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1 CREATIVITY IN SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION October 2005 Norman Jackson, Higher Education Academy Hilary Burgess, SWAP Subject Centre Acknowledgements: The following people and departments are thanked for their thoughtful and insightful contributions to this study of creativity in social work and social work education. Ian Shaw, University of York; Caroline Skehill, Queens University Belfast; Mary Hopkins, Anglia Polytechnic University; Peter Ford, University of Southampton; Nigel Horner, Nottingham Trent University; Laura Steckley, Joint University of Glasgow and Strathclyde School of Social Work; Judy Hicks, Institute of Health and Social Care; Penny Lloyd, British Association of Social Workers; Mark Doel, Janet Seden, Liz Green, Goldsmiths College; Roger Hennessey, University of East Anglia; Pauline Noden, Bucks Chilterns University College; Lucille Allain, Barnet Council Social Services & Middlesex University; May-Chahal, Corinne University of Lancaster; Maggie Gee, University of Dundee; Sue Lampitt, Northumbria University; Andrew Thomas, Havering College; Tom Hopkins, SWAP. Purpose The purpose of this Working Paper is to promote discussion about creativity in social work education. The intention is to develop a rich picture of the perceptions and insights of higher education educators as to the way the idea of creativity is given meaning and operationalised in the field of social work. Readers are invited to develop or add to the propositions and ideas contained in the paper, or add alternative views, so that the paper more accurately reflects understandings about creativity in the thinking and practices in social work. Please send further contributions to Hilary Burgess [email protected] Introduction The Higher Education Academy’s Imaginative Curriculum project1 is encouraging higher education teachers and discipline communities to consider the role of creativity in students’ learning and their experiences of learning. Underlying this attempt to engage higher education are the working assumptions that: • Being creative is present in all disciplinary learning contexts, although we rarely use words like creativity to describe such things. • We all need to be creative (inventive/adaptive) in a world that is constantly changing: a world that requires us also to change/adapt. 1 DISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES ON CREATIVITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION 2 • Apart from those disciplines that explicitly recognise creativity as a central feature of their identity (like the performing arts and design), creativity is largely implicit in discussions about teaching and learning, However, teachers do value creativity, originality, flair and imagination in their students’ learning. Indeed some teachers believe that creativity is one of the hallmarks of excellence in learning and achievement. Underlying our project is the desire to show that creativity is an important part of being: it is integral to being a biologist, lawyer, historian or, in this case, a social worker or a social work educator. But being creative means different things in these different contexts for being. To test this proposition an email survey was conducted with the aim of gaining insights into how higher social work educators and social work practitioners understand creativity. Questions used to prompt discussion Q1. How are social workers creative? What is creative about being a social worker? What sorts of things do social workers do that are creative? Q2. What is it about the subjects within social work that stimulate and encourage teachers and students to be creative? Q3. How do teachers of social work help/enable students to be creative? What forms of teaching encourage/enable students to be creative? What contexts/conditions for learning encourage/enable students to be creative? Q4. How do teachers of social work evaluate students' creativity? How do you assess/reward creativity in social work education? What criteria do you use to evaluate creativity? Q5 What factors inhibit students' creativity in social work education? Q6 How important a place do you feel creativity currently occupies in the social work curriculum? Do you feel it is adequately valued? Contexts for creativity in social work and social work education Notes with permission from Social workers are required to make difficult decisions and to intervene to change and improve the circumstances of people’s lives. They deal with a range of problems and work alongside colleagues in other professions to plan and implement programmes of care and support. They help people to cope and deal with ill health, isolation, poverty, disadvantage, racism and other forms of discrimination. They often work with people in times of crisis to support them and to help them take control of their lives and live more independently. The profession demands maturity and a high level of personal commitment and social workers need to be open-minded and prepared to examine and even change their own attitudes and possible prejudices. It is difficult and challenging work and social workers must have patience, determination and be both physically and emotionally resilient. Social workers play a key part in a network of services operating within the community, residential, hospital or health related settings. They specialise in areas such as: child and family-care, including child protection work, fostering and adoption; work with offenders or people with substance misuse problems; work with adults with special needs such as learning disabilities, physical or mental health problems; work with elderly people. They work alongside the police, health and education services and increasing numbers of voluntary and independent agencies. The social worker may be an 3 advocate, negotiating on behalf of the service user, or be making decisions alongside other professionals to protect and prevent harm to vulnerable people. Social work environments include: • Local authority social services and health trusts, hospitals and GP practices. • Schools and other services and settings for young people. • Residential homes and day centres. • Voluntary sector social welfare organisations providing family, counselling and drug and alcohol treatment services. • Prisons, probation, police, youth offending and other criminal justice arenas. • Services associated with civil courts and family breakdown and divorce proceedings. • More or less anywhere the need arises. Since the rise of the competency frameworks and evidence-based practice in Social Work in the 1990s two contrasting approaches to social work education and training have been deployed in the UK. The first, and dominant, focus for education and preparation is on competence to practice. The second recognises that social workers ‘need to act creatively in practice, confronted as they are by sets of human circumstance that cannot always be predicted.’ The ultimate problem with the competence model is that it oversimplifies the nature of social work or, indeed, any professional activity. An application of core principles from the sociology of the professions helps to make this point. It has been observed (Jamous and Peloille, 1970) that a profession contains two elements, technicality and indeterminacy. A professional needs not only to master the technical aspects of the role (for which the competence model is well-suited) but also have a sufficiently sophisticated repertoire of responses to adjust to a more or less infinite range of circumstances, and the ability to judge what responses are appropriate to a given set of circumstances. That this perspective is applicable to social work has been demonstrated by Sheppard (1994). However, there is currently an overemphasis on the technical aspects of social work practice to the detriment of those areas that require the application of professional judgement (Lymbery 2003). Creativity in Social Work (participants’ responses italicized) Ultimately a Social Worker’s creativity is motivated by and directed to improving the lives and conditions of the people who need to be helped in society. People and their circumstances are infinitely variable, so cannot be represented by simple formulas or procedures. Much of the creativity of the social worker is directed to understanding and resolving or mediating the complex social problems that arise in unique, difficult and challenging circumstances. I think one way in which social workers can be creative is the use themselves (as persons) creatively. Social workers becoming a source of new things through imagination and hope. In social work, creativity means finding imaginative new ways of working with people who are referred or who come for help……This is in opposition to both the social scientific/determinist view of social work, and the current bureaucratic/managerialist view of the discipline. Each situation a social worker encounters is unique. Whilst some aspects may be held in common every intervention requires creative thinking about solutions that are tailored to individual or family needs. Social Workers are necessarily creative in responding to new scenarios for which formulaic responses are invariably inadequate. Social workers need to respond to unique situations with often limited resources. Networking, supporting families and neighbours and championing new ways of meeting need are all creative responses. 4 They often have to work with people who have unique, or a unique mixture of problems, who may not be seen as a priority by others and therefore require creative combinations of supports and services. Creative thinking, ‘out of the box’ etc is needed to come up with ideas and proposals which seem relevant to service users’ objectives and the remit of agencies (with possibly) something to offer towards resolution of problems or change. SWs have to constantly creatively juggle the balls of possibility and those of non-negotiable. SW theories and models are formed from a flexible creative mix of those from other disciplines. They cannot hide behind the certainty of one major theoretical view or discipline. They hope to create hope, where odds seem stacked against change or improvement. With restrictive budgets, they are often involved in complicated, creative accountancy. I think social work operates (or should be operating) on two levels: 1) our efforts with individuals and families, and 2) our efforts toward addressing and positively impacting social problems more generally. I think that challenging the pathologising positivist paradigm is an essential component of this. Stepping back and examining those taken for granted assumptions and beginning to think in a fundamentally different way requires creativity, among other things. The problems faced by social workers are sufficiently unfamiliar, complex and subtle to require the application of creativity and imagination to resolve them (Clark 1995). Given the many layers and how these layers interact and impact individuals and families, there are far too many factors, converging in far too complex a way, to simply apply a rational, left- brained approach to considering an individual or family’s situation and providing an ‘informed’ response. I think SWs have to be creative all the time as we are constantly confronted by situations we've never been confronted with before and have to help service users find a way out of difficulty. We have to be creative in making use of scarce resources and sometimes in 'getting round' systems. We have to be creative in using ourselves (as that is often all we have got) and in developing our own skills through reflective practice. I think being creative is a state of mind as much as a state of any 'objective' reality. Some people can see creativity in everyday life, others seem to think that creativity is something 'others' (creative types) do. Social workers are creative as they are continually engaged in trying to find imaginative solutions to difficult problems. This often occurs within organisations where there are limited resources that have been set up in particular ways. Services may have to be creatively 'customised ' to meet needs. This work should be undertaken with service users so that they are involved in the creative process of finding solutions. Social workers may, for example, communicate with children in ways that