All people form judgements – they can’t help it. It is part of the way the human brain works (in/out, like/not like, and so on). The important point for social workers is to know when a judgement is being made, how, and what its content is. To do this involves skills in problem definition and clarification, planning, strategic thinking, an ability to work with ill-structured problems, metacognition, statistical and abstract reasoning, developing and using heuristics, and skills in comparing and contrasting (Billing, 2007). Of particular importance is the ability to develop an aptitude for working with novel or perplexing situations of increasing challenge and complexity (King & Kitchener, 2004). Judgement is deliberation on various alternatives, whereas decision-making is more about the actions taken as a result of these deliberations. Social workers are required to make a whole range of judgements and their judgements and actions are (and should be) open to scrutiny. Within the complexity and uncertainty of practice, social workers need to be able to suspend their initial gut reactions and moments of judgement in order to be able understand the factors that are influencing their judgement. This is not an easy thing to do generally, or in professional practice for that matter.
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