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Practice placement in social workInnovative approaches for effective teaching and learning$
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Avril Bellinger and Deirdre Ford

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781447318606

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447318606.001.0001

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Cultivating discretion: social work education in practice and the academy

Cultivating discretion: social work education in practice and the academy

(p.203) Thirteen Cultivating discretion: social work education in practice and the academy
Practice placement in social work

Avril Bellinger

Deirdre Ford

Beth Moran

Policy Press

This chapter situates social work education within neo-liberalism that commodifies and demonises people in need of welfare services. It argues that both practice and academic sites of learning are contaminated by this agenda and are equally problematic environments for the development of professional identity. It proposes a rejection of binary thinking whereby traditionally practice placements are regarded as inferior to learning in the classroom. A broader perspective is proposed employing the concept of discretion (Lipsky, 2010) within holistic education (Miller, 1996). Together with traits of compassion and flexibility, this is essential to meet the complexity of the professional role in public services. Discretion enables the professional to work with uncertainty and limited resources. It enables them to respond to individuals and communities in a holistic way not necessarily sanctioned by neo-liberal policy. It uses creativity and professional skills to find spaces between principles and rules (Brandon, 2005). If students are to graduate as practitioners able to operate to protect social justice within existing flawed structures then programmes must be able to develop their capacity for discretion. This chapter challenges educators across all sites to take a critically reflexive stance and to use their own discretion in teaching and assessment.

Keywords:   Neo-liberalism, Discretion, Holistic, Social justice

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