could be described as creative e.g. imaginative approaches to 'Life Story Books' or social workers who are chairing statutory reviews of looked-after children may make 'reward certificates' to acknowledge the contribution the child has made in the review or reward them for an activity at school or during leisure time. Social Workers seek to solve human problems. Sometimes there are simple, known ways of problem-solving but often you need to take an unusual step, this is being creative (Donald Schon saw this as a prerequisite of reflective practice). Creativity may be in finding unusual ways to access mainstream schooling or it may be about setting up a new community group. Given that social workers should generally not work with the routine (social work assistants may fill this role), creativity is intrinsic to their work. There is a big tie between creativity and reflective practice concepts (in the literature and in my teaching experiences). 5 I think that social workers are creative in that they take different pictures and understandings of situations and put them together as something new that can help people move forward out of entrenched situations. A good social worker should be able to think laterally when working alongside service users. It may be that resources seem limiting but, particularly when working with young people, social workers can be creative in how they work with them and their families if they are afforded the time to do so. An imaginative social worker, through building up a strong working relationship with their service user, can use their own skills, be they artistic, musical or communicative to enable the service user to work through issues and then encourage them to view the world more proactively. This needs to be linked to knowledge and theory and again the creativity comes from making these links. These responses contain within them the ideas of inventing something new or original (new ways of meeting need: new ways of working with people out of difficult situations; solutions for new situations/new scenarios; working with and around complex systems, resourcefulness, new ways of thinking resulting from challenging basic assumptions) and the consequent need for imagination and creativity to support this inventiveness. There is also a belief that social workers help others to re- create their lives by helping them move out of difficult situations or entrenched positions. They identify a number of contexts for creativity: • Grappling with unique situations and understanding complex situations and resolving or mediating unique problems. • Working with the problems of individuals. • Social problems more generally. • Engaging and mobilizing service/provider organisations and other forms of support. • Inventing new services/projects. A social worker’s creativity emerges through social interaction in their particular working/problem solving contexts. This is well illustrated by this respondent. The particular area of social work that I was involved in, residential child care, held great potential for creativity. Working with people requires a degree of spontaneity, flexibility and freshness in order to be effective, and I think creativity underlies these things. It’s about being responsive to the person and situation (and yourself, to some degree) in the moment. Working with children and young people offered what I found to be a rich context for creatively solving problems, structuring time, or looking at situations. Teaching kids how to play and have fun offered plentiful creative opportunities, as did learning how to structure the more difficult times of the day. For instance, meal times were often hairy, and I made a habit of finding riddles or trivia questions to ask at the table to keep the boys amused. Certain activities were in themselves creative (e.g. arts and crafts), and I often felt in a ‘creative zone’ when using humour, negotiating a sanction, or just planning a shift. I enjoyed those shifts best when I felt a good, strong creative energy, and I think the kids responded best to that energy as well. This story is infused with the idea of communication – through conversation, negotiation, riddles, trivia questions, play, humour, through art and crafts. The social worker cannot begin to understand a person’s problem(s) if they cannot communicate in ways that are meaningful and empathise with the individual’s situation. Communicating with people whose experiences of life and culture may be very different from the their own is a key focus for creativity Communication skills require creativity - finding the optimum means for expression for the individuals concerned, which vary considerably depending on the service user. They (social workers) also have to find ways of communicating with those whose ability to do so is impaired for some reason: pictures, music, sound and movement may all have a place. 6 Another key area for creativity is use of a variety of methods that do not just include 'talking interventions' but use tools like drawing, music etc to work with particular groups. A good example in learning disabilities is where social workers have found ways of accessing service user views and putting them down in a care plan in the words, symbols, that are useful to the service user. There exist ideas and guidance but each bit of work in this area will need creativity in thinking how to maximise sharing the report. Also interviewing, artistry of finding the right questions..... Creativity in social work practice often comes through the use of self – these are the same types of creative social skills that make some people popular at parties and as friends etc. They include the ability to use wit and humour to diffuse difficult situations or reframe how a situation or event is conceptualised and understood by those involved. The demonstration of genuine warmth and empathy demands creativity in terms of social skills. Manipulating others to act as you wish them to (and here I am thinking of other professionals, colleagues etc, rather than service users) is also a creative act. Thinking of novel solutions to problems that are not amenable to traditional or usual approaches is a rarer form of creativity – for