Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Dr Wendy Cohen
Collaboration is a key tenet of working in Health, Education and Social Care contexts. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences has undergraduate courses training future professionals who work in these settings. Undergraduate students in Primary Education, Social Work and Speech and Language Therapy attend practice placements as part of their studies and frequently come across other professionals while out in practice. Opportunities to engage students in an interdisciplinary context within a University context has been limited due to constraints around student timetabling and availability. While ensuring that our graduating professionals are ready to work in the current policy contexts, a small group of staff from these courses felt that opportunities to reinforce the Scottish Government’s drivers for working together within Health, Education and Social Care contexts would benefit from some within University, class based opportunities to explore the challenges and opportunities in working collaboratively with each other.
With this aim in mind, the recent introduction of a “Consolidation week” within the University calendar presented itself as an ideal opportunity to develop this type of learning opportunity. Through working collaboratively as staff members, we developed a single day workshop designed to stimulate discussion amongst Primary Education, Social Work and Speech and Language Therapy undergraduate students. Selected key note speakers from the three professions were invited to address the students and this was followed up with a carefully designed case study exploring Collaborative Practice within a Child Protection framework that students discussed in interdisciplinary groups. The session ended with an expert panel ‘Question Time’ session where the student groups prepared and asked our key notes speakers to elaborate on their roles working Collaboratively.
Students fully engaged in the workshop and in the sections of the day where there was planned small group discussion it was clear they were engaging in the activities with enthusiasm – the atmosphere in the room was positively charged! Each of our key note speakers was warmly received and the student groups had thought carefully about the questions they would like to pose to our expert panel in the Question Time session. There was a very strong sense that each student had learned from attending – both in relation to the case study they were set but more importantly in the values of knowing about the other professionals who they might be working with in the future and how to set up strong working relationships with each other.
When we originally started planning the event we had envisaged using one of the largest spaces available in the university and opening this up to a full cohort of students from each of the courses. There were several challenges in sourcing a room that would require set up and set down time that would come with a significant cost to the courses – and this event was being planned with a budget of £0. An alternative, but smaller room was sourced which limited the number of students who could attend. While there are fewer students in the Social Work and Speech and Language Therapy cohorts (ranging from 25-40) there are many more students in Primary Education so these students were invited to register attendance up to a maximum of 40. The room available would hold 120 students, and we aimed to have as even a spread of representation from the three professions as possible.
We researched carefully and sourced some relevant, but short, preparatory reading and made this available to the students electronically along with asking the students to reflect on their own experiences of collaborative working on placement and to review their own Professional Body’s Code of Conduct before they came to the workshop.
The materials that were selected for the case study needed to be made as inclusive as possible to ensure all learning needs would be met and the nature of the case study meant that we could not provide this information in advance as this would detract from the learning opportunities through thinking through each of the stages in a chronological fashion. We set up narrated Powerpoint slides and this reduced the need to read the information that would be presented to them as the day progressed.
The issues with timetabling and booking a room took many weeks of discussion with University services – this meant that we were unable to confirm the date and time of the event until late in semester 1. This meant that some students had already booked their travel plans for the Consolidation week and this was unavoidable. In future we intend to ensure that the date is confirmed at the beginning of the academic year to allow notification to be sent to all students as early as possible.
We also realised that sometimes there are unavoidable cancellations from key note speakers who, as practitioners, have constraints upon them that might arise preventing them attending on the day. This was the case with one of our speakers so we intend to broaden our invitation to two practitioners from each profession to allow for this eventuality.
All 3rd year SLT and Social Work students attended the event along with a self-selected cohort of Education students. The actual numbers of students attending was smaller than we had originally planned but appropriate to the room size and this worked in our favour. There were enough groups to allow for good interdisciplinary discussion and also to allow staff to spend time with each group facilitating the student conversations.
The feedback from students (see attached) indicates that this was a successful and very welcome learning opportunity, and one that takes full advantage of the Consolidation week within the university calendar. This type of approach could be extended with other interdisciplinary workshops as part of students’ formal learning or in opportunities for Continuing Professional Development. There is an established student led CPD programme in the School of Education and we intend to extend this, where relevant, to students from other disciplines.
Direct student feedback via email and twitter