Siobhan Maclean, social worker, educator and innovator, has another treat for the social work sector. She, along with her colleagues at Kirwin Maclean Associates, have put together a secure website which can support services and teams by improving the involvement of theoretical principles and practical tools for good practice. It builds on the popular Social Work Theory App, but on an organisational level. We sat down with Siobhan to find out more about Social Work Connect and who it can help.
What is Social Work Connect?
Social Work Connect is a subscription only website. Many social workers were finding the Social Work Theory App helpful and were asking their employers to provide access to them, but this was difficult to provide on a large scale for employers. We therefore developed Social Work Connect. It has all the content of the app with some new aspects added. We have been developing this for a while and have a few local authorities who are early implementers. We are now ready to launch the site more widely.
Who is it for?
It’s for everyone in social work! Students and practice educators obviously find it useful in exploring theory and its relationship to practice, but this website is designed for everyone to be able to quickly refresh their knowledge about theory and to connect it to their everyday practice. We have heard that some team managers are drawing on the site contents to enhance group supervision and team meetings, some individual social workers have been using it to keep theory on their professional agenda. NQSWs find it incredibly helpful in putting together their ASYE portfolios. It really does have something to offer everyone – after all theory and reflection are key aspects of our professional responsibilities, no matter what environment we work in.
How can practitioners get access to Social Work Connect?
Individual practitioners can’t get access themselves. They need to contact their employer – we are providing licenses for employers and Universities at present. They purchase a number of licenses for use, and they can give these to anyone in their organisation. The main reason behind this is so that we can provide ongoing technical and content support to the organisations using Social Work Connect. Individuals can access the social work theory app through their own smartphone Appstore.
What's the core idea behind Social Work Connect?
The idea behind Social Work Connect is to help practitioners connect theory with their practice, supporting a critically reflective approach. Social workers who get the opportunity to keep theory on their professional agenda beyond the point of training are more confident in their work and also get more job satisfaction from their role. There are so many reasons for us to connect theory and reflection with direct practice, but the pressures of time mean that this is often challenging for practitioners.
What does Social Work Connect include?
There are eight main sections to the site:
- The ‘envelope’ activity is one which many people have used over the years to break down some casework into component parts and explore the application of theory. This is included in Social Work Connect, but the system itself will generate ideas about theory which may be relevant.
- The theory library contains information on more than a hundred theories, models and approaches. They can be explored in any order and there is a search function. Each week a different theory is highlighted as the ‘theory of the week’.
- Theory or model – this is a section which contains information about the difference between a theory, a model, a method and an approach. We are currently building on this to provide a space for practitioners to develop their own theory tree which identifies their personal approach to practice, building on the theories, models and methods they regularly use.
- SHARE has been really popular as a new model for social work practice and also for practice leaning. Social Work Connect contains a range of downloadable tools which can be used to implement aspects of SHARE into practice.
- One section contains ideas on making theory fun, in order to break down the theory “fear factor”. These ideas are often used by practice educators in their work with students, but the suggested activities could also be used in team meetings or in group supervision sessions.
- Lunchtime learning is a feature which can be used by individuals or in group supervision / team meetings etc. It contains a number of films and animated powerpoint slides which cover a range of topics around theory and reflection in less than 10 minutes each. The content of this is growing and is influenced by requests from users. The idea is that if someone wants to revisit a particular model of reflection for example, they can watch a 10 minute video to refresh their understanding.
- The critical reflection and analysis section contains a number of parts – one explores models of reflection, one has ideas for reflective supervision, another considers what it means to be a reflective practitioner and finally this section also contains advice on reflective writing for those who are studying for a qualification.
- Finally, we have created a specific CPD section – this contains a range of downloadable tools to create a CPD journal. It provides tools and advice to keep a holistic CPD record.
What contribution does Social Work Connect make to good practice across the UK?
Theory and practice is so important in social work and yet it very often falls off the professional agenda quickly after the point of qualification. This will give practitioners a quick and easy way to think about the way that theory connects to their practice. It will also help us to begin to consider how technology can help us in our CPD and developing connected practice.