example, I once worked with a man of 66 years of age who had been a composer throughout his working life, before becoming severely disabled. He wanted to attend a very local and forward-looking day centre for disabled adults where all sorts of creative activities and groups were run but was told his age precluded him (up to 65 only) and that he would have to go to an older person’s day centre, an idea that was anathema to him, as a young- feeling 66 year old. It is not ageist to point out that the activities on offer in the older person’s day centres held little interest for him and he did not relish mixing almost entirely with people 20 or 30 years his senior. I suggested he approach the centre for younger disabled adults and, rather than present in the role of service user, offer to share his knowledge and skills in classical music in some way. Three years on he was still running a very popular weekly ‘Music Appreciation Group’ and probably getting much more out of this that he would have done as a passive recipient of services. I felt this was creative thinking on my part and I remain proud of this piece of work. Creativity and Problem Working Is this a fair representation of the nature of problem working in social work? The core problem working process of the Social Worker is concerned with understanding and resolving or mediating the problems of her clients and securing the resources and support necessary to improve the conditions and situations of her clients. The process is often messy and iterative but for simplicity it might be represented as two stages, each of which requires both competency and creativity that combine to produce professional capability (Lymbery 2003). The initial problem working process is to work out what a client’s problems are then the focus shifts to securing the support and resources to resolve or mediate the problem. Social Workers draw on their creativity during the consultation process particularly when they are confronted with complex non-routine problems and situations. Some of the responses to this survey suggest that unique problems requiring creative solutions are the norm rather than the exception. Through conversations with their clients, and others in relationships with clients, that require them to both develop trusting relationships while maintaining objectivity, they have to find and understand the problem(s), formulate and test hypotheses about what is wrong and why it is wrong, and develop solutions (possible strategies for dealing with the problems). They must listen carefully to the client’s story, facilitate further enquiry through sympathetic questioning and reasoning, and gather factual information to inform their decisions through broader enquiry. The information gathered informs decisions/judgements about possible strategies which are then used to engage service providers and 7 other sources of support with the objective of securing the best support and resources for the client and perhaps the client’s family. Creativity within the initial problem working process is bound up with thoughtful and empathetic communication and enquiry aimed at facilitating the construction of a narrative that combines the client’s story with the clinician’s evaluative commentary from which hypotheses are created and tested, and ultimately judgements are made. The way the Social Worker engages with the client depends on their attitude and behaviour, their experiences and how they feel about them and how they respond to questioning. Every client is different and the SW’s creativity is used to create the best conditions for the client to tell their story, and for their story to be heard and understood by others who can help resolve the problem. The Social Worker is a creator and illustrator of stories. She helps people tell their stories in ways that reveal their situations and problems in order that they can be understood/diagnosed and addressed. She captures these stories in the forms that are appropriate and necessary to present her client’s case to argue for support on her behalf. Social Workers’ creative imagination might be directed to transferring themselves into the situations of the people they are helping in order to understand them better. Creativity is also bound up with the formulation and testing of hypotheses about the problems and their possible solutions, the blending of scientific evidence, socially constructed knowledge (through conversations with clients and others with knowledge of the client) and intuitive knowledge derived from experience. Jack Phelan has written about helping children and families to rewrite their personal stories from hopeless, incompetent, unworthy, etc., to hopeful, competent, worthy… He invites us to consider shifting away from trying to change kids’ behaviour to helping kids rewrite their personal stories. What a different way of looking at things, but when I look back, it resonates with my own experiences of seeing positive transformation in kids. Helping kids to change their stories involves less talk, and more opportunities to experience themselves differently. Providing and helping them manage these opportunities is pretty sophisticated practice, and requires creativity. Social Workers grapple with complex social problems, often in emergent/evolving situations that typically do not have simple solutions. Such problems have to be viewed holistically in order to be understood but interpretations have to be developed on the basis of incomplete evidence. While there are strongly convergent forces and much analytical reasoning within the process there is also a need for imagination and divergent forms of thinking to ensure that all reasonable possibilities are explored. The SW has to keep an open mind. Creativity is involved in making sense of disparate and fragmentary evidence. Creativity is manifested in: thinking ‘outside the box’; thinking laterally and speculatively as a way of moving beyond the more obvious; keeping an open mind and not closing off possible courses of action; inventing hypotheses to guide decision making. I think it could be argued it is a vital component of a good social worker. If creativity is looking outside the box, seeing things from a