• Social Work Through Collaborative Autoethnography

      Gant, Valerie; Cheatham, Lisa; DiVito, Hannah; Offei, Ebenezer; Williams, Gemma; Yatosenge, Nathalie; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2019-02-13)
      This paper discusses a research project involving 5 MA Social Work Students and 1 member of Social Work Academic Staff. Using narrative and taking a collaborative autoethnographical approach, this project highlights some of the feelings that students articulated following a 70 day placement experience. Findings include anxiety, powerlessness and frustration, together with growing confidence, recognition of their skills and a deeper understanding of the role of ‘self’ in social work. Raising issues of preparedness for practice placement, this paper has implications for both social work practice and social work education. Autoethnography (AE) is both a method of carrying out research and a methodology, specifically a qualitative methodology linked to ethnography and narrative inquiry. AE results in highly personalised narrative accounts of the researcher’s engagement with specific sociocultural contexts in the pursuit of knowing more about a phenomenon. Applying such a methodology to explore collaboratively issues of student lived experience of placement is a new and innovative use of this method.
    • Trapped in discourse? Obstacles to meaningful social work education, research and practice within the neoliberal university

      Carey, Malcolm; University of Chester
      This article appraises the role of the neoliberal university in regulating social work education, research and practice. The dominance of governments and employers in determining social work education is highlighted, alongside the ascendancy of skills-based and vocational training. Moreover, it is proposed that research, associated learning, and practice are now more often moulded around essentialist science-based, behavioural or functionalist paradigms, which fit conveniently with free market, politically conservative and authoritarian agendas. The neoliberal university is increasingly able to rationally prepare social workers to fulfil narrow ideological objectives, which includes priority given to attempts to empower, pathologise, and scientifically manage structurally disadvantaged populations from minority groups. Reductive paradigms, nevertheless, can struggle to cope with social fragmentation and diversity, with social work students often ill prepared for many of the complex challenges which they later face as qualified practitioners. Analysis for the article draws from critical theory, and it is concluded that market-based discourses and related professional paradigms - and the symbolically constituted and hyperreal fantasies which they help to maintain - can prove difficult to escape. Social work continues to face a precarious future within university settings in which free market narratives, associated norms, targets, and labour insecurity prevail.