Gillian Muir

ScOPT Trustee Gillian Muir reflects on the Practice Teaching and Field Education in Health and Social Work conference held in Oxford in September.

The theme of the conference was "Innovation in Practice Learning and Field Education". I and 2 other board members travelled to the 2-day conference in Oxford to present a workshop on ScOPTbox. We had opportunity to meet up with a wide range of social work, social care and health colleagues involved in education, research and practice learning. There was representation from all of the UK nations, Ireland and other European countries, America, Canada and Australia. This mix resulted in a fascinating and invigorating conference and we made some great new friends... and ScOPT members!

St John's College was a beautiful venue and we enjoyed dinner on the first evening in the dining hall, surrounded by portraits of Heads of House and other Teaching Fellows, past and present. To have opportunity to share learning and discuss practice in a city where you are surrounded by so many beautiful buildings dedicated to teaching and learning was inspiring!

Keynote speakers were Dr Phillip Clarke, Director of both the Programme in Gerontology and the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center at the University of Rhode Island in the US; Dr Jane Morris, Deputy Head of School for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton and chair of the National Association of Educators in Practice (NAEP); Lord Victor Olufemi Adebowale (CBE), Chief Executive of the social care enterprise Turning Point and one of the first People's Peers, and our friend Siobhan Maclean, Kirwin Maclean Associates and previous Secretary of the International Federation of Social Workers. They provided food for thought on themes of inter-professional education, innovation in health and social work practice-based education, educating social work and health students to work in new models of integrated practice and creative tools and reflective techniques for professional placements.

Each day offered a packed and varied programme of workshops and the three of us were able to sample a range of inputs pertinent to our particular work context and personal interests. I focused on inputs relating to addressing shortages in placements, supervision models and reflective practice models. I learned about creative approaches in the use of drawing and poetry to develop reflection, use of simulation in a teaching hospital with groups of inter-professional students to make use of "teachable golden moments" and co-supervision by PEs or PE & tutor.

On the theme of innovation in technology, our workshop was warmly received and we have acquired some new friends and ScOPT members from Canada as a result! There was keen interest from nursing practice educators and we were given some interesting ideas to take back to ScOPT regarding further development of the resource. Another workshop looked at digital storytelling and creative assessments with social work students. This explored use of digital storytelling to record student experiences of placement and how this could be assessed, thus moving away from traditional essays. It considered how these digital stories could support future students. A further concept was Video learning logs as part of the students reflective learning experiences. And another considered the concepts of informed consent and the process of ensuring confidentiality of both student and service user information. Consideration of how students are supported to understand their role in the ethical use of technology, setting boundaries, being clear on guidance and having ongoing conversations about it. The rule of Netiquette was put forward as one which should be promoted to students which are a set of rules for acceptable online behaviour.
My takeaways have been an affirmation of practice education as relationship-based practice; the need to engage students with the communities they serve, understanding issues of poverty, discrimination, diversity and the importance of service users' stories; the central role of reflection to developing self-awareness, empathy and building resilience in all professional students and that practice education and inter-professional practice education requires the will, commitment and culture change by educators and practitioners alike.

Innovation in practice education is happening in social work, health and allied professions. This opportunity to share our innovations, research findings and what works with such a diverse community of practice was valuable and I appreciate it. I appreciate it especially as I was the only Scottish local authority-funded participant. I would like to thank Perth & Kinross Council and ScOPT, who joint funded my place at conference. The challenge is how do we ensure as PEs that we continue to gain relevant CPD opportunities, share knowledge of funding sources and arrangements to support these and ensure that we contribute to the provision of quality inter-professional practice education events in Scotland.

For information on the conference programme and access to some of the conference papers, click here.

Look out for the special conference issue of the Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning to appear later this year.

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