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About this book

This textbook equips social work students with the tools to develop a social work identity. It provides a critical examination of the knowledge base of social work – from human growth and development to social work research – and explores how a practitioner’s own values, principles and experience combine to shape their social work identity and practice alongside this.

Linked to a range of core modules on pre-qualifying social work programmes but written also for those practitioners committed to nurturing their own social work identities, this is a must have text from one of social work's most up-and-coming authors that brings together all areas of the classroom and practice curriculum to make learning a novel, creative and interactive process.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
Since the publication of How to be a Social Worker in 2013, there have been many social and political shifts. Now so, more than ever, it is crucial that social workers remain committed to a clearly oriented and responsive identity. The rise of neo-liberal models of service provision and a diminishing role of the state in the funding of social service organisations threaten the foundations upon which a social justice oriented profession operates. The title of this book is drawn from the recognition that the process of becoming, of being, is an ongoing dynamic process central to social work. This book is not so much how to be a social worker but how to be a social worker. At times the beginning social work student can feel that they are without anchors in this process. This book is aimed to provide anchors: a handbook of guidance across the curriculum and into practice.
Priscilla Dunk-West

2. 1 The Social Work Self

Abstract
Imagine you are asked the question: ‘Who are you?’ You might answer this by describing the way that you see yourself or you might imagine what others would say about you. The kinds of words you might use may well suggest a particular kind of ‘personality’. Words such as ‘easygoing’ or ‘shy’ or ‘kind’ or even ‘extrovert’ or ‘introvert’ might spring to mind, for example. Yet the concept of a personality is just that: a concept. It is merely a theory to explain the self. There are many theories which explain identity: the theory of personality is perhaps the most pervasive in our modern times. The ways in which we describe ourselves will change over time, alongside new and varied life experiences.
Priscilla Dunk-West

3. 2 Human Development

Abstract
How old are you? Do you like being your current age, and if so, why? Do you wish you were older or younger? What would you say is the best age to be? Whenever I have posed these questions to social work students the common answer I get is that the best age is older than adolescence and younger than, say, around 70 years of age. A large percentage of my students over the years have reported that childhood is a ‘good age’ because of its association with being ‘carefree’ and a time of little or no worry about those issues associated with adulthood such as career, income and other responsibilities
Priscilla Dunk-West

4. 3 Communication Skills

Abstract
In social life, our interactions with others are guided by complex rules which, once broken, disrupt the flow of communication between people. Imagine acting as a houseguest in your own home, for example (Garfinkel 1984). How would your behaviours change? We might expect that you would be more polite and less relaxed than you would normally be in the comfort of your usual surroundings. How would the familiar people around you react if you adopted a formal tone in your interactions with them? Sociologist Harold Garfinkel sought to uncover what would happen when the unwritten rules in everyday life were disrupted or ‘breached’. He called upon his students to undertake experiments such as the one detailed above. (Although these experiments enabled new ways of theorising human interaction, experimenting on others without ethics approval is not recommended See Chapter 7 for more information about ethics and research.)
Priscilla Dunk-West

5. 4 Social Work Theory

Abstract
I am a woman in my late 30s and am at my wits’ end, as I can never seem to find the right guy. I have had two significant relationships, which both ended with them saying that they found me emotionally distant and more like a friend than a girlfriend. These comments at the time really hurt me but I know that they were true as I didn’t like to kiss and cuddle very often. The guys were lovely people and I feel I really lost out when they dumped me. Generally I find it hard to open up to people as I’m really shy, which, as I said, has meant that I have only had a few long-term relationships. My friends are all so sexually confident but I find that I wear clothes to cover my body and don’t go out as a result of feeling like I don’t fit in. I want to be more like them but can’t seem to feel comfortable with myself.
Priscilla Dunk-West

6. 5 Everyday Ethics

Abstract
In our contemporary, everyday life we are faced with a number of ethics-related dilemmas each day (Singer 1993, 2004, 2009). Consider, for example, the myriad of product choices available in western cultures. Whether choosing from 12 different types of potatoes or selecting the best supplier for a service, it can be difficult to make choices about goods and services. Specifically, how much thought should go into buying a product? Is it better to buy cruelty-free and organic? Should we buy food in glass containers which can be recycled or the cheaper, plastic version? Should we worry about giving our custom to companies whose ethics towards its employees are dubious? Should we buy products that have been tested on animals, subjecting them to suffering? Should we participate in meat eating or become vegetarian or vegan in order to help the environment and avoid species’ mass production, suffering and slaughter? Should we select locally grown and sourced food to reduce our ‘carbon footprint’? Such questions may have come up in your purchasing of products in everyday life.
Priscilla Dunk-West

7. 6 Practice Learning in Organisational Settings

Abstract
Conversation, writing, talking, communicating and engaging with others: all of these skills that we use in our everyday life are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of activities in placement settings. Yet often these everyday actions become infused with meaning and cause trepidation when students are on their social work placement. This chapter outlines the knowledge and skills required for successful learning experiences in practice settings. It starts by exploring the spontaneous and complex world of social work practice through the lens of learning. Exploring learning in the practice context requires understanding the position of social work in its organisational context. Assessment in the context of client work across organisational specialisms is then examined. Reflexivity is discussed in relation to student learning. The chapter concludes with a discussion of supervision.
Priscilla Dunk-West

8. 7 Research in Social Work

Abstract
I was working in a very deprived area and in my work with individuals and communities I was struck by the level of resilience to hardship these people demonstrated. In my work I had only come across research that talked about problems: problems of poverty, problems of relationships, poor health outcomes and so on. Though these problems were very real, there were also a lot of counters to all the negativity. My clients used to tell me that they didn’t want me to see them as victims and although they needed some assistance in one area of their lives or relationships, this did not mean that they were not coping in other areas of day to day life. I firmly believe that requiring social work intervention is no different to medical intervention: it should not be seen as a sign of weakness but I didn’t feel that this view was represented in the literature I had read. This prompted an interest in resilience and I discovered that quite a bit of research was going on to investigate resilience in individuals.
Priscilla Dunk-West

9. 8 ‘Doing’ Social Work: Constituting the Professional Self

Abstract
This book has examined the key knowledge required in social work education, focusing on the development of the social work self. We have explored this knowledge using various forms of learning. From reflexive thinking to active engagement with scenarios, case studies and other targeted activities, material relevant to social work has been presented to help you engage with your social work self. This book has also, hopefully, encouraged the reader to think about their emerging social work identity in a new way and to make the connection between new forms of relating and existing skills, knowledge and experiences. The task of the beginning social worker is to forge an identity which brings together professional concepts such as a commitment to social justice and theoretical orientations alongside a willingness to engage in self-reflection and intellectual growth.
Priscilla Dunk-West
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