• by Siobhan Maclean
  • 07th Jun 2020

The last 9 days: The 9Rs

Working through a pandemic means that all of us need to adapt and develop new skills. Working largely in practice education, learning and development I know that learning opportunities need to change and the last blog I wrote discusses my involvement in developing a new model to support reflective supervision in virtual spaces. Early in the lockdown I attended a couple of webinars and found them much more helpful for learning that I had anticipated. I reflected that since I had made socialworkconnect.com available to students for free until September I had received hundreds of emails from students talking about the anxieties created by the changes to their learning and disruption to placements and I knew that a series of webinars would be useful. However, I just don’t have the technological skills required to get that going. Just over a week ago, I put a couple of tweets out asking if any students would be interested in helping me to set up some webinars. 8 students volunteered and the very next day we had a virtual meeting. The group ranged from first year students to newly qualified workers, and a range of different routes / programmes were represented. We agreed to work on developing a partnership arrangement and within 5 days we had a test webinar, with just under 50 people attending (we had each invited a few guests). Exactly one week after that first meeting, we had a second, and by that time we already had more than 500 people registered for our first webinar with interest and registrations from all over the world.

What we have done and how we have gone about it isn’t perfect. We know that the group that has come together isn’t as diverse as we would like it to be. We are using Zoom, which is a platform where there are potential concerns about ethics. In being aware of these issues we are trying to do what we can to address them – for example, making the webinar available the next day on YouTube for people who do not wish to use the platform. However, as well as looking at what could be improved, it is important to celebrate what has been done well, and with this group there is a great deal of that to reflect on. I suggested in my initial tweet that students who volunteered to help might be able to use it as evidence of PCF domain 9. There are 9 of us working together on this project which started 9 days ago. So it seems fitting that there are 9 ‘R’s which summarise the experience for me:

Rapid: This group has worked together so quickly, there are of course pros and cons to this, but the results in one week have been nothing short of remarkable. (There have been times when I thought my mobile phone might explode).

Reflection: Sometimes when work is very rapid, reflection can be missed, but we are actively working on making sure that we work on all three stages of reflection (for, in and on action).

Resilient: I have been amazed with the resilience that these students have shown. The pandemic has in some ways paused their learning, it has certainly isolated them in some aspects of their learning but they have been ready to adapt and to try new things.

Resourcefulness: Social workers need to be creative and resourceful. This group have taken those skills to new levels. No one had developed and run a webinar before, but they have explored learning in a range of ways and have quickly developed skills, with our practice run going well.

Relationships: As we all know relationship-based practice is vital in social work. This is my first real experience of ‘virtual’ relationships and I am amazed by how quickly our relationships have developed.

Registration: As I write we are getting registrations every hour. It is clear that these webinars are really needed.

Reach: I reached out 9 days ago on twitter and since then the reach of the project has been global. We have registrations and messages of support from all over the world.

Re-energising: I have been a social worker for 30 years. For the last 20 or so years I have focused on supporting students and practitioners to explore theory and reflection and connect these with practice. I have tried to develop a range of resources rather than relying on standard media forms but would never have had the courage to address webinars without this fabulous group. I feel re-energised in my own career goals already!

Research: One of our members has a particular interest in research and she looked towards what research might help us in our work. Unsurprisingly since this is a very new area of work, there is very little. We are already talking about how we might be able to use this project to research what works for students in online learning situations.

It has been a whirlwind of a week with lots of learning and reflection, but perhaps most of all completely affirming in terms of the future of our profession. This group of students and newly qualified workers are bringing so much to our profession. Our first webinar is on 10 June and we plan to follow that up fortnightly – always on a Wednesday (‘webinar Wednesdays’).

If you want to register the link is: