I was given the opportunity to attend and participate in the Baccalaureate Program Directors (BPD) Conference in Louisville, KY in March 2014 under the auspices of a teaching enhancement grant. My goal was to learn innovative strategies that could be implemented in the general education course I teach (American Social Welfare, soon to be called Foundation of Social Policy) both in the face-to-face offering and in the development of an on-line version of the course to be taught in summer. The use of technology in social work education is at times somewhat controversial because of the emphasis on interpersonal skills but I was able to learn several approaches to looking at social policy that demonstrate interpersonal skill ability to implement in this course and potentially others.
Student development of brief videos as a capstone of learning is a key aspect that I will incorporate in the course. Several workshops I was able to attend demonstrated the process and value of student development of videos applied to social policy and advocacy efforts. Rather than a written paper or an exam, these activities expand the skill sets of students that can later be related in their professional life such as to develop campaigns around social issues. I learned the process of walking through the development of a project, pitfalls to avoid, and was able to see the finished products. This type of activity can increase student engagement beyond simply the classroom to across the university or community. The program examples included “film festivals” that highlight the students’ work.
The linkage of classroom/on-line activities as contextual learning is one that emphasizes problem-solving, learning together, self-directed learning and connection to real world contexts. In the on-line version of my course, I could see having students research a policy or topic and then present it to their peers on the discussion board of D2L. Students will learn from each other and go beyond the text to situations relevant from the news and other current events. Since social work programs are required to demonstrate student competency, these innovative techniques to applying theory, knowledge and skills can document efforts when the program goes through there-accreditation process.
Our university’s vision of 360o of Learning and the social work concepts of social justice and advocacy can be furthered using class projects that highlight community engagement, assessment of community assets, challenges, and opportunities for students to integrate learning across settings. I am looking forward to implementing these ideas learned in my class.
Field Coordinator and Lecturer, Social Work