Assessment as the site of power: an interrogation of 'others' in the assessment of social work students

Anka, Ann (2014) Assessment as the site of power: an interrogation of 'others' in the assessment of social work students. Doctoral thesis (DSW), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

The thesis focused on the field of service user and carer involvement in the assessments of social work students. It examined the positioning of service users and carers in relation to other stakeholders involved in student assessments. Participants’ views on what should count as service users and carers’ feedback evidence at Continuing Professional Development (CPD) level were also explored. The rationale for the study centred on the relatively limited research studies focusing on service user and carer involvements in students’ assessment, in comparison to their involvement in other areas of social work education. Further, the limited studies available appeared to be under theorised.

The study is situated in the qualitative research tradition and drew from narrative research methods. It was influenced by the practitioner-doctorate research paradigm (Drake and Heath 2011). The study drew from the theoretical insights of Foucault’s (1972; 1980) notion of discourse and power/knowledge theory; and Bourdieu’s (1990) concepts of field, capital and habitus, to analyse the dynamic power relations between those involved in the assessments of students.

Following ethical clearance from the University of Sussex, a semi-structured individual interview was carried out with 21 people. The sample consisted of service users, carers, social work students, social work employers and social work educators. The voice-centred relational method of data analysis, developed by Gilligan (1982), was used to analyse the research participants’ narratives about how they have experienced their involvements in social work students’ assessments.

Participants’ narratives revealed that the field of service user and carer involvement in social work students’ assessment is characterised by a complex mix of relationships, different power dynamics and power struggles. On the question of what should count as service user and carer evidence, in relation to what students are expected to demonstrate to service users and carers at CPD level, the research participants reported on qualities such as:

 Professionalism, good time-keeping, reliability and honesty
 Effective communication skills, such as listening, empathy and kindness
 Ability to support service users and carers
 Intelligence, ‘structured empathy’, mastery of practice and development of practice wisdom.

Although important, progressive difference in expectation at CPD level was not acknowledged.

The study makes five contributions to knowledge in the field of service user and carer involvement in social work students’ assessments, as follows:

(1) It adds to the body of research studies looking at service user and carer involvement in social work students’ assessments.
(2) It sheds some light on what stakeholders involved in social work practice and education thought about the ASYE in 2010 before its implementation in 2012.
(3) It contributes to knowledge on what participants feel service users and carers should comment on when assessing social work students at CPD level.
(4) It offers theoretical insight into the different power relations, struggles, and power dynamic between stakeholders involved in social work students’ assessments from Bourdieusian and Foucauldian perspectives.
(5) Feedback of the interim findings was provided to Skills for Care to support the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) assessment in 2011.

The study concludes by arguing the case for social work and service user organisations to support service users and carers in their role as assessors of social work students.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Social Work and Social Care
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV0040 Social service. Social work. Charity organization and practice Including social case work, private and public relief, institutional care, rural social work, work relief
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2014 15:46
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015 13:26
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/50343

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