Growing research in practice: messages for social work education Liz Beddoe & Phil Harington , University of Auckland, New Zealand Practical Learning Conference Edinburgh 2008
Growing research in practice The GRIP Team: Liz Beddoe, Christa Fouché, Phil Harington, Glenda Light, Neil Lunt and Deborah Yates
Practice based research Fox et al claim increasing number of prof. practitioners have research within their professional remit, as both practice and research benefit from practitioner research and academic research is enhanced by links with practice (Fox, Martin & Green,2007,pp.1-3
Why practitioner research? Dirkx describes the ‘insider’ view versus the ‘outsider perspective reflected in evidence based research’ . Insider research is able to use traditional research methods to examine what works, but from a perspective which ‘takes into account the epistemological, moral and political complexities of practice’ (Dirkx 2006,p.276).
Social workers’ research activity • Preparatory education for social work routinely includes content on research • Time erodes social worker confidence (continuum exercise) • Especially social worker confidence re selection/ design methodology • Lack of support from employers, lack of identification within peer group of research as a job component • Lack of tradition sharing knowledge in a community of practice / research, conferences
“it’s all about casework” … • Concentration on the prime tasks of the frontline • Workload measured in casework outputs • Practice lacks attention to building an empirical basis for decision making • No search for patterns (quant) no search for meanings (qual) • As a consequence no body of research on practice outcomes • No sense that data from practice informs management nor peers, • Critically- neither is much information collected from service users
What’s lost? • Loss of capacity to be appreciated for their scholarship potential • Social work reduced to asinine and anecdotal evidence to support practice • Audiences for social work argument may hear a plea not a knowledge claim • Cultural capital eroded by lack of use of the intellectual tradition and gravitas that was laid down in university preparation
Social work suffers a loss of professional capital • Lack of research mindedness and impact on practice • Lack of confidence in interprofessional environments • It is considered that this situation impacts on the status and credibility of social work as a profession.
AIMS of the programme • The overarching goal of the GRIP programme was to assist the development of a culture of practitioner enquiry in social service agencies in Auckland aimed at facilitating meaningful change and service improvement. It is a collaborative programme bringing together practitioners, academics, agencies and funding bodies. • The objective of the GRIP team’s own enquiry is to develop an understanding of ‘what works’ in facilitating the uptake of research and results amongst social work practitioners within organisations and in practice settings.
Key features … • An introductory seminar • Expressions of interest- selection criteria • Nine projects selected • The workshop series • Mentoring • Symposium • Collection of papers • Collection of resources • The Knowledge Map
Selection criteria • a project from, within and for practice • a small keen group of practitioners, staff or consumers • a small-scale feasible topic • a client or service-delivery focus • sufficient support from within the agency • the potential for GRIP to add value
Dimensions of GRIP Knowledge Map Research into practitioner research activity Research Projects Small groups of practitioners enquiring into their own practice issues Grip Team Mentoring Workshops Resources Data collection Funders
Values • Sound practitioner research is congruent with social work values (Powell, 2005). Basic social work principles informed the projects: • transparency • reciprocity • social sensitivity • empowerment and social change • multiple accountability • Treaty partnership & cultural sensitivity
Cultural dimensions • Within each practice project, full space has been afforded for appropriate cultural methodologies and ways of working. • E.g. a demonstration model undertaken with an iwi (Maori) agency or Pacific service provider would require the development of culturally appropriate approaches and resources would need to be sought to provide guidance and support. • The projects are controlled, negotiated and staffed by those with appropriate cultural knowledge and service expertise. • Throughout this period we have sought to include experts with knowledge of kaupapa Maori methodologies, Pacific ways of working such as Fa'asamoa, cross-cultural working and work with vulnerable groups.
Facilitating family meetings : • Auckland City Hospital- Seven practitioners • Desire to document multiple cultural perspectives • And define Best Practice: Family meetings
A Pasifika project: aims • A project to document effective existing social practices used by Pasifika practitioners at Waipareira Pasifika. • Secondly, the aim was to conceptualise how these practices are defined by these practitioners. Kote loto gatasi kote galiga o fenua ‘The unity of heart is the beauty of the islands.’
The programme: 6 seminars & symposium • 1. Getting Started: • the Research Question/the literature/ ethics and methodology • 2. Designing Methodologies: • Interviews/ focus groups/Surveys /old and new data/ journals & memos 3. Data Collection and Analysis of Diverse Perspectives • Responding to difference/Pasifika research guidelines • 4. Analysing and Organising Data • Quantitative methods/Qualitative methods • 5. Writing and Presenting Findings • Celebrating a Gripping Year and • The symposium
Mentoring • The mentors are the GRIP research team members and a Maori cultural advisor. • Mentors have met regularly with the teams in the workplace and e-mail has been used to communicate ideas and drafts throughout. • Mentoring is provided on a pro bono basis. • The role is supportive, rather than supervisory, and responsive to the queries or concerns raised by the practitioners. • Mentors have encouraged the teams to create a timeline for their project, assign tasks within and set goals for small components to be completed.
Key questions for our research To what extent is a research culture facilitated within the organisation; Are there changes to practice and service delivery? What other direct/indirect differences does a practice project make? What worked and what could be done better?
Data Collection • at each workshop project participants were asked to complete questionnaires to provide a record of their experiences over time. • Interviews with team leaders and project teams were conducted during the latter part of 2006 and early 2007 to provide further data. • GRIP team members recorded their reflections on the mentoring sessions, notes made during workshops research memos to note insights and questions, GRIP team discussions recorded and transcribed to add to the rich set of data. • A further set of data is being collected over October 07-February 08
Early analysis of this data indicates • Considerable enthusiasm for practice research, despite the challenges of time pressure, knowledge and resources • Lack of confidence (Joubert,2006) • Social workers ‘forget’ their research knowledge • Supports the usefulness of a collaborative approach in building research capacity and confidence in social work • Group relationships and process are very important • This requires culture change at various levels in social work in New Zealand as elsewhere –particularly managers & professional leaders • It also requires resources and support from mangers and supervisors –real organisational commitment (Fox, 2007 )
Potential from collaborative process • Growing confidence • Sowing seeds for practitioner research • Supporting community groups for improved funding • Improved relationships between academia and practice
Outcomes • ‘We have been running [the Chinese mental health support] for four years and we’ve seen outcome is very positive but we really don’t know which part is working best is question in my mind for a long time. I want some answers for that and Chinese community is very, is increasing all the time in New Zealand and more people will be suffering and need professional help. we need to improve, we need more money to do that. We need to apply for funding so we also need the evidence to go to the funders to say that this is a good programme, we have the research because that is the one thing that I learn. They said in New Zealand you have to give research evidence’ Chinese mental health group.
Social work research • ‘I think somehow or other we’ve got to be able to implement research in the same way that medical teams here at the hospital implement research, it just becomes part of your practice as something that’s taken for granted and it’s something where you’re given time to do as well and funding. Until we show our practice and our evidence based approaches in terms of other professions we’re not going to be able to stand up’ Health group .
De-mythologize research production • That the genre of research is always academic and remote from practice • That it has to be quantitative to count ! • That it has to be qualitative to have meaning! • It has to contest big ideas • That it has to construct major knowledge • That it has to be talked about in esoteric language not the vernacular of practice • That practitioners can’t manage ethical adjudication of proposals
De-mythologize research dissemination • Research doesn’t have to be published in academic journals to be significant to practice • That it can’t be presented simply and accessibly to peers and still have value and invite further exploration • That we can’t have a seminar programme in work time- that research happens somewhere else
Messages for pre-service education: • Strength of research methods training and production of research reports needs to be grounded in practice issues • Nature of relationships with the field around student research projects • Transfer of learning • Methodologies have to be accessible & immediate so that students will re-use them upon graduation • Create an appetite for graduates to read, write and utilise research and empirical practice
Messages for practitioner communities • Respect inquiry and expect analysis • Time , Time , Time • Find resources and support • Reward those who respond to the challenge - awards • Bonuses • Research counting for salary and promotion • Conference leave • Writing time • Sabbaticals and fellowships with other stakeholders • Exchanges /secondments
Time and support ‘Project members’ workload has not in any way been reduced. They’re not supported organisationally to attend or participate so what they have to have do is steal time away from the clinical load and having processes in place that allow them to come like being able to give their locator to a team member, it’s not at all unusual for locators to go off during GRIP meetings, people having to leave or people just not turning up at all ,because the work overwhelms them’ Health SW project leader .
‘We’re told do an ethics application. No then somebody says actually for your project you don’t need to do one, so write to the Ethics Committee about what you’re doing just to kind of get a tick, so we wrote to them and they said you will do an ethics application. So then our response was oh well let’s do what the Ethics Committee tells us and then when it’s well under way the person at the research office talks directly to the chairperson of the Ethics Committee who says do you really understand what it is that they’re doing because it’s a very low risk piece of work. It’s only accessing staff. But that’s interesting in itself, the whole sort of power of the experts telling us and under the guise for quality project it probably doesn’t needan ethics application so we’ve kind of got a bit tangled up in that’.
Last words ‘I’m already doing another project with a team of people, an evaluation of the after hours service, there are two projects now, there’s going to be another one next year, so yeah definitely increased confidence and interest around doing it some more’. ‘We want all practitioners to start thinking about their experiences and putting that into projects and from the GRIP seminar there was something that was said ,that you don’t have to call it research, you can just contribute, you can have conversation, you can just communicate and that can be your role in it. So it would be really good to see all practitioners starting to think of evidence based practice’.
Acknowledgments The authors wish to acknowledge the sponsors of the GRIP programme: the Families Commission's Innovative Practice Fund, the Ministry of Social Development's SPEaR Linkages fund and the ASB Trusts in partnership with the ANZASW. The University Of Auckland Faculty Of Education Research Fund and The University of Auckland Staff Research Fund have also provided generous support of the programme to date. We would also like to acknowledge the support provided by Thomson Publishing who provided text resources for each practice team and last, but not least, the participants to this initiative who made the whole GRIP experience possible
Thank you for your interest Liz Beddoe, University of Auckland, New Zealand PEPE Edinburgh January 2008