Dr Carmel Halton

Dr Carmel Halton is Director of the Master of Social Work in UCC. She has been a social work educator for over 30 years. A primary concern is to promote reflective and reflexive e practices in social work education and in professional practice. She believes that reflective inquiry is central to maintaining competent and engaged social work practitioners and to promoting and sustaining ethically informed professional practice. Carmel has researched and published on reflection and her UCC IRIS profile represents her teaching, research and publication record to date. As a social work educator, she is committed to evaluating the effectiveness of reflective approaches to teaching and learning for students and graduates of professional social work programs. She has engaged with colleagues, across a range of disciplines, in researching the transfer and sustainability of the reflective process into the work environment. More recently her research has focused on examining how social workers in child protection practice use peer support groups to support reflective practice. This research has resulted in the identification of variables which both support and challenge practitioners’ engagement in reflective practice. Carmel has presented her research at national and international conferences e.g. American Educational Research Association (AERA), European Educational Research Association Conference (ECER), Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) Irish Association of Social Workers, Annual Conference (IASW) and the European Conference on Social Work Research (ECSWR)

Practice Masterclass: Promoting and Sustaining Reflection in Social Work Practice

A number of questions have guided the design of this Master class. While social work is in the main a public service activity, how many social work practitioners reflect on a regular basis on the meaning of their work and on the contribution it makes to the lives of service users and to the general public? In addition, have they asked the question, how has the work impacted on their own personal and professional development?

A question that has guided the development of this Master class is: How can social workers become more informed about, and thus more committed to developing their reflective abilities in professional practice? Reflective inquiry invites practitioners and students to engage in a process that sets out to help uncover and to engage with the complexities of practice. It involves critical inquiry into the social, political, personal, ethical and moral dimensions of the work. Reflection is not just an introspective exercise, it’s primary purpose is to pursue inquiry into ones practice and in the process to promote support change.

Engaging in reflection is not easy, students and practitioners have regularly spoken about the investment of time, the requirement of space and the real commitment that is involved. Dewey (1933, 1998) supports the views of others stating that reflective inquiry is not easy, certain attitudes of mind are necessary to support reflective engagement i.e. open-mindedness, wholeheartedness and taking responsibility for the reflective process. Dewey maintains that by engaging in reflection we must be open to the questions that emerge when reflecting on our practice, wholehearted and committed to exploring the challenges and dilemmas arising from our inquiry, and to the best of our ability, take responsibility for implementing the learning that emerges from the process.

Format of the Master class:

The Master class will be for 3 hours. It is designed as an interactive, experiential workshop style learning forum. Participants will be invited to participate in exercises and group discussions.

The learning objectives for the Master class are:

1. To familiarise participants with models of reflection
2. To introduce participants to some reflective tools i.e. written and verbal
3. To actively engage participants in reflection
4. To promote the development of reflective forums beyond the Master class.
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