Reflective Practice, Continous Professional Development and Knowledge Sharing

The Key Situations in Social Work Model

Overview


  • Key
    The Key Situation Model

    The Key Situation model1 is an innovative approach to continuous professional and practice development. At it's heart lies a reflective learning process organised around key situations in social work and a virtual platform that enables blended learning, collaboration and knowledge sharing. Key situations are the typical practices that social workers regularly encounter. They are experienced as a discrete and meaningful sequence of activities with a beginning, middle and end, such as a home visit. The model combines a structured group-based reflective learning process organised around key situations with online learning and knowledge sharing on the Key Situation platform. Communities of practice working within and across organisations support the development of professional knowledge and focus on quality development. The model is designed for social workers, practice organisations and universities. The three elements of the Key Situation model are the reflective learning process, communities of practice and virtual platform.

  • Circle
    Reflective learning and knowledge co-production

    The Key Situation model has grown out of a need to enhance the way students and professionals in education and practice merge theory, research and ethical knowledge with ‘a common-sense grasp of a situation, formal rules with creativity, standards with improvisation and reason with intuition’2, ‘in ways that “speak” to the situations regularly encountered in social work’3. This involves both analytic and intuitive skills and pays attention to emotions, quality and innovation. The eight-step reflection process supports the development of both analytic and intuitive skills and ensures that CPD is colesely linked to practices of professionals. Unlike other reflection methods, the Key Situation model offers a blended learning approach in which co-produced knowledge is documented and shared with other learners and social workers within and across organisations.

  • Collaboration
    Communities of practice

    Communities of practice4 within and across organisations co-produce knowledge in relation to key situations to support individual, organisational and professional learning. The development of professional competence relies on ‘a learning culture and environment where reflective practice, evidence and research mindedness underpin the focus on practice’5. Rather than enhancing capabilities of reflexive and mindful professionals alone, the Key Situation model offers approaches for organisations to organise practices and environments conducive for learning, knowledge co-production and sharing of knowledge to support knowledgeable and ethical practice and judgements. The Key Situation model aims to create and sustain a learning culture and offers an approach based on communities of practice and practice-based collaborative learning. It can be implemented in a team, an organisation or in practice-university partnerships.

  • Screens
    Key Situation platform

    The platform supports learning, collaboration and knowledge sharing. Investing in access to knowledge alone does not lead to its integration in professional decision-making6. To enhance integration, technical-material tools and social practices need be combined7. The platform allows documentation of knowledge, experience and reflective learning in relation to situations, thereby creating a situation library. Practitioners and students can access this to revisit situations with the potential to enahance their understanding and to reflect on future practice, when preparing for practice in a similar situation. The Key Situaiton model thus combines the platform with collaborative learning, knowledge and practice development in organisations and enables sharing of and discussing situated knowledge across organisations and internationally. The platform is run by the Association Network Key Situations in Social Work.

  • Sheet
    English Social Work Key situations

    The model was originally developed in Switzerland with a description of the key situations in Swiss social work and social pedagogy. It is now applied in universities in German speaking regions in Europe. As part of a PhD action research project, in a modified three-round Delphi study, experienced social workers from different settings and regions elaborated situation titles in a first qualitative round (n1=13). These were reviewed in two online survey rounds (n2=88 and n3= 41). The agreed 116 key situations show what social workers in England actually do. They are organised in 12 areas of responsibility: Initial Contact and Assessment, Planning for support and care, Planning for support and care, Crisis Intervention and Safeguarding, Assessment, Direct Work with Adults and Children, Collaboration and Cooperation, Court work, Administration, Professional Development, Quality Assurance, Meetings and Education and Practice Education.

Reflective Learning Process

The Key Situation reflective learning model8, guides learners through eight steps. They describe an experienced situation (1), link it to a key situation title (2), tease out the emotion and reflection-in-action (3) and elaborate the overarching characteristics of such situations (4). General knowledge (theoretical, research and ethical knowledge) and specific knowledge (experiential, organisational, skills) are identified and linked with the situation (5). From this, quality standards for social work practice in key situations are developed (6) and used to reflect on the situation (7). This finally, leads to the generation of alternative courses of action for future similar situations (8). Here (pdf) you find further information on the process.

