Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Professional Identities - analysing the data

The values held by future health and social care professionals are something about which we should all care deeply. We may one day be very grateful if we or our partners, parents, or children find ourselves in the hands of people who have a keen sense of social justice and a compassionate nature.

Values are certainly at the heart of current  NHS quality improvement programmes  - see this interesting project involving "values based interviewing": The Health Foundation.

When I started on the Photopeach project I had some preconceptions about the sort of values our health and social care students would portray in their videos.... even after assessing them, I tended to have the impression that the number of different categories of values was very few and had been often repeated. If pressed I would have said Respect, Dignity, Caring would come out on top as key values (as ones we had actually discussed in class). Respect did indeed come joint top (along with with tolerance) but second was valuing the uniqueness of the individual.

Half way through the analysis of the videos, I have been surprised at the diversity of values, skills, professional attitudes and knowledge that the students have selected.

There are over 70 individual values mentioned and I have grouped these into five main categories: Social Justice, Personal Qualities, Professional Skills, Teamwork and Management, and the Desired state of the Service User.

Under Social Justice, such issues as anti-discriminatory practice, promotion of human rights, liberation from oppression and promoting the service user's voice are prominent (this category actually comes top with 47 mentions) whilst the desired state of the service user (comfort, happiness, dignity, independence etc) gets 30 mentions. Leadership and Teamwork gets 22 mentions (fulfilling goals, multidisciplinary working, accountability, leadership, co-ordination etc) which given that the module is called Leading Teams is unsurprising (in fact I'd have been disappointed if these had not materialised).

The two biggest categories (most values mentioned) are Personal Qualities and Professional Skills.
Qualities include attitudes such as altruism, compassion, responsibility and sensitivity, which I would have expected. Surprises included creativity, optimism, honesty and loyalty.

The inclusion of these values or qualities leads me to conclude that students had given this exercise quite a bit of thought and were not simply replicating what they could find on the NHS or SCIE websites that we looked at.

Professional Skills included safeguarding, problem-solving, being an advocate, ethical and reflective practice and managing relationships with service users. Confidentiality was actually the most mentioned attitude in this category.

I guess this demonstrates on one level that we have been doing something right as teachers for the past three years if our soon-to-be graduates are able to articulate these values and qualities so clearly. I think though it also highlights the type of student who comes on the course. I did the exact same exercise with first year students just a few weeks into their studies and the results are not a million miles away from these - a little less diverse perhaps but certainly demonstrating that students come on to the course already espousing beliefs in social justice and the importance of respect and dignity in the care of vulnerable people.

This in turn reflects the diversity of our student body - one third of our incoming students are over 21, 20% over 25. A number of these have already worked in the care sector. Around 10% of our students originate from outside Europe - some of these are refugees. Over half have not come to University straight from school but through a mixture of FE/access routes. We don't have the exact figures but I know anecdotally that a good number of our students are carers already - for children, parents and other family members - or themselves have a disability or chronic illness.

Concern for social justice and compassion appear to be well formed in our students even before they arrive. Developing knowledge of the subject area, engagement with the sociological and philosophical arguments presented on the course  - and of course, work experience - do the rest. Its good to know we'll be safe in their hands.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Aim higher?

So my final year group are currently planning their student led learning activities. I am enjoying the process of negotiating with them about their topics - ensuring a good spread so that the curriculum is covered but allowing for personal preferences and interests to direct the process.

Yesterday I tried out a new approach to developing the assessment criteria for the presentations - by getting them to contribute to writing them. I have toyed with doing this for some time but been put off by the complexity - especially when working with a large group.

Here's what I did. In preparation I created a blank spreadsheet listing the learning outcomes for the module and suggesting four key areas that might be relevant for this assignment: communication and IT skills; research; Academic Skills (such as referencing) and collaborative teamwork.

On the spreadsheet I gave them the core descriptors for each grade band (as prescribed by the University) to indicate the spread from Exceptional First to Fail.

Then, in small groups they worked to come up with descriptors for specified outcomes at specified levels:  Communication Skills - First and Fail;  Academic skills: 2:1 and 3rd etc

At the end of the exercise I collected in their descriptors and used these to construct the finished assessment feedback sheet.

In truth this wasn't radically different from grading matrices used elsewhere on the course (which is good because it demonstrates that they have engaged with those!). Most interesting was the discussions we had on differentiating between a 2:1 and a first: most tend to think that if they tick the boxes then they should get a first whereas the assessment model used in this University would say that a first is beyond what would normally be expected. This is a useful point to try and get across, especially for final year students who are hoping for those important higher degree classifications, and this is perhaps a good time to be reminding them of the standards for the level to which they aspire.

Peer evaluation is also built into the process and the next phase will be to work with the students on designing an evaluation questionnaire which they will distribute following their sessions.The final step is to use the assessment criteria to create a self-evaluation of their own work.