The learning, teaching and assessment of partnership work in social work education

Key messages of this guide

1. There is confusion about the meaning of ‘partnership’, causing wide variation in approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.

2. The concept of partnership work is simultaneously contested and taken for granted.

3. In teaching partnership, programmes draw on a range of related material, including organisation and empowerment theory.

4. Partnership networks in social work education are complex and multi-layered. They include relationships between educators, practitioners, people who use services and their carers, students and a range of other professionals.

5. The emphasis on user involvement in the social work degree means that this aspect of partnership has received particular attention since 2002. However, many aspects of partnership working with users and carers remain undeveloped.

6. The evidence about the teaching of interprofessional partnership work mostly involves examples of partnerships with health-related professions.

7. Knowledge review 10 identified two main approaches to the design of a college-based curriculum for partnership work: the embedded approach and the discrete approach.

8. The review found no evidence of a coherent and explicit ‘partnership curriculum’ in practice learning.

9. Education for partnership work shares some similarities with education for anti-oppressive practice: it is about managing power, requires constant attention and is vulnerable to charges of political correctness.

10. The timing of the delivery of interprofessional partnership learning is contested, linked to concerns about the establishment and consolidation of professional identity and confidence.

11. There is a consensus that user and carer involvement should begin as early as possible in both programme planning and delivery.

12. The complexities of partnerships with involuntary users are rarely explicitly addressed.

13. Students are clear that they have benefited from learning from users and carers. This may improve their skills in listening, showing empathy and respect, and recognising the strengths and wisdom that users and carers bring.

14. Users and carers involved in contributing to social work education talk about gaining an increase in confidence and self-esteem. In some cases they gain financial reward and, in a few programmes, they receive academic credit.