SWAP Innovation in Learning and Teaching Awards

The SWAP Innovation in Learning and Teaching Awards comprising a cash prize of £1,500 were presented at the conclusion of this years JSWEC Conference. The awards were presented to individuals and teams who demonstrated innovation in their support of learning and the full list of winners and a short passage of information on each can be found below:

Innovation in assessment in learning and teaching - Using Evidence to Guide Practice core team (Bournemouth University)

This award is given to a team of seven from Bournemouth University, comprising Peter Atkins (Service User and Carer Forum) Professor Kate Galvin (Professor of Health Research), Dr Maggie Hutchings (Academic Lead for E-Learning and Educational Enhancement), Andy Pullman (Web Team Leader), Anne Quinney (Senior Lecturer Social Work), Vince Clarke (Learning Technologist) and Professor Les Todres (Professor of Qualitative Research).

The team has designed, developed and facilitated an innovative unit of study, entitled ‘Using Evidence to Guide Practice’ delivered to two groups of 300+ in the current academic year. The unit develops ‘research mindedness’ through a creative mix of specially designed multimedia case scenarios; keynote lectures by members of the professoriate and other research active staff; online and face to face group work activities; enabling students to engage with the scholarly outputs and research projects undertaken in the School.

The award is given for the unit’s innovative assessment which consists of a multiple choice on-line exam and a group blog. The online multiple choice exam was the first of its kind in the university. According to the student proposer this was “a great delight as no written assignment was needed”.

Innovation in practice learning opportunities - START: Students and Refugees Together (University of Plymouth)

START: Students and Refugees Together, is a Plymouth-based social enterprise which seeks to recognise and enhance the strengths, skills and experiences of asylum seekers and refugees living in the city and support them in living their lives within their new community. The START team includes students on placement, people who have received or are receiving services from START, and volunteers from the local community. In addition to formal casework, placement students also work with refugees and asylum seekers in a number of informal settings, including the bi-weekly Cultural Kitchen, the Cultivating Communities Allotment Project and the Soft Creations Sewing Group, learning to engage with individuals, communities and families in culturally appropriate ways.

Unlike many organisations, START relies upon its student workforce to deliver its services. Students learn from and support each other, taking responsibility not only for their own learning, but also the learning of their peers.

Student comments included: “The complexity of the work I am involved in requires supporting people at crisis point and whose first language is generally not English. Therefore as a result I am aware of how this has strengthened my skills of communication and advocacy in deconstructing oppressive practice. In terms of advocacy it has also been important to have a good grasp of the legislation and policy affecting refugees and asylum seekers, in order to enhance my skills of radical social work.”

• Innovation in involving service user and carer educators in learning and teaching - Service User and Carers Group (Staffordshire University)

The Skills Lab programme at Staffordshire University is a pioneering innovative programme aimed at developing the communication skills of level 4 students in preparation for their first assessed placement. Its unique feature is the involvement and leadership of members of the Service User and Carers Group (SUCG), supported by academic staff, in delivering formative feedback sessions to students on an individual basis, and in the summative end of year assessments.

Members of the SUCG have been involved in devising a range of scenarios designed to challenge the students and help them develop their communication skills and general levels of confidence at an early stage on their training. Roles are chosen carefully so that they cover a wide range of social work issues, but are designed to emphasise the importance of general communication skills.

Each student has two 30 minute sessions led by two members of the SUCG, one of whom ‘role plays’ the scenario; the other acts as facilitator for the feedback. Throughout these sessions the emphasis is upon confidence building, and the value of informed, constructive feedback using Pendleton’s Rules (ie. what went well? what could have been done differently?).

A student commented “I feel that our Service User and Carers Group (SUCG) have proved to be invaluable to my learning process. I have been in realistic settings in which to practise and develop my skills, both in the context of a telephone interview and a ‘home visit'."

• Innovation in engaging students in their own learning - Tarsem Singh Cooner, Denise Tanner & Joy Fillingham (University of Birmingham)

This award is given in recognition of Tarsem, Denise and Joy’s re-design of the existing ‘Readiness for Practice Learning’ teaching in order to promote and enhance the student learning experience. The learning design utilised an Enquiry Based Blended Learning approach aimed at helping students (both independently and collaboratively) acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and professional values required to communicate and intervene effectively with service users and carers.

