Remembering My Hat

30th September 2009

Visions for K319

The K319 course team met this morning. Each course team member had been asked to prepare a 10 minute presentation about their vision for the course.

(K319 is going to be a third level 60 point course, covering both health and social care and with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on older people. Its holding title is ‘Health and Social Care with Adults’ but that is unlikely to remain its title)

N.B. Disclaimer: what follows is in no way a statement from the course team – it’s just my personal vision.

I decided, rather than doing the now traditional PowerPoint presentation, to illustrate my ideas with items from my children’s toy basket:

K319 props

(Somewhat noteform, for speed of posting)

Coming from working intensively on K101, another broad general course (although that covers the whole lifespan), what will be different about K319? Because it’s third level, I would like to see a more explicit foregrounding of  the research evidence base for practice. I would like us to hone students’ skills in assessing research evidence. I want to help equip them with a sophisticated understanding of the evidence-based practice movement, in order to enable them to critique it as well as use evidence in their practice. I’d like evaluating and thinking critically about research evidence to be a visible thread throughout the course, like the stripes in the Guatemalan purse (middle left)

I’d previously suggested that we should try to come up with a question that the course is answering (not necessarily a student-facing question, but one that will help us work out what we need to cover). My suggestion is:

  • How do we know how to improve care for adults?

Since you need to know what’s going on now before you can know how to improve things, this might mean our (?)two Readers fall into:

  1. what’s going on at the moment in adult care?
  2. how might it be improved?

(Students dot about between the two Readers, directed by the Activities)

This might contribute toward my vision for the Readers, which is that I want them to be:

  • exciting, cutting edge and coherent as books in their own right
  • extremely well written – clearly expressed but sophisticated ideas
  • contributors to include some big names
  • but also some newer scholars who write well
  • attractive and reasonably comprehensive, just like The Baby’s Catalogue

I want the course to make good use of new technologies. Ideally we’d find something quite exciting and shiny, that allows us to do something really good pedagogically that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. (My illustration for this (plastic thing, middle, 3rd from left) would have worked much better had the batteries not run out. How apt as a lesson in the perils of technophilia).

As a pedagogic strategy, K101 has left me a big fan of the detailed examination of particular issues (the magnifying glass), especially through case studies. I think these work really well to involve students and to move them from the particular to the general.

But it’s very important that these build up systematically to the bigger thematic issues, creating a tower of knowledge and skills (building blocks), but not an ivory tower

Three specific topics I’d personally like to see covered (not necessarily as detailed case studies, although obviously I’d favour that):

  1. Domestic violence – symbolised here by that notorious perpetrator of domestic violence Mr Punch (Mr Punch attacks Rag Doll).
  2. LGBT issues in care (Rainbow flag)
  3. Older people portrayed as complex, rounded, varied individuals, not as stereotypical sweet old ladies or dirty old men, and including as sexual beings (This Mr Punch dates from at least the 1940s. He kisses the rag doll)

I want the course to avoid the various monsters (Purple Cthulhic glove puppet) lying in wait for course teams. Particularly the one that is preying most on my mind at the moment – understaffing.

I want the course to end up:

  • Improving the lives of adult services users
  • Making a major impact on the field of adult care
  • Placing the OU back as a major player in gerontology

If we achieve all this, it will be cause for celebration (cake hat)

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14th September 2009

Surprise! Domestic violence still gendered

I’ve just read this new piece of research on the gendered nature of domestic violence within heterosexual relationships:

Marianne Hester (2009) Who does what to whom? Gender and domestic violence perpetrators Bristol: University of Bristol and Northern Rock Foundation

It’s basically confirming what Women’s Aid have been saying for years; that women may sometimes perpetrate domestic violence against men, but it’s not the same. The violence is typically not as bad, it’s much more likely to be a single incident rather than repeat incidents, it’s not part of a pattern of coercion and control. Depressingly, she finds that women were three times as likely to be arrested as men, despite the fact that the main form of abuse women used was verbal abuse.

I recommend having a look at it, if you’re at all interested in these topics. It’s reasonably clearly written, only 19 pages, available as a pdf, and, for OU colleagues always on the look out for case study material, it contains several useful case studies.

Things that struck me about the findings include:

She found that over the course of her longitudinal study (2001 – 2007) the police became more likely to check whether they had identified the correct person as the perpetrator when the woman was originally identified as such. Some police appeared to be looking at the context and longer term pattern of violence and using that to identify a primary aggressor (or an initiator and a retaliator). I find this encouraging. It sometimes feels as if the new pressure to provide gender-neutral services means that all the feminist insights of the last 40 years of DV campaigning are being lost. This counterbalances my pessimism.

One of the case studies concerns a woman victim whose children had been removed by social services to live with their grandparents. She was reported to have said that

She doesn’t always ring the police because Social Services have told her if she has more domestics she won’t ever get her children back

I would be willing to bet a small sum that that’s not actually what the social worker said (at least, I very much hope not!). I imagine that they said something along the lines that the children were not safe because of her partner’s violence and that unless she could protect them from him, they wouldn’t be placed back with her. But you can see how that sort of response combines with the common notion that ‘social workers take your children away’ to mean that she heard it as a threat. It’s a real challenge for those of us involved in social work education to equip students to work in the context of that idea about their profession. It’s so tempting to just get annoyed with the idea that Social Workers Want To Take Children Away, but that’s a way of not really engaging with it. We need to help Social Workers to develop ways of actively countering that notion in the minutiae of everyday work.

I also took the paper as a salutary lesson in the merits of quantitative methods. It is so powerful to see the statistical patterns across a reasonably large longitudinal data set. Although of course I’d still want to interrogate the discourse in which I am inscribed which finds numbers peculiarly convincing and persuasive…

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