Why do we need another book on social work theory?

In this post Phil Musson, University of Lincoln, explains the rationale behind his new book Making sense of theory and its application to social work practice.

I look forward to reading the practice portfolios of social work students in which they describe their experiences, analyse their practice and showcase their skills. For many, these placements will leave career long impressions on the fledgling practitioners as they grapple with the complexity of social work practice for the first and second time.

More often than not I am reassured that they are developing their craft with appropriate reference to values, interpersonal communication skills, service user involvement, and legislation. However, I am generally left feeling underwhelmed by the quality of application of theory to practice in so far as it is used to explain circumstances and inform a plan of intervention in them.

OK, reference to Maslow or Bronfenbrenner may feature in a perfunctory sense and claims may be made that strengths based ideas or systems theory had been used but rarely am I left with the impression that the student had a real grasp of how a theory offers an explanation of what they see and how its corresponding method of intervention provides a cogent, structured way of trying to do something about it.

In my experience students tend to address the requirement to ‘apply theory’ with such statements as ‘I applied systems theory with service user A’ but without going on to explain how the work they did with A was an application of systems theory. Alternatively, they might bullet point a list:

On my placement the theories used included

  • Attachment
  • Strengths
  • Bereavement

Both expressions fail to reveal the student’s depth of understanding of theory and its application as an explanation of how what they did was an application of the theory claimed is avoided. Whilst I do not expect to see a confident application of theory to practice (especially in the first placement) I do expect to see a tentative exploration into this area so important to assessment, analysis and intervention.

Am I alone in this having this perspective? I do hope not as, in an attempt to address this and encourage students to embrace theoretical frameworks and to try road testing their application, I have written a book titled Making sense of theory and its application to social work practice.

It is written with a particular student in mind. This student wants to get the most they can out of their course, as they want to become the best social worker they can be and to be ‘tooled up’ to do the best they can for the people they will work with. Accordingly, they need to know about theory and well enough to try applying it in their practice. However, they would not describe themselves as an instinctive theoretician so they expect to find acquiring a working knowledge of this area of practice a challenge. The book sets out to minimise the ‘challenge’ and maximise the degree of ‘sense’ that can be made in this quest. It seeks to achieve this through its structure; four ‘theories of explanation’ are introduced with their respective methods of intervention and four approaches to social work practice are introduced also with their methods of intervention. One generic case study is used so the reader can see how each method of intervention can be applied in practice.

I hope it fulfils its promise.

Phil Musson June 2017

Details of Phil’s new book, Making sense of theory and its application to social work practice can be found on our website www.criticalpublishing.com

Development of Writing- the penultimate extract from Carol Hayes’ new book.

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Oh Thursday has come around so quickly and it genuinely saddens me to have to say that this is the penultimate extract from Carol Hayes’ book ‘Language, Literacy and Communication‘.

Each chapter in the book is filled with diagrams, case studies and points of reflection to encourage and promote critical thinking- this extract is a good example of this.

Critical Questions

With a colleague consider the following.

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  • Look at the picture below by Lewis, aged 3 years 5 months. What do you think you can learn about Lewis’ stage of development from studying this?
  • Can you guess what Lewis feels is the value of having recorded this?
  • What kind of setting/environment do you think would encourage this type of communication?
  • What do you think this child understands about writing at this stage?

Comment

Lewis is at a pre-schematic stage, when there are connections between the circles and lines that make up the drawing. There is a clear attempt to communicate an idea. In this case he has gone beyond the basic ‘tadpole’ shape or ‘head-feet’ symbol. Interestingly in this case he has omitted the arms and this is common at this stage (Jolley, 2006). It could be that his preoccupation is still with the face, which is quite detailed, including ears.

For more information make sure to visit our website where all titles are 15% OFF.

Email hannah@criticalpublishing.com with queries or questions.

A FREE Short Story for you to Share

It’s National Storytelling Week!

To celebrate this awesome time we’ve got an amazing short-story for you written by Naomi Riley-Dudley, a Creative Writing masters student from Loughborough University.

If you’re a teacher, have a go at reading it to your class. If you’re a parent, why not read it to your kids before bed? If you’re a student, then read it to your mates! If you read this and enjoy it you should definitely SHARE it- after all that is what this week is all about!

This is a great little story about a kid named Arlo who just doesn’t quite fit in at school. Keep reading to find out why!

