Practice without theory is like a food processor without a lid… DANGEROUS
We are leaving ourselves open to direction from others…. Ask a social worker what legislation they are using and they know – chapter and verse…. “Social work is what social workers do” (Health and Social Care Bill 2011)
International Definition of Social Work “The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.”
My Eureka Moment! Theory – noun – ‘naming’ word Theoretical – adjective – ‘describing’ word Theorising – verb – ‘doing’ word Theorising is putting ideas into action and drawing ideas out of action
The fact is that theory provides more than simply “food for thought” it provides the essential nutrients that enhance, inform and provide validity for social work practice…… Theory also reflects the complexity and diversity of social work practice
Did the potentially reductionist approach promoted by the National Occupational Standards starve social work of these essential nutrients? Providing the profession with a range of ready made meals for practitioners to simply warm up....
The theory doughnut…. “With guidance apply research, theory and knowledge from sociology, social policy, psychology, health and human growth and development to social work practice” Domain 5 PCF end of first placement However much you decorate it… there is a hole in the centre
We have some exceptional practitioners and students who should be working together with academics to co-produce the social work knowledge base and fill that hole!
HCPC Standards of Proficiency 13.4 Understand in relation to social work practice: • social work theory; • social work models and interventions; 14.4 Be able to use social work methods, theories and models to achieve change and development and improve life opportunities
Theories: recipes for practice? “Theory is typically taught in a way which presents theories as ‘recipes’ for practice. Students often eat but never cook.” (Lopez 2011)
FORMAL THEORY INFORMAL THEORY - “common knowledge” - “practice wisdom” (Beckett 2006)
Have you ever been to one of those restaurants where you feel excluded by the menu? Many social work students feel excluded by the “academic code” (Thompson 2010) used to express some theory…
Taking a critical approach Remember the concept of ‘practice validity’. If the ‘food’ tastes terrible we have a responsibility to let academics know!
Theorising on practice As practitioners, we have a responsibility to co-produce the social work knowledge base. If theories are ‘recipes’ we need to cook and we need to be involved in devising creative recipes that work with the ingredients available to us
Some exciting developments to look out for…. • International Federation of Social Workers (Europe) are due to start a project looking at empowering social workers to theorise and to share practice wisdom more systematically • BASW are looking at rolling out a masterclass on theory and theorising in social work practice across the UK
Critical reflection and theorising practice can produce much more nutritious and diverse food for the profession Let’s stop warming up the ready made meals ….
Theory is more than the icing on the cake……. It is the cake And we can have our cake and eat it……….
Practice Educators have always been committed to the future of the profession. So let’s get cooking!
References Beckett, C. (2006) Essential Theory for Social Work Practice. (London) Sage. Lopez, J.J. (2011) Contemporary Sociological Theories. online at http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:JdxbXU3vSGsJ:ssms.socialsciences.ottawa.ca/vfs/horde/offre_cours/0028710205. accessed 1.8.11 Rasmussen, C. (2004) Increasing Momentum: Engineering at the University of Melbourne 1861-2004. (Carlton) Melbourne University Press. The College of Social Work (2012) Understanding what is meant by Holistic Assessment. (online) TCoSW Thompson, N. (2010) Theorizing Social Work Practice. (Basingstoke) Palgrave Macmillan.