Teaching and learning communication skills in social work education

Practice example 14: The Video Suite, Plymouth University

The Video Suite is a technology for the teaching and learning of communication skills with social workers which uses a video laboratory in a range of ways to replay recorded role plays to rehearse, pause, refocus and replay aspects of practice in a non-direct way.

Students work in groups of about 14 in a specialist video laboratory where they role play interventions that are video-recorded by the other students. They can use the technology to focus on particular people and events and to stop and play at their choosing. In this way they are able to play back and go through video recordings of their own and each others’ practice in order to self and peer review the work done. Areas of particular focus in this process are:

The emphasis is on the service user and the 'social worker’ in the role plays is usually filmed from behind in order to focus on the user’s responses and communications. In this way the focus is not on self-confrontation but on learning about communication skills experientially and by peer review.

A key aspect of the device is that role plays are observed by the other students from an adjacent room where they can comment as the role play proceeds without disturbing the work.

The video laboratory was originally devised for the university counselling service as a tool for non-direct intervention with students. It draws on Shuman’s perspectives on communication that suggests that communication is necessarily concerned with contact, interaction, transaction and relationships.

The technique is used throughout social work courses to focus on:

Level One

Level Two

In particular the technique is used in preparing students for placement.

Integration between university and practice curricula

In particular this technique is used in preparing students for beginning practice/practice placement.

Further information available from John Lewis, University of Plymouth (www.plymouth.ac.uk).