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

SCIE Guide 23

By Pat Le Riche and Imogen Taylor

Published June 2008

About this guide

Partnership work refers to partnership with people who use services and their carers, students, agency colleagues and other professions. This guide draws on findings from SCIE’s 'Knowledge review 10: The learning, teaching and assessment of partnership work’.(1) There were two main elements to this review:

Although the review drew on evidence and policy in Scotland, the survey did not include Scotland as it does not fall within the remit of SCIE. Further details of the methodology are given in Knowledge review 10.

The central focus of the knowledge review was on the teaching, learning and assessment of partnership work and the development of partnership practice competence. Initial discussions with SCIE clarified that partnership in education delivery should be included in this guide only when these developments focused on learning related to partnership work. However, this boundary proved difficult to draw and the guide provides examples of the varied approaches to understanding ‘partnership work’ which emerged in research and practice.

It is not the purpose of the guide to prescribe the content of partnership education or how it should be approached. Indeed, the knowledge review identified that there is no one right way to approach the task of developing students’ learning about partnership work at qualifying level. However, it did identify a number of key issues to be addressed by those involved in developing knowledge, skills and values at qualifying level for partnership in social work practice. These then form key choices for educators engaged in designing, teaching or assessing partnership work to consider. Case studies of how educators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are already approaching some of these issues are provided as examples to inform university-level teaching in the classroom and in practice. Post-qualifying programmes are not part of the scope of this guide.

A note on ‘partnership work’ and ‘interprofessional education’

The knowledge review examined partnership work where this referred to studies of education for partnership work with users and carers, students, practice assessors, agency stakeholders (such as social care practitioners and managers), and interprofessional education where there was a clear focus on partnership work. In 2007 SCIE commissioned a separate report on interprofessional education.(2)

Who this guide is for

This guide is primarily designed to be of use to classroom- or practice-based educators involved in teaching and assessing partnership work to social work students at qualifying level. This includes lecturers and practice educators as well as people who use services and their carers. It will also be useful to other audiences, including: educators from related disciplines teaching partnership work; classroom and practice educators at postqualifying levels; external examiners and others involved in quality assurance of qualifying education; and, to employers and managers.

The purpose of this guide

The knowledge review proposed a number of key issues for social work educators to address. These may be phrased as six questions:

To support the design, delivery, monitoring and review of education for partnership work in the social work degree, this guide explores these issues in four ways.

First it summarises the key messages from Knowledge review 10, crystallising the findings from the knowledge review and the practice survey. It highlights what is known and not yet known about education for partnership work.

Alongside this, the guide provides examples of good practice in education for partnership work, offering ideas that can be built on. These examples were identified through discussions with educators, people who use services and their carers, practitioners, managers and, not least, students on social work programmes.

The guide then summarises how knowledge, skills and values could be organised to provide opportunities for students to learn partnership work, paying particular attention to the organisation of teaching and learning in the classroom and to the underlying value base of partnership.

Finally, it considers the areas for future development of partnership work in social work education.

Our aim is to present key messages and materials in an accessible way that will be of use to educators and all participants in the educational process. The materials presented in this guide have been identified from a number of sources. These include research findings from a systematic review of the literature. and the views of stakeholders gained during interviews and focus groups that explored their experience of the teaching and learning of partnership in qualifying training.

Practice learning was an important aspect of enquiry during the review, but we learnt more about aspirations in relation to good partnership working than details of learning in and from practice. However, in discussing the experience of partnership in practice learning we identified some of the key concerns, which enable us to put forward some suggestions for the future development of partnership learning in practice.


SCIE would like to thank the authors of this guide. Pat Le Riche is Senior Research Fellow in Social Work and Social Care, and Imogen Taylor is Professor of Social Work and Social Care, University of Sussex, Sussex Institute, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QQ.

SCIE and the authors would like to thank all those who contributed to this guide. Everyone who assisted with the research review (1), and whose names are acknowledged has directly or indirectly influenced the content of the guide. Particular thanks go to the social work educators who provided additional material for the guide.


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