Teaching and learning communication skills in social work education

Practice example 12: Interprofessional social work, Hull University

The interprofessional social work focus in this course aims to address the issues surrounding community care, networking, collaboration, community and partnership, which have again come to the fore in social work practice, and to do so from an integrated and practice-focused perspective.

This is an interdisciplinary module involving social work students and student nurses looking at communication skills across the two professions and from the perspective of their service users.

The module is divided into three parts: the first part, involving social work students and student nurses, looks at theoretical frameworks and the underpinning knowledge of communication; the second part introduces the active involvement of service users and carers who facilitate seminar groups and teaching on the module; and the third part is an action enquiry learning case study.

Part One: Theory

Social work students and student nurses look at the theoretical frameworks underpinning communication skills in their professions. They examine interpersonal helping skills and other aspects of communication including: the nature of communication; models of communication; how to engage and sustain communication in practice; 'core skills’: assessment, interviewing, writing, verbal and non-verbal skills. This module aims to introduce and elicit the key communications parameters and leads to the practice of theories, models and skills in the second part.

Part Two: Practice

Part Two is the application of the ideas explored in Part One and involves service users and carers. Service users and carers take an active role in the design, assessment and teaching of the module. Service users and carers act as facilitators to a small group of students in a series of seminars that look at various aspects of communication. Although a tutor is at hand in each seminar group to ensure safety and to act as overseer, their presence is designed to be non-intrusive because the focus is the practical application of the ideas taught in Part One.

Part Three: Assignment

The module is assessed through a case study which students examine and develop responses to within groups. Both the social work students and student nurses are given the same case study to work with, and although they try to find information that relates to their respective specialist areas, the emphasis is on interprofessional aspects of the communication issues in working together. Informed by the action inquiry learning approach, the attempt is to foster collaborative working between the different disciplines both through the issues thrown up and the processes by which they are arrived at.

Further information available from University of Hull (www.hull.ac.uk).