Student groups were put into imaginary social work teams and provided with ‘life like’ triggering events to initiate a process of enquiry. A major part of the learning design made use of open educational e-learning resources created by the Social Care Institute of Excellence to guide student learning. Using a Wiki, students in their groups had to create an online booklet to demonstrate how they would address the issues raised by the enquiry-based scenarios. Whilst engaged in these activities students were actively encouraged to reflect on their values, team working, communication and collaboration skills. The areas of learning the Wiki had to demonstrate included communicating with people with learning disabilities, children and young people, using an interpreter, and dealing with aggressive and threatening behaviour. Tutors provided timed formative feedback via the wiki to guide learning. Throughout this process a workbook helped students to reflect on and record learning gained from active engagement with these scenarios. The learning aim was to provide situations in which students could experience processes that enabled them to think critically, reason and problem solve.

The student proposer commented: “The variety of the teaching methods used made the work more interesting and developed a wide range of competencies. I enjoyed the wiki task as it promoted in-depth learning, effective communication skills and teamwork which will be vital to practice."

• Innovation in curriculum development - Janet Phillips (University of Essex)

This award is given in recognition of the innovation demonstrated in the development of the PGCert in Practice Education. The programme was developed in response to local need to fill a gap in provision for Thurrock and Southend since the demise of the Practice Teachers Award, and to help develop new placements to meet the rising demand of a local qualifying course. It was through the provision of a Social Work Development Fund grant that the programme was able to become a reality.

The innovation displayed by the University was through demonstrating a proactive approach in developing this programme and all aspects of development were managed by a partnership group that comprised local authority and University reps at all stages, demonstrating a model of effective partnership working to meet local need as described by the SWRB.

The focus was on the needs of the LAs’ service provision to design an effective programme. The programme remains innovative because it has an ongoing flexible responsiveness to changing national policy, which will help to ensure the programme is always fit for purpose.

The student proposer commented: “For me, the most important element has been the emphasis on reflexivity which the University supported me to apply in both my roles as a supervisor of other staff e.g. NQSW, and as a Practice Educator taking students. At a time of change and uncertainty, the support of my employer and the University in allowing me to progress through this programme has raised my confidence and self-esteem. Fort example, I was allowed flexibility around assignment hand-in dates to support my personal and professional circumstances, most particularly in the work setting where there were unexpected additional demands on my role. I found it particularly rewarding to be supported by my employer and the University to successfully study at Masters level, which has broadened and deepened my Continuing Professional Development.”

Innovation in the use of technology in learning and teaching - Matthew Gough (Nottingham Trent University)

Matthew Gough has pioneered effective use of a new virtual learning environment (VLE) to improve social work student engagement. He has secured 100% participation from students in online discussion forums and staggered formative assessment each time he has run his ‘Working with Adults’ Module. Colleagues often complain that online discussions are not used by students. Equally students complain that conventional assessment tasks do not always correlate enough to learning outcomes and thus they may not fully engage in teaching sessions. Matthew has used the VLE to release case information in real time which can be influenced by student interview skills which they demonstrate on discussion forums. Only by asking effective questions will appropriate information be released about the case.

Matthew has convinced colleagues and students alike of the authenticity of this approach by making it more realistic than static problem solving case studies as well as linking into the increasing levels of IT skills that are demanded in contemporary practice.

Using the VLE in this way provided effective scaffolding to learners. They have received quick affirming feedback. They get to work collaboratively with their peers to problem solve cases. Social work skills are tested as they follow up interactively with the case. They are given phone numbers to ring which take them through to voice messages which then the student has to respond to for future set interviews.

Feedback from students has included comments along the lines of ‘imaginative and engaging’, ‘unique’, ‘genius’, ‘really original and refreshing’, and ‘other lecturers ought to do the same’.

There were also two runners up prizes of £500 presented in the technology category due to the high calibre of nominations. These were awarded to the following individuals:

• Gosia Kwiatkowska (University of East London)

Gosia designed a learning opportunity for students in which they were asked to engage directly with a young person with a learning disability preparing for transition into adulthood. The students were expected to support the young person in a series of workshops held at UEL throughout the semester as well as visiting the young person at their school or centre. Working together, the student and young person the created a Multimedia Advocacy Portfolio which introduced the young person, his/her likes and dislikes, incorporating the six keys to citizenship (support, community life, self-determination, direction, money and home). The assessment was a person centred planning exercise on advocacy and empowerment.

• Anne Llewellyn (Leeds Metropolitan University)

Anne set up and evaluated a social networking space to help students with the transition into Higher Education. This enabled students to share advice and address concerns prior to arrival and in the early stages of the course. She also developed the use of a virtual classroom (elluminate) for teaching and supervision to enhance student learning through the efficient use of resources and integrated a wide range of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) tools and techniques on the BA SW Personal and Professional progress (PPP) module. This has been done through the structured use of discussion boards and reflective blogs, with focused and motivating tasks supported by skilfully integrated Open Educational Resources (OER) and tests.

SWAP award winners

The SWAP award winners with SWAP Director, Jackie Rafferty.

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