It’s not a bad field … we just need people to come and do great things: exploring social work education as a platform for transformative learning to prepare students for practice in child welfare
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This study explored social work education as a platform for transformative learning to prepare students for practice in child welfare. Child welfare workers provide services that require a vast array of knowledges and skills related to complex individual, family, and community situations. Despite social work being the predominant profession in child protection, there is a gap in research on how social work education prepares students to make a difference and be effective in this field. Using a qualitative research approach, twenty-eight interviews were conducted with three main groups: front-line child welfare workers with social work degrees, social work educators teaching courses related to child welfare, and key informants in leadership and administrative roles related to child welfare delivery systems. Using constructivist grounded theory analysis, findings highlight the need for social work education to prepare students for day-to-day practice and social change. Transformative learning experiences happen through: experiential and peer learning, critical thinking, self-reflection, self-care, and the field placement. Multiple perspectives, realistic portrayals of the system, safe spaces, and a commitment to life-long learning help support transformative learning. This study provides recommendations for a model of social work education that helps students deconstruct oppressive paradigms and learn alternative more culturally responsive approaches to child welfare.
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