Reflection process

Learners work in small groups both face-to-face and online, each reflecting on their own experienced situation but all working on situations with the same key situation title:

Social arrangement of the learning process

Learners therefore constantly engage in a process of thinking about the general and specific aspects. The process is facilitated and incorporates elements of problem-based learning. Feedback is provided on each step of the process. The merging of different forms of knowledge and practice is enabled through identification of knowledge resources and thinking about their relevance to the situation. Guiding questions tor each of the seven types of knowledge thereby facilitate learning:

Fusing of different forms of knowledge

Unlike other reflection models, it is an in-depth learning process that involves many activities over several sessions. It blends face to face with online learning. By documenting their learning on the Key Situation platform, the knowledge within such reflections becomes accessible to others. This model can be applied in social work education and CPD in university and practice settings.

Reflective learning and knowledge sharing for action

Because training and access to knowledge alone is not enough to develop and sustain professional expertise, the Key Situation model’s approach is built on ongoing reflective learning and knowledge sharing. This approach to CPD and knowledge management is highly relevant to practitioners, as it is organised around key situations they actually encounter. It can be flexibly integrated in workplace or university settings. It enables not only development of competence but crucially, also the integration of new evidence, changes in the legal, policy framework and learning form situational experience, which is increasingly more important in a fast-changing world. It aims to enhance social workers’ ability to justify their actions with reference to evidence from multiple sources, including research, theory and the law and practice wisdom. It also aims to support knowledgeable and ethical decision-making in action.

Many researchers reject the idea of decision-making as a rational process and rather see it as involving both intuitive and analytical thinking9. This understanding based on natural and dual processing decision-making10 shows that practitioners draw on knowledge and experience from previously encountered similar situations. It relies on the recognition of patterns in situations. Rapid and intuitive thinking occurs in the action itself and steers practitioners’ actions in response to encountered situations. Analytical reasoning and deliberative reflection occur when a situation is not recognised. As soon as a good enough narrative, hypothesis or alternative course of action is formed, a practitioner then proceeds with caution11. Deliberative reasoning can also be undertaken after the action. This understanding of decision-making in and after engagement in practice situations was observed in social work12

Reflective learning that is supported by knowledge co-production and sharing in organisations that helps practitioners to create situational memories. They are stored in a network of remembered situations that are activated in similar situations and act as “integrated and flexible mental representations that underpin sound understanding and practical reasoning”2. This view underpins case-based reasoning education13 and informs the situation-based learning, knowledge co-production and knowledge sharing approach of the Key Situation model:

Situation-based learning

Feedback from participants in an ASYE programme showed that: “It has not been easy to reflect on one situation in such depth but on the other hand it has been an extremely useful tool.” Furthermore, the reflection process “informed my reflections in practice”. A whole system implementation of the model as an approach to CPD has the potential to support ongoing development of knowledgeable and ethical practice. Such ongoing reflections offer a practice-based perspective for CPD as the following illustration shows:

Continuous situation-based learning

The model enables not only development of expertise but crucially, also the integration of new research, evidence, changes in the legal or policy framework and learning form situational experience leading to actionable knwoledge and potentially knowledgeable action. This is increasingly more important in a fast-changing world. It aims to enhance social workers’ ability to justify their actions with reference to evidence from multiple sources, including research, theory and the law and practice wisdom and to influence their thinking and actions in similar practice situations14.

Key Situation Platform / Knowledge Sharing

Teams or organisations who reflect on and document their own key situations capture knowledge and practice that is relevant to their setting and make it accessible to old and new staff members and students alike. The Key Situation platform supports teams and organisations to share situated knowledge and this enables discussion about the quality of the practice and knowledge within and across the organisation. This open approach to sharing of knowledge aims to support a learning culutre.

Key situation titles offer a practice-based categorisation of knowledge and practice. Our own research has shown that social workers can associatively identify relevant situations on the platform, as key siutation titles are based on practitioners' own language. They do this to plan, reflect on, or learn about practice challenges, for example when thinking about a home visit. You can find an example of a situation completed by a newly qualified social worker here (pdf).

