Defining research mindedness
To work and study effectively, practitioners and students require a good grasp of relevant literature and research, and the ability to consider how this research relates to their practice. For social workers, these skills have become explicitly linked to professional expectations as set out in the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF), have been embedded in the National Occupational Standards and are part of the Standards of Proficiency that they will need to address in order to register with professional bodies. Therefore, in recent years, there have been moves to embed research mindedness and research literacy into social work research governance, education, training and practice.
A definition of research mindedness which underpins this resource has been taken from a project sponsored by the former Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW ) London and South East (Barn and Harrison 1995; Harrison and Humphreys 1997a, 1997b), in which practitioners, social work educators, external assessors and students were consulted about their views on the constituent elements of research mindedness. The following elements were identified:(The CCETSW was the statutory body which, prior to the formation of the GSCC, regulated social work training in the UK. It ran from 1971-2001.)
- a faculty for critical reflection informed by knowledge and research
- an ability to use research to inform practice which counters unfair discrimination, racism, poverty, disadvantage and injustice, consistent with core social work values
- an understanding of the process of research, and the use of research to theorise from practice.
Since this project was undertaken the terms 'research mindedness' and 'research literacy' have grown in common usage. The concern that practitioners and students are able to use the findings from research appropriately in their work is reflected in the range of models for research in social work and social care that have arisen in which there is an engagement between research and practice (Shaw and Norton 2008: 954). For instance:
- research-informed practice
- evidence-based practice
- knowledge-based practice
- action research
- intervention research
- practitioner research
- practitioner engagement with research
- research led by service users
- participatory research.
Some feel that these models demonstrate that research mindedness goes beyond a critical, practice-led reflection and understanding of existing research and moves into the ability to use research skills within practice - to become "reflective practitioner researchers" (Orme and Shemmings 2010: 174). This can be understood in two ways:
- as a way to evaluate practice by carrying out small-scale research projects in the workplace
- as a way to link research skills with practice skills.
In both, the gathering of evidence and carrying out assessments, interviews and observations all need to be conducted systematically, sensitively and rigorously.
Where have you seen research being used, at work or in your studies? Make a list of any examples you can think of. Have you heard of:
- evidence-based practice?
- research mindedness (outside of this resource)?
Write a sentence or two on what you understand by each of these terms. As your knowledge develops, go back and write a new definition that takes in your new understanding.