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Teaching research in social work : capacity and challenge

Macintyre, Gillian and Paul, Sally (2013) Teaching research in social work : capacity and challenge. British Journal of Social Work, 43 (4). pp. 685-702. ISSN 0045-3102

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Abstract

This article presents a preliminary report of an audit of the current state of research methods teaching in UK qualifying social work education. The audit is part of a wider ESRC funded study to provide baseline data for setting progress objectives towards building research capacity in the discipline and profession.The place and purpose of research teaching in social work education is strongly contested. Less contestable, however, is the lack of attention to research in qualifying social work curricula in all four UK countries, despite their differing prescribed curricula but common adherence to the QAA Benchmark Statement and the National Occupational Standards. The marginalisation of research teaching is underlined by the paucity of UK literature on the topic, compared with American and other writing. Reasons for this range from lack of time, staff skill and resource, to more fundamental reservations and resistance on the part of educators, students and practitioners towards engaging with research. At the heart of such ambivalence lies fundamental debate about the nature of the social work discipline, and the relationship between research and practice. Before we may tackle the task of building research capacity, we must better understand existing education practices and the challenges for research teaching faced. This paper offers preliminary observations from the audit, based on a survey of undergraduate and masters qualifying social work programmes across all four countries, with in-depth enquiry into a smaller sample from each. The survey examines what research methods are taught, how, where, when and by whom. Most importantly, it considers why these choices are made, and the challenges and possibilities presented for building research capacity and research mindedness at qualifying level.