Dr Ines Zuchowski is the field education coordinator in Social Work and Human Services at James Cook University. Ines completed her PhD in October 2015 exploring ‘Social Work Field Education with External Supervision’, and is a member of the National Field Education Network (NFEN) and ANZSWWER. This blog is a reflection on research practice. Ines can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am generally pragmatic and goal oriented, so, when I started thinking about a PhD I chose a topic that was connected to my work (field education) and presented an unanswered question I had (how do students fare in placements with external supervision?). Little did I know what a wonderful journey towards research partnerships and collaborations was ahead of me. When I started on this research journey in 2010 there was a sense that there was not that much research about field education out there. Well there wasn’t that much available, particularly when looking at my specific area of interest, but I would argue today, that field education research is an active space and, lots of good work is being done. My guess is that lots of it is done by overstretched field education academics and professional staff without much, if any, funding, so the projects are often small and likely primarily reported on at conferences.
My own research journey led me to discover that writing throughout the PhD is useful. It can help you grow as a researcher and writer and help you finish your PhD in a timely manner (Zuchowski, 2016). While writing can be scary and receiving feedback from editors and reviewers daunting, the opportunities to expose my work to peer-review has helped me hone my skills and confidence (Zuchowski, 2016).
Writing throughout my PhD and sharing my ideas and disseminating my findings helped me also connect with others. Presenting papers and workshops at conferences, submitting articles for review and in turn reviewing manuscripts for journals has connected me with academics and professional staff in field education and to other important professional networks. Showing enthusiasm, commitment and interest in scholarship in field education led to invitations to join the Australian and New Zealand Social Work and Welfare Education and Research (ANZSWWER). My active engagement and interest in field education as an important area of research meant that I was an active driver in the formation of the National Field Educators Network (NFEN).
So, why is this note-worthy? Well, I would like to encourage PhD students and Early Career Researchers to keep writing as they undertake research. It can take determination and courage to manage to present manuscripts to editors and abstracts to conference organisers. However, it connects you with others and opens up new opportunities. For example, recently I collated a research audit on various inquiries being undertaken in Australian social work field education research. Some examples from the Audit are studies about how students persist in field education (Hemy, Boddy, Chee & Sauvage, 2016), placements with external supervision (Jones- Mutton, Short, Bidgood & Jones, 2015; Zuchowski, 2013), team-based rotational supervision models (Hosken, et al., 2016) and international field education (Fox, 2017). The research audit process helped showcase the research that is already taking place about social work field education in Australia. Further, as authors share the outcomes of their research we can now connect and collaborate with them, progress the work and get motivated and inspired to advance social work field education, practice and scholarship!
Fox, M. (2017). The international field placement: A reconciliation of identity. Social Work Education, 36(5): 495-507
Hemy, M., Boody, J., Chee, P. & Sauvage, D. (2016). Social work students ‘juggling’ field placement. Social Work Education. 35(2), 215-228. doi:10.1080/02615479.2015.1125878
Hosken, N., Green, L., Laughton, J., Van Ingen, R., Walker, F., Vassos, S., and Goldingay, S. (2016). A rotational social work field placement model in regional health. Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, 18( 1), pp. 72-87.
Jones-Mutton, T., Short, M., Bidgood, T., & Jones, T. (2015). Field education: Off-site social work supervision in rural, regional and remote Australia. Advances in Social Work & Welfare Education, 17(1), 83-9
Zuchowski, I. (2016). On becoming a researcher: The value of writing throughout the research process. Advances in Social Work & Welfare Education, 18(2), 66- 78.
Zuchowski, I. (2013). From being ‘caught in the middle of a war’ to being ‘in a really safe space’: Social work field education with external supervision. Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, 15 (1), 104-119.