Journal Article

Evidencing Reflective Practice in Social Work Education: Theoretical Uncertainties and Practical Challenges

George Wilson

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 43, issue 1, pages 154-172
Published in print February 2013 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcr170
Evidencing Reflective Practice in Social Work Education: Theoretical Uncertainties and Practical Challenges

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Reflective practice has become an increasingly influential idea in social work education and, in the UK context, it has recently been acknowledged as key to ensuring that social workers are better equipped to engage in complex decision making and effective practice. However, there remains a lack of clarity about how this concept is defined and operationalised in teaching and learning and there has been little systematic empirical examination of its utility in facilitating professional development. Drawing on research with undergraduates at Queen's University Belfast, this paper aims to develop understanding of students' experience of reflective practice. The results suggest that agency systems that have become over-reliant on rules and procedures present formidable obstacles to learning both at an individual and at an organisational level. The paper argues that the relationship between how reflective practice is taught and how it is enacted in practice needs to be better understood if such obstacles are to be overcome. The paper concludes by considering the implications of the findings for developing reflective practice in social work education and practice and highlights the challenges that need to be addressed if reflection and critical thinking are to become more firmly embedded within agency systems and practice cultures.

Keywords: Reflective practice; routinisation; teaching and learning; organisational and practice cultures

Journal Article.  6734 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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