In recent years there has been an increasing requirement that social care and social work practice should be based on evidence of what works. With this has come the suggestion that practitioners should make more use of research in their work; in particular that they should become research-literate or, as suggested in a report commissioned by former training body CCETSW,1 “research-minded”.
In 1999 the Department of Health (DoH) commissioned the Centre for Human Service Technology (CHST) at Southampton University to develop a web-based virtual learning resource to help students and practitioners of social care and social work make greater and better use of research. For two years following the launch of the resource in late 2000, there was some evidence of its use by both practitioners and students. However, faced with a lack of funding for maintaining and updating the resource, it seemed destined to languish as a “good idea, but…”
Then, in mid-2002, the Social Care Institute for Excellence (Scie), which was contracted to the DoH to spearhead an e-learning development in social work and social care significantly invested in the project. This led to an opportunity to tender for its redevelopment, but with the specific requirement to also address the research literacy needs of students entering new social work degree courses.
In late 2002 CHST was awarded the contract, and from January-March 2003 the resource was subject to a critical review. A clear message emerged that the existing resource was an aid to research literacy, but that it needed significant redesign if it was to be equally useful to students and practitioners. After nearly a year of intensive work the research mindedness resource now includes:
- A tutor and trainer guide to assist educators and staff developers in using the resource with students and practitioners. This provides step-by-step guidance; from getting started to evaluating the resource. Making the guide an integral part of the resource will hopefully help tutors and trainers to feel more confident about tackling research literacy.
- New and revised materials in all sections of the resource, including research governance. All core resource materials have been thoroughly reviewed, and most re-written to reflect change in thinking, policy and practice.
- Learning pathways have been created to assist both tutors and trainers, and students and practitioners, to see how the resource can contribute to the achievement of specific requirements for qualifying and post-qualifying awards. The student pathway links Quality Assurance Agency for higher education (QAA) standards, DoH degree requirements, and Topss national occupational standards with specific sections of the resource. Similarly, the practitioner pathway links to sections which can help evidence key competencies.
- Three new case studies on being research-minded in work with older people, disabled people, and people with mental health needs have been added. All three have been written by a leading social care and social work author and positively reviewed by practitioners and educators for their authenticity.
Improvements have been made in design, navigation, functionality and accessibility, and include a fast full-text search facility.
The site is at www.resmind.swap.ac.uk and feedback is welcomed. Following feedback from users and formal evaluations by students and practitioners, a further version of the site will be launched later this year.
Tom Hopkins is research mindedness project manager at the centre for human service technology, University of Southampton. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
1 C Harrison and C Humphreys, Keeping Research in Mind: Final report and recommendations for future developments in social work education and training, CCETSW, 1998