Continuous professional development

The platform was developed between 2014 and 2016 in a research and development project in Siwtzerland. It is operated by the Association Network Key Situations in Social Work whose vision is to create a Wikipedia of social work situations. It is user-friendly and is based on the principles of openness and participation and allows its users to access, comment on and create key situations. The platform also offers collaborative community and discussion spaces. Spaces can be open or closed so that teams or organisations can engage in learning and discussion in a safe space.

The platform is only open to social work practitioners and academics, it is a public space for the professional and academic communities but not for the general public. As the platform is protected, no data can be found or accessed by Internet search engines. On registration, every user has to agree to a ‘Data Privacy Statement’ and ‘Terms of Use’ to safeguard both platform user data and data in relation to social work situations. Only anonymised situations are published.

The German language spaces on the Key Situation platform have around 1500 users. It is planned to develop an English space in the future.

Implementing the Key Situation Model in practice

The Key Situation model with its practice-based reflective learning approach, communities of practice, network and platform has the potential to transform the way:

• social workers engage in continuous professional development and reflective learning,

• organisations and universities arrange learning and knowledge sharing and

• the profession as a whole participates in a discourse on quality of social work practice, knowledge and ethics.

Our vision is to develop a network of social workers, academics and organisations who collaboratively develop and share their knowledge and experience and help shape the knowledge base and culture of the profession.

Professional learning cannot be designed, rather 'design for learning has to work indirectly by proposing tasks – suggestions of good things to do – which may stimulate and otherwise influence the real-world activity that eventuates, but which cannot prescribe or actually generate that activity'15. The Activity Centred Analysis and Design (ACAD) framework16 emphasises the centrality of learners’ activities with a focus on what they actually do. Design should also suggest tools and other artefacts that can support learning and 'make recommendations about how learners might best work with one another'2. In this view, learning emerges through the activities of learners as they make use of 'the task design (epistemic), the structures of place (set) and the organisational structures (social)'17. So, while learning itself cannot be designed, the epistemic, physical and social elements can be designed.

The ACAD framework should be considered at three levels: the detail or micro, the regional or meso, and the global or macro level. The global macro dimension outlines the broader context for the design, the regional meso dimension is concerned with the local design and the micro level focusses on the learning arrangements in and around the actual learning space and time17. These design elements and levels can be used to design the implementation of the Key Situation model in an organisation:

ACAD wireframe of Key Situation model

If you are interested in implementing this model in your organisation, then perhaps we can consider how to design this, so that it meets the your and your organisation's needs.

Do you want to find out more? Why not take a look at this screencast from the SOAS Learning and Teaching Conference in June 2018: The Key Situaitons in Social Work Reflective Learning Model

In 2019 the research project 'A Practice-based Curriculum for Reflective Learning in Social Work will be completed. For information on the project see the following two blogs: A Practice-based Curriculum for Reflective Learning in Social Work and Update on the development of the key situations in social work research

Association

The Association Network Key Situations in Social Work aims to support reflection on and discourse of key situations in social work and for this purpose operates the platform and coordinates activities of its members in the network. It was founded in 2015 and It is a not for profit charitable organisation under Swiss law and has its head office in Basel, Switzerland.

Membership in the Association Network Key Situations in Social Work is open to all persons and organisations wishing to promote discourse and reflection on key social work situations. Members of the association are active in the network and promote the association's interests.

The Association supports universities and practice organisations to adapt and implement the Key Situation Reflection model and platform in their education and continuous professional development programmes. It offers training for reflection group facilitators and supports organisations in making the best use of the platform. We have almost 10 years’ experience and can advise on the benefits and challenges of adopting the Key Situation model!

We are convinced that the Association with its platform and network will transform the way social workers and organisations can integrate theory, research, ethics and practice through reflective practice, communities of practice working on key themes within and across organisations, access to co-produced knowledge embedded in real social work situations and discourse on the quality of the practice and knowledge of such situations. Together we will develop enhanced and shared practice-based understandings of good social work practice!

