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Dialogue and Challenge: Involving Service Users and Carers in Small Group Learning with Social Work and Nursing Students

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This paper examines the rationale for service user and carer involvement in professional education and reflects on an initiative in which social work and nursing students undertook a sequence of joint learning in relation to mental health theory and practice. Central to this initiative was the promotion of opportunities for dialogue, both between students from different professional disciplines and between students, service users and carers. To enable this, much of the learning took place in small groups facilitated by either a service user or a carer.

Evaluation of this initiative indicated that, for the majority of social work and nursing students, learning from this shared experience had a major impact on their professional development. However, a small but significant minority found it hard to enter into a dialogue with others on a basis of equality and a sharing of their human as well as their professional experience. Some students indicated that they would have preferred a focus on acquiring more specialist professional knowledge and skills. This raises important issues in relation to the changing expectations of professionalism and professional education—and what really makes someone ‘fit for practice’.
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Keywords: Collaborative Learning; Evaluation; Multi-disciplinary Learning; Service User/Carer Involvement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Birmingham, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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