Social Work to Social Worker (SW2SW)© is an innovative project designed to develop intentional and vibrant networks of professional social workers mentoring each other at all levels from community college to the PhD level with the goal of facilitating lifelong learning and professional development. This model has two unique aspects: 1 – learning is constructed as a mutually collaborative multilevel process, and 2 – a parallel process intentionally incorporating the values of diversity/difference and justice is integrated.
Focusing on lifelong learning and professional development is crucial in the social work profession for these 5 reasons:
- The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that “employment of social workers is expected to grow by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be due to an increase in demand for health care and social services but will vary by specialty.” This rapid increase means more new, inexperienced social workers who need supervision, mentoring, and access to experienced professionals.
- The baby boomer generation of social workers are beginning to retire increasing the knowledge and skill gap, particularly in the areas of community practice which historically, was how many of these boomer social workers were trained.
- Social workers at all levels of practice experience burnout at higher rates than other professions increasing their risk to compromise practice and ethics and/or leave the profession altogether.
- Social work education at the BSW and MSW level varies widely across the US meaning a big difference in levels of readiness and professional competence and confidence of new social work graduates and the need for additional enrichment, mentoring, and supervision especially in the first 2-3 years of practice.
- Social work professionals rarely consider presenting or writing about their knowledge/skills/practice experiences in peer-reviewed settings meaning there is a need for a mechanism to teach this specific skillset as a way of reducing the widening gap between social work practice and research.
(SW2SW)© is an innovative project based on the concepts of problem-based learning and reflective practice. By developing networks of professionals at all levels of practice in communities across the US, the transmission of knowledge, skills, and values takes place via various levels. In this model mutual collaboration is emphasized, experienced social workers are identified as a coach and expert who models a task so less experienced professionals can “observe and build model of the processes required to accomplish the task” and then offers encouragement, feedback, and hints to the professionals in terms of task performance. This model also focuses on articulation (moving professionals toward clearly articulating their knowledge, reasoning, or problem-solving processes). The use of reflection and exploration is also considered key to examining the problem-solving and skill development process.
Currently, this project is being implemented in southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia, and Northern Alabama for the next 6 months and will be come widely available in January, 2014. If you are interested in joining the core working group please send an email with your contact information and areas of practice expertise and interest to: firstname.lastname@example.org.