Creative Commons License
The Key Situation in Social Work Model by Adi Staempfli and the Association Network Key Situations in Social Work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.keysituations.net/index.html

Board members

Adi Staempfli, MSc, co-president– Lecturer in social work at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.

Prof. Dr. Regula Kunz, co-president – Head of BA in social work, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland, Switzerland.

Prof. Dr. Annette Vogt, co-president – Professor of psychology, Katholische Stiftungshochschule München, University of Applied Sciences, Munich, Germany.

Dr. Eva Tov, board member - Associate lecturer and researcher in social work international freelancer, Israel.

Stefan Eugster Stamm, board member - Social Work Manager of a third sector organisation, associate lecturer, Switzerland.

Dominik Tschopp, MA, board member - E-Learning Coordinator / Research Associate, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland, Switzerland.

Gaby Merten, board member - Independent registered supervisor and coach, associate lecturer, Switzerland.

Tatjana Kreitmeier, board member - Social Worker, Germany.

References

1. [TOV, E., KUNZ, R. & STÄMPFLI, A. 2016. Schlüsselsituationen der Sozialen Arbeit. Professionalität durch Wissen, Reflexion und Diskurs in Communities of Practice, 2nd revised ed., Bern, hep.]

2. [MARKAUSKAITE, L. & GOODYEAR, P. 2017:49, 563 and 609. Epistemic Fluency and Professional Education: Innovation, Knowledgeable Action and Actionable Knowledge, Dordrecht, Springer.(URL)]

3. [TREVITHICK, P. 2011:140. The generalist versus specialist debate in social work education in the UK. In: LISHMAN, J. (ed.) Social Work Education. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.(URL)]

4. [WENGER, E. 1998. Communities of practice. Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: University Press.] ]

5. [ROMEO, L. 2016. Teaching partnerships are forging the future of social work. Blog. Available from URL]

6. [JANG, K. 2013. An Understanding of Optimal Knowledge Management for Social Work Practice: Based on a Process-Oriented Conceptualisation of Knowledge Integration. British Journal of Social Work, 43, 1364–1383. URL]

7. [FENWICK, T., NERLAND, M. & JENSEN, K. 2012. Sociomaterial approaches to conceptualising professional learning and practice. Journal of Education and Work, 25, 1-13. URL]

8. [STAEMPFLI, A., KUNZ, R. & TOV, E. 2012. Creating a bridge between theory and practice: working with key situations. European Journal of Social Education, 22/23, 60-78. URL]

9.[e.g. Hopwood, N., Nerland, M., 2019. Epistemic Practices in Professional-Client Partnership Work. Vocat. Learn. 12, 319–339.]

10.[Kahneman, D., Klein, G., 2009. Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree. Am. Psychol. 64, 515–526.]

11.[Munro, E., Cartwright, N., Hardie, J., Montuschi, E., 2017. Improving child safety: deliberation, judgement and empirical research. Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS).]URL]

12.[e.g. Whittaker, A., 2018. How Do Child-Protection Practitioners Make Decisions in Real-Life Situations? Lessons from the Psychology of Decision Making. Br. J. Soc. Work 48, 1967–1984.]URL]

13.[ten Cate, O., Custers, E.J.F.M., Durning, S.J. (Eds.), 2018. Principles and Practice of Case-based Clinical Reasoning Education, Innovation and Change in Professional Education. Springer International Publishing, Cham.]URL]

14. [STAEMPFLI, A., TOV, E., KUNZ, R. & TSCHOPP, D. 2016. Improving professionalism through reflection and discourse in communities of practice: The key situations in social work model and project. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 14, (2), 59-79. URL]

15. [Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., 2016. Activity centred analysis and design in the evolution of learning networks Tenth International Conference on Networked Learning, Lancaster University, Lancaster. URL]

16. [Carvalho, L.& Goodyear, P., 2018. Design, learning networks and service innovation. Design Studies, 55, 27–53. URL]

17. [Yeoman, P., 2015. Habits and habitats: An ethnography of learning entanglement. Thesis. Faculty of Education and Social Work, the University of Sydney, Sydney.URL]

.