How to be human

Okay. Breathe, you can do this. Inhale. Exhale. You are normal. I opened my eyes, studying my reflection in the mirror. I smiled, exposing my pointed orange teeth, trying to be positive. I just wanted to fit in. Ever since I’d been on this planet I’d felt out of place. Today was my chance to change everything and I was terrified. I adjusted my purple blazer, staring at the Townsend Church of England School logo emblazoned on it. My blue hands were poking out the sleeves – surely everyone at school would notice. The bare walls of my bedroom were judging me, their simplicity mocking the complexity of my situation. I looked at the clock (what a strange thing time is; where I come from it’s a feeling that cannot be measured; we move to our own beat and dance to sounds that our tears make as they fall to the ground). I needed to leave for school, but the angry rain was falling onto the loft’s arched window, its muskiness filling the air. The sky was grey; even the sun was scared to show itself today. I really wasn’t ready for this. Putting my raincoat on I braced myself for the February downpour. My rucksack was heavy. I wasn’t sure what I needed to pass as human so I filled it with stationary and books. It still didn’t feel as heavy as my brain pounding in my skull.

The school gates were in front of me and I couldn’t remember how to be human. As I walked down Cavan Drive I could hear the thud of my heart and feel the thoughts in my head moving in time with my footfalls. Thud, thud, thud. They were all red, dripping from my hair like hot wax down a burning candle. The muffled sounds of children in the playground talking were painful. My ears became numb, doing their best to forget what sound was. A boy looked at me and smiled. I felt exposed but smiled back, isn’t that what humans do? I tried to focus, putting one foot in front of the other, my grey eyes scanning for the main building. Everyone around me had already endured this place for 3 months; I had so much catching up to do. After spotting what looked like the office, I tried to prepare myself for this interaction. The off-white floor tiles kept squeaking against the rubber soles of my shoes every few paces.

“Hello, my name’s Arlo. Today is my first day and I was told to report to the office once I got here.”

“Ah yes, according to our records you’ll be joining Mr. Heath’s year 8 tutor group. I’ll take you over now. Oh and here’s your planner. The bell won’t be going for another 5 minutes so you can have a look through it.”

“Okay thank you,” I tried to make my voice sound nonchalant, to hide all my fears.

I followed this strange woman down corridor after corridor, getting lost in the posters adorning the walls. Who was Oliver Twist? Why was someone comparing Mice to Men? This was going to be a long day. Finally she stopped outside a dark wooden door, opening its dull metal handle. Mr. Heath didn’t look anywhere near as scary as I thought the teachers would be. I read that they were evil, preying on the vulnerability of aliens like me. He smiled and I smiled back without thinking, maybe this wouldn’t be so hard.

“Hi Arlo, I’m Mr. Heath. How are you settling in so far? I’ll get one of the other students to give you a full school tour tomorrow, but for today I’ve paired you with Ethan. You’re in all the same classes so he can show you the ropes.”

“Okay thank you.” Luckily didn’t seem to notice that I hadn’t answered his question, or if he did, he didn’t bring it up.

I sat down at a table near the back. There was a successive shrill sound that I soon realised was the bell. It was happening. Quickly I put my planner on the beech table and started flicking through it, trying to look busy as I heard the other students getting closer. The chair next to me screeched on the wooden floor as someone sat down. I knew I needed to look up.

“Hey, I’m Ethan, you must be Arlo!” a friendly voice said.

“Hey, yeah I am” I said, trying to match his tone.

“Cool hair, that’s how I want mine to be!”

I couldn’t believe he liked my long hair, I guess I liked it too but it was one of the things that made me different.

“Thanks. Have we got chemistry first?”

“Yeah come on I’ll show you where it is.”

* * *

Walking home I couldn’t believe that I’d survived my first day at school. But more than that, I couldn’t believe how much I’d enjoyed it. Ethan was just as alien as me, and it was such a relief to know that I wasn’t as alone as I felt. When I got home I ran to tell mum about my day.

“Hey you, you look happy! Told you moving schools wouldn’t be as bad as you thought! And I’ve spent the day trying to make the house look more homely.”

“No mum, you were right. I had a really good day!”

I sprinted up to my room, happy to know that the way I see myself isn’t the way others see me.

Naomi Riley-Dudley, February 2016

Hope you’ve enjoyed that as much as I did reading it this morning! Check out our book ‘Beyond Early Writing‘ to see how you as a teacher can ensure that your students can one day write a plethora of great stories too! For details on any other title go to our website where all books are 15% OFF.

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Otherwise please feel free to message in with any questions for us or for Naomi at hannah@criticalpublishing.com

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