Teaching and learning communication skills in social work education

Practice example 3: Effective communication with children and adults, London Metropolitan University

The module specifically focuses on communication and requires practical demonstration of skills as well as knowledge of theory.

It builds on a body of literature surrounding social work interventions with children, vulnerable adults, their families and interagency working.

The module is taught primarily through workshops and group work, with some presentation combined with practical exercises. It also makes use of outside experts and service user involvement.

There is also use of video materials and a particular emphasis on the use of case studies to 'bring alive’ some of the issues in a practice-oriented way.

The main areas explored are:

Students are strongly encouraged to develop skills in building up evidence for the views they take and the interventions they subsequently propose. Skills are practised in the writing of 'mock’ reports and papers in response to some case studies.

There is also a commitment throughout to being child-focused and to developing the skills to communicate at levels of interaction appropriate to the child’s age and understanding. In this way, issues in developmental psychology are explored, consolidated and integrated.

User participation in planning, delivery and evaluation

Service users are involved in a number of the sessions relating to disability (physical and mental health) and also young people. They are also involved in the assessment process. An interpreter is also involved in one session.

Other key stakeholder participation in planning, delivery and evaluation

Experts are included, for example, a specialist foster carer presents communication issues relating to looked-after children and a playwright presents a drama about the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

Learning aims and outcomes

Assessment of learning

Students devise and role play a communication exercise in small groups. Presentation is to tutors and service users. This is audio recorded and includes a written plan (20% marks).

An essay of 3,000 words tests students’ comprehensive understanding of theories of communication and includes a critical evaluation of learning from the role play (80%).

Integration between university and practice curricula

Key Role 1: Prepare for, and work with, individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to assess their needs and circumstances. (Unit 2) Work with individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to help them make informed decisions. (Unit 3) Assess needs and options to recommend a course of action.

Key Role 2: Plan, carry out, review and evaluate social work practice, with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals. (Unit 4) Respond to crisis situations. (Unit 5) Interact with individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to achieve change and development and to improve life opportunities. (Unit 7) Support the development of networks to meet assessed needs and planned outcomes.(Unit 8) Work with groups to promote individual growth, development and independence. (Unit 9) Address behaviour, which presents a risk to individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and the wider public.

Key Role 3: Support individuals to represent their needs, views and circumstances. (Unit 10) Advocate with, and on behalf of, individuals, families, carers, groups and communities.

Key Role 4: Manage risk to individuals, families, carers, groups and communities. (Unit 12) Assess and manage risks to individuals, families, carers, groups and communities.

Key Role 5: Manage and be accountable, with supervision and support, for your own social work practice within your organisation. (Unit 17) Work within multi-disciplinary and multi-organisational teams, networks and systems.


Evaluation is through the module monitoring form but also throughout the module in each session there is a time for feedback in the learning sets.


Axline, V. (1990) Dibs in search of self, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Bray, M. (1992) Poppies on the rubbish heap: Sexual abuse: The child’s voice, Edinburgh: Canongate Press. Cairns, K. (2002) Attachment, trauma and resilience: Therapeutic caring for children, London: BAAF. Cattanach, A. (2001) Play therapy: Where the sky meets the underworld, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. CROA (Children’s Rights, Officers and Advocates) and Department of Health (2000) Total respect: A resource pack for listening and communicating with young people, London: CROA [available from CROA, Cambridge House, Cambridge Grove, London W6 0LE, tel 020 8748 7413, e-mail mail@croal.freeserve.co.uk]. Davis, N. (1990) Once upon a time: Therapeutic stories, Nancy Davis Publications [revised edn, self-published, available from 9836 Natick Road, Burke VA 22015]. Fever, F. (1997) Who cares? Memories of a childhood in Barnardo’s, London: Warner Books. Fitzgerald, J. and Bilton, K. (1996) Listening to children: The issues, London: The Bridge Childcare Development Service. Home Office (2001) Achieving best evidence in criminal proceedings, London: The Stationery Office. Kadushin, A. (1995) Social work interview: A guide for human service professionals, New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Lishman, J. (1994) Communication in social work, Basingstoke: Macmillan. Milner, P. and Carolin, B. (eds) (1999) Time to listen to children: Personal and professional communication, London: Routledge. NSPCC (1997) Turning points: A resource pack for communicating with children, London: NSPCC. NSPCC (2001) Two way street: Communication with disabled children and young people, London: NSPCC. O’Neale, V. (2000) Excellence not excuses: Inspection of services for ethnic minority children and families, London: SSI, DH Publications (PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH [free], e-mail doh@prologistics.co.uk). Russell, W. (1988) The wrong boy, London: Black Swan. Ryan, T. and Walker, R. (1997) Life story: Work, London: BAAF. Schon, D. (1995) The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action, New York, NY: Basic Books. Thompson, N. (2002) People skills, Basingstoke: Palgrave. Thompson, N. (2003) Communication and language, Basingstoke: Palgrave. Wilson, C. and Powell, M. (2001) A guide to interviewing children, London: Routledge.

