Developing self efficacy in research skills: becoming research-minded
Editors: Burgess, H. and Carpenter, J.
Publisher: Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Social Policy and Social Work (SWAP)
Place of Publication: Southampton
The OSWE project’s aims to promote research capacity and develop outcome measures in social work education mirror the capacity and capability building ambitions articulated in the JUCSWEC research strategy (2006) and resonate with concerns about the limited research mindedness and competence of practitioners and social work students. This situation is not unique to the UK. A study from Canada (Unrau and Beck, 2004, p. 188) captures these concerns:
While professional and academic expectations are that students integrate research into their practice frameworks…it is not at all clear to what degree students….are learning research skills. Furthermore, studies consistently show that social work students do not exercise research knowledge and skills in their early years of entering the profession.
Further synergies between the project discussed within this chapter and the intent to build research capacity in social work were created by focusing on the development of self-efficacy in research skills of social work students at Bournemouth University. This concern for research capacity and capability enhancement, or ‘collaborative capacity building’ (Burgess and Carpenter, 2008, p. 909), was reflected in the local project through the active collaboration between an established and an emerging researcher. This chapter describes the use of research self-efficacy as a tool to evaluate and promote student learning, through self-assessment and lecturer-assessment. We suggest ways in which the approach can be used to plan, predict and assist future learning.
The project rationale arose from the desire to increase and enhance research capacity and awareness in social work students. The underpinning premise is summarised by Holden: “when a social worker…has greater confidence regarding his or her research abilities he/she will feel more empowered as a social worker” (Holden et al., 1999, p. 465). This is because high self-efficacy ratings in research are consistently predictive of future confident and successful research behaviour in social workers in the USA (Holden et al., 1999). This confidence in being able to engage with research will enable practitioners to develop practice based on competent reading of research and contribute to the enhancement of the profession and its research base.