Social workers and people who manage them are being asked to develop, as one practitioner expresses it “a rigorous blend of critical thinking, practical action and emotional intelligence”.
Social work training now encompasses thirteen competencies, threaded through with the core skill of critical thinking. This follows publication of the Munro Report and the social work professional competency framework (PCF) laid out by the College of Social Work.
However, this ‘critical’ approach to social work is not an easy option and involves constant vigilance and awareness of actual or potential biases and assumptions, both in oneself and others. The approach mustn’t just happen in supervision, but is a different way of being at work – and managers and supervisors have a crucial role here, since they must model the approach in everything they do.
Who is the Programme for? What are its aims?
Social work managers, practice educators and supervisors, learning and development professionals – and anyone who has a social work learning and development role as part of their job. The Programme aims to give participants all the tools and skills they need to use the Action Learning approach, in 1:1s, small or larger groups, to help social workers develop skills of critical thinking and reflection.
Why use an Action Learning method? What does this involve?
Action Learning is already a method for developing critical analysis and reflection. It uses a simple problem solving model and a ready made format. Action Learning uses coaching skills in a small group setting.
However, Action Learning encourages learning on many levels. People learn as individuals as well as from the group process, and they learn how to help others arrive at their best solutions and to be resourceful, through a coaching approach. It’s highly practical and focuses on taking action on real, current issues. It’s also collaborative, learning with and from colleagues.
How does this encourage managers to develop reflective practice and critical thinking in the people they supervise?
The ability to think about and evaluate what it is we’ve just done, or about to do, as Munro says, doesn’t happen naturally. It requires a protected space in the bustle of working life and it thrives in a dialogue with colleagues rather than being done alone. Action Learning gives people the ‘how’ of engaging in these dialogues of reflective practice and critical thinking, which involve active listening, open questioning, the ability to reflect both on-action and in-action and creating and maintaining a trusting environment.
How is the Programme structured?
The Programme is an ILM Endorsed 3-day accelerated, intensive course which is highly experiential. Participants work in their own AL Set on real work-based problems, taking turns to facilitate and getting comprehensive, timely feedback. People learn to use a critical thinking approach in a way that’s supportive yet gently challenging. The training is tailored and people focus on their own workplace and the many different situations where there are opportunities to apply the approach in their own work.
The course is designed to support social work managers in different specialisms and at different stages of development.
What has been the feedback so far from social work managers themselves?
The feedback has been that managers have really appreciated the power of the approach and its ability to generate new insights, options and ways forward that they had not seen before.
People who’ve been on Reflective Supervision courses have said that the course complements the skills learned and is essential for use in 1:1s and in group settings, because it provides the ‘how’ of reflection. Often, social workers struggle with this and managers may have difficulty finding the skills and format to help. Managers also appreciate that our approach gives pointers to enable them to both use and model a reflective approach, so that it begins to embed and be applied more widely than in formal supervision sessions.
How can I find out more?
For a detailed Programme outline and details of costs, please contact us.
Read our interview with Community Care’s Kirsty McGregor here