An analysis of the tensions between professional education and training, and practice in the personal social services with policy implications
This study first examines the nature of Social Work from a historical perspective, with reference to previous attempts at definition. It then proposes a sociological basis for explaining Social Work as a social system, with reference to the concepts of duality, structural functionalism, evolutionary functionalism, ultimate values, conflict theory, change, power and authority. These concepts are applied to the Social Work system. Education and training and practice are viewed as sub-units of the Social Work system and tension between the sub-units is analysed with regard to one area of interdependence - qualifying training for field social work. One social work training course is used as an evaluative study, and six areas of interdependence and conflict are identified by a paper analysis of all documentation available from the beginning of the course onwards. The findings are converted to a series of exploratory questions posed in questionnaire form to respondents representing each of the sub-units. The questionnaire is also presented to a comparison group. The identified six key areas of interdependence and conflict are confirmed, namely: theory of social work, theory and practice integration, curriculum design, practice competence, assessment and resources. One model for action within the social system of education and training and practice is developed. This is then discussed in relation to current national planning for education and training and conclusions are drawn on the likely success of current plans. The sub-units, and the six key areas are then examined further in relation to the sociological framework propounded. The transferability of the model of research is demonstrated with reference to the sub-units, generic and specialist models of practice, and the implications for future research are thereby identified. The need for further research into areas of interdependence and tension in vocational work is noted.