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Direct observation in practice: co-developing an evidence-informed practice tool to assess social work communication

Westlake, David 2020. Direct observation in practice: co-developing an evidence-informed practice tool to assess social work communication. Journal of Children's Services 15 (3) , pp. 123-140. 10.1108/JCS-08-2019-0043

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Purpose This paper presents findings from a project that aimed to support social work managers to observe, evaluate and give feedback on social work practice skills. Approach An embedded team of researchers observed over 300 meetings between parents and social workers, and gave feedback based on an established research instrument that facilitated quantitative coding of individual skills such as empathy and purposefulness. Then managers took on this task in order to sustain ongoing feedback on practice skills beyond the timescale of the project. Findings A practice tool was successfully developed to take the place of the research instrument and aid managers in these observations, and it was implemented across a range of social work settings. The tool was used in a variety of ways by different managers which highlighted a range of views on what constitutes good practice. This raises questions about how far authorities can (or should) expect to achieve a consensus about the type of practice they want to deliver. Research limitations/implications The value of this project is primarily pragmatic, in that it shows the potential for using research to develop practice tools collaboratively. However, in doing so it brings into focus key questions around the nature of good practice. Practical implications The paper presents a practice tool, based on an established research instrument that was co-developed with senior managers. It is an aid for observation that practitioners and managers can use to support practice development. Originality/value Few research studies have worked so closely with practice managers to develop a tool that can be used to support practice. The project also highlights the crucial and neglected role of observation in practice development.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE)
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 1746-6660
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 July 2020
Date of Acceptance: 7 July 2020
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2020 16:36

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