SCIE Knowledge review 12: Teaching, learning and assessing communication skills with children and young people in social work education
By Barry Luckock, Michelle Lefevre, David Orr, Mary Jones, Ruth Marchant and Karen Tanner
Published: November 2006
This knowledge review is about identifying key findings about teaching, learning and assessing communication skills with children in social work education settings. Its main focus is to enable social work educators to apply these findings in the design and implementation of social work programmes.
- Skilled communication with children has yet to be consolidated as a distinct and discrete topic in social work research or education. This means that few examples of effective practice can be identified.
- There is no general expectation that all students undergoing generic training will develop communication skills with children, and no clarity about the range and level of skill required exists. This is despite the fact that all social workers, including those who work primarily with adults, will have direct contact with children.
- There are contrasting perspectives about the nature of childhood, which have not been reconciled in social work research and education, and which impact on the methods used to work with children. Students need the opportunity to understand and critically reflect on these contrasting views.
- Linked to the above dilemma there are also contrasting perspectives about the nature of appropriate learning aims and teaching methods. Some courses focus on developing students' personal communication capacity, while others concentrate on developing technical skills.
- Although children are becoming actively involved in teaching and assessment, this is usually more opportunistic than strategic.
- Each programme needs to identify a children's lead to ensure a 'whole programme' approach to curriculum development.
- Programme providers should review assumptions about what counts as a generic preparation for skilled practice in social work, to ensure that communication with children is effectively included.
- Programme providers should seek to clarify and integrate aims, learning objectives and teaching and assessment methods to ensure that every student has both the personal capability and developed skill for the contrasting kinds of communication needed in practice.
In 2003 the social work qualifying course became a three-year degree. The Department of Health set out requirements for social work training in which it identified five core areas that all students must undertake specific learning and assessment on. Communication skills is one of these. The Department for Education and Skills' Every child matters: Change for children also highlights the importance of communicating with children .
Good communication, both oral and written, is at the heart of best practice in social work. It is also essential for establishing effective and respectful relationships with children.
SCIE is reviewing the evidence for the teaching and learning of all five core areas and this review is the fifth in the series. It follows a previous Social Care Institute for Excellence knowledge review, Teaching and learning communication skills in social work education, which identified the need to examine communication skills with children in more detail.
The purpose of the review was to identify the key findings about teaching, learning and assessing communication skills with children in social work education with a view to enabling social work educators to apply these findings in the design and delivery of social work programmes.
This knowledge review is for people who teach social work (that is, academics, practice teachers and service users) and for researchers. It may also be of interest to students and social care workers.