The development of professional social work values and ethics in the workplace: a critical incident analysis from the students' perspective

Papouli, Eleni (2014) The development of professional social work values and ethics in the workplace: a critical incident analysis from the students' perspective. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis explores Greek social work students’ perceptions of the development of
their professional values and ethics in the workplace during their professional
practice placement. To accomplish its goals, the thesis includes a literature review
and employs a qualitative exploratory research design with descriptive elements
positioned within the constructivist paradigm. This research design allows the
researcher to explore and describe a topic - social work values and ethics - that is
generally under-researched in the existing literature, as well as being complex in
nature and difficult to study.

Data were collected using the critical incident technique (CIT). This method took
the form of a written questionnaire (the CIT questionnaire) completed by 32
students between 11th and 25th October, 2010. The data were inductively analysed
using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. SPSS and SPAD software
packages were also used to analyse the numerical and textual data respectively.

The study findings underline the vital role of the workplace as a social space for
students to learn and develop their professional social work values and ethics.
They also highlight the complexity of implementing social work values and ethics in
the different workplace environments that students, as trainees, are placed for
their professional practice due to their situation-specific nature.

Further, the study reveals a number of factors that, from the students’ point of
view, are important in applying and upholding professional ethical standards in
social work practice. These factors are associated with: a) the need to practice
social work values and ethics in the workplace on a daily basis in order to keep
them alive and active; b) the students’ own contribution to upholding ethical
standards; c) the role practice instructors/supervisors play in the transmission of
social work values to students during their placements; d) the importance of ethical collaboration inside and outside the workplace to achieve the best practices
for clients; e) the client’s behaviour as a determinant of the ethical practice of social
workers in the workplace; and f) the importance of the ethics of management
(including the political affiliation of the heads of organisations) in creating and
sustaining an ethical work/learning environment.

The study suggests that all the factors mentioned above-to a greater or lesser
degree- should be considered important elements to take into account in the
planning and development of values-based social work education programmes.
Special attention should be paid to workplace conditions that can hinder or support
the development of values-based social work practice. As the study clearly shows,
daily ethical practice in social work, students as individuals, the role of practice
instructors, ethical workplace collaboration, client behaviour, and the ethics of
management are crucial components for building upon the ethical skills taught in
the classroom and developing ethically informed professional identities in real-life
workplace situations.

The thesis concludes that the critical incidents experienced by students are a
valuable source of knowledge and understanding of the development of social
work values and ethics in professional practice. In this study, indeed, students
gained valuable insights into their ethics development process in practice contexts,
from both positive and negative critical incidents alike.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Social Work and Social Care
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV0040 Social service. Social work. Charity organization and practice Including social case work, private and public relief, institutional care, rural social work, work relief
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 01 May 2014 09:50
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015 14:07

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