Books for direct work with children

Althea (2001) When Uncle Bob died, Bradfield: Happy Cat Books. Bruzzoni, C. (1994) My friends, Kingston upon Thames: b small publishing. Bruzzoni, C. (1996) My family tree, Kingston upon Thames: b small publishing. Bruzzoni, C. (1999) All about me, Kingston upon Thames: b small publishing. Children’s Legal Centre (2004) At what age can I? Updated guide to age based legislation affecting young people, Essex: Children’s Legal Centre. Green, J. (2002) What do we think about racism?, Hove: Hodder Wayland. Ironside, V. (2001) The huge bag of worries, Hove: Hodder Wayland. Jackson, M. (1994) Our family tree, London: Evans Brothers - Books for Children. Masurel, C. (2002) Two homes, London: Walker Books. National Deaf Children’s Society (2003) You choose; and Secrets, London: National Deaf Children’s Society [available from National Deaf Children’s Society, 15 Dufferin Street, London EC17 8UR, tel 020 7490 8656; minicom 020 7490 8656; email ndcs@ndcs.org.uk]. NSPCC (1998) Child Witness Pack. Peak, A. and Rouf, K. (1989) My book my body, London: The Children’s Society. Pickering, F. (2000) Hitting and hurting, London: The Children’s Society. Rouf, K. (1989) Mousie, London : The Children’s Society. Rouf, K. (1989) Secrets, London: The Children’s Society. Stickney, D. (1997) Water bugs and dragonflies, London: Geoffrey Chapman. Striker, S. and Kimmel, E. (1979) The anti-colouring book, Scholastic. NSPCC (1997) Turning points: A resource pack for communicating with children, London: NSPCC [this pack has a wealth of practical resources]. UNICEF (2002) For every child: The UN Convention on the rights of the child, London: Red Fox. Vail, B. (1999) Ricky has a problem, Lyme Regis: Russell House Publishing. Varley, S. (1982) Badger’s parting gifts, London: Picture Lions.


To give a voice to children who are looked after: www.anationalvoice.org National Association for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults from Abuse: www.anncrafttrust.org Children’s rights website: www.article12.org Asylum Aid: www.asylumaid.org.uk Children’s Rights, Representation and Advocacy Service: www.croa.org.uk Website to support older people who have suffered abuse: www.elderabuse.org.uk A mental health service user organisation: www.hearing-voices.org National Deaf Children’s Society: www.ndcs.org.uk Website for people with learning disabilities: www.peoplefirst.org.uk Website for people under 25 with mental illness: www.sane.org.uk Website of the Inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié: www.victoria-climbieinquiry. org.uk An organisation which provides computer programmes to facilitate communication with young people involved with social services provision: www.viewpointorganisation. co.uk Support group for children and adults who have experienced crime or abuse: www.voiceuk.clara.net Website for people with disabilities: www.youreable.com


Home Truths (1999) Leeds Animation Workshop, 45 Bayswater Row, Leeds, LS8 5LF, tel 0113 248 4997, e-mail: law@ledsanimation.demon.co.uk In Safe Hands (2001) Save the Children/Refugee Council Resource Pack to support work with refugee children Let’s Be Clear Home Farm Trust training video Technology for deaf children (2003) NDCS Two Way Street (2001) Training video and handbook about communicating with disabled children and young people, NSPCC Sounding the Alarm (1998) Barnardo’s, Information Officer, Barnardo’s, Tanner’s Lane, Barkingside, Ilford, Essex, tel 0208 550 8822 Towards Safer Care (2000) DH, video and guide

Further information available from London Metropolitan University (www.londonmetropolitan.ac.uk).