Otago Polytechnic

Understanding themselves is a useful starting point for human-centred social services practitioners.

Social workers operate in a high stakes environment, especially in the field of child protection, where they can be criticised for both intervening and for failing to intervene. There is a tension between values such as the relative importance of family autonomy, risk and safety and societal concerns.

Associate Professor Margaret McKenzie-Davidson and her collaborators in New Zealand, Australia and Norway suggest that being able to articulate their own practice framework is critical for social workers and others working in social services. This begins with understanding your own values and what you see as the underlying causes of a given situation. Theory and practice need to be integrated, so that the practitioner understands why they should respond in that situation (theory) and how that response should occur (practice).

This has implications for educating social workers and other social service workers, to ensure they can craft theory into practice. Graduates should not just have learned theory but be able to articulate their framework of practice, both orally and in written form. The use of an appropriate visual metaphor pulls these two stands together, and Margaret and her colleagues have found this is an effective teaching strategy in working with students to prepare for practice realities.


October 2020