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Beyond happy faces - evaluating the impact of training on practice

Paper presented at JSWEC Conference 2008. Social workers are required to undertake continuing professional development to maintain their registration (GSCC 2006). Employers are also expected to provide opportunities for continuing professional development to their staff (GSCC 2002, no 3.3) and many spend considerable resources providing in-service training courses as one way of fulfilling this. Questions remain whether what courses teach is actually used in practice (i.e. what impact does training have on practice). Increasingly inspectors are making recommendations that organisations develop systems to measure the impact of training and ensure that learning about research and evidence-based outcomes is embedded in practice (e.g. Ofsted 2008, p. 13, 29). This interactive workshop will start with a brief presentation discussing the methodology and preliminary findings from an ongoing research project evaluating the impact of a mandatory internal training programme on practice within a social work service provider. This is an attempt to move beyond ‘on-the-day’ participant feedback forms to research (using both quantitative and qualitative data drawn from approximately 1500 employees) that measures the changes in practice as a result of using skills developed through training. The presentation will be followed by a facilitated discussion about the following key issues: What are the inevitable ‘trade-offs’ of doing this kind of ‘real world’ research? How can cost effective research about internal courses become part of systematic processes in social work so that it is embedded in the organisation? How can internal training become more research minded? How can the transfer of knowledge to practice best be measured?

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