different perspective or experiencing oneself differently, then effectively doing and promoting these things in others are essential for good practice. Thom Garfat, amongst others, has written about meaning making—the processes by which individuals construct meaning, and how we co-construct meaning with them—and how attending to these processes is a vital component of effective intervention. I think by attending to these processes, we are better equipped to see through the eyes of our clients. This insight reveals the importance of the Social Worker trying to see the world in the way the people they are trying to help see it. Resolving or mediating a problem will depend to a large extent on the social worker’s ability to harness resources (financial, material, professional expertise). Resourcefulness in acquiring scarce 8 resources which help people and improve their conditions and circumstances is another important focus for creativity and is the central concern of the second stage of social work problem working. At the most mundane level such things as getting money for a homeless family out of the benefits office at 4.15 p.m. on a Friday afternoon counts as pretty creative in my book! At a broader level, social workers work with few resources, often in hostile situations, with few hard and fast boundaries (except the law, social policy and procedures). All of this calls for creativity of a kind. Developing and maintaining good working relationships with people in other organizations is crucial as is the ability to communicate, persuade, negotiate and make complex and timely connections so that resources are brought to bear on the particular issue. The Social Worker must create partnerships with resource providers and act as a broker to make things happen (brokerage: an intentional act in which the broker seeks to work in collaborative and creative ways with people, ideas, knowledge and resources to solve a complex problem or change something – adapted from Jackson 2003). Social Workers often have to build bridges between organisations (such as Health, or Education, or Housing) who are more routinely set in narrow service frameworks, with set roles and responsibilities. Beyond the performance of prescribed tasks, the relationship between service user and practitioner is a creative dynamic, and should be cherished as such. Social workers need to be creative to explore ways of working that don't necessarily use limited resources but can foster more meaningful and tangible solutions to the issues they face with their service users. This involves risk taking. Creating new services/projects/groups within a constrained job description − the project takes creativity and making the case for doing it sometimes takes creativity as well as research and reasoned argument. They also have to find new ways of working both with service users and other professionals in a more general way. A lot of creativity takes place in finding resources and solutions to individual situations. They may use their own talents to work directly with service users, use other organisations/ people to enable and empower, provide or link service users to resources which may change their lives. They come into situations that have already proved 'difficult to manage' for a range of individuals, families, professional groupings and then work to provide (in partnership with all interested others) solutions that work out in practice in people's lives. They are therefore creative on a day by day basis on a whole range of small and large activities in the sense of 'making something happen’. "Old-fashioned" values of "make do and mend", "make something out of very little" are incredibly important forms of creativity in social work on a day to day basis − even when well resourced, we will always find there is something that isn't quite right or is too expensive. Being creative with a variety of resources/people, who may not be used to working together − both in individual cases and also when you can see that there are common needs between organisations or common needs and it would be win-win, and cost effective for something to be done together e.g. from practice − getting child care and adult care to collaborate on running a nursery in a residential establishment for older people from education and practice − everyone needs service user involvement, so LAs, voluntaries and HEIs can collaborate on training, supporting, researching how this is best managed. Or getting students on architecture/interior design course to work with student SWs in making positive changes to environments for particular groups − video production 9 students to provide expertise to SW students and Service Users making a video together. Lack of traditional services and/or a willingness to utilise other resources can drive creativity on the part of social workers, as long as they detach the ‘needs’ or aspirations of their clients from the services that would normally be provided. I once compared the cost of a respite stay at a ‘Residential Home’ with a holiday abroad with the Winged Fellowship Trust (Euro Disney, in fact) and there was little to choose between the two in terms of cost. The Resource Panel accepted my argument that the Winged Fellowship Holiday would offer at least as much in terms of ‘meeting needs’ although if they had been sticklers for regulation in terms of Health & Safety the decision may not have been favourable. In one team we were quite keen on using those doing community service to decorate for disabled and older people. Creativity also comes in the form of risk-taking and supporting risk-taking – Mr Blair recently spoke about the need to move away from the increasingly risk-averse culture we seem to be developing and on this I agree with him. Social Workers work with people who are having to cope with complex and unfamiliar administrative and bureaucratic systems. A good deal of creative energy is expended in helping people overcome the perceived or real barriers created by the administrative and regulatory world. I think a major space for creativity is where social workers interpret policy and procedure in a reflective and thoughtful way rather than technical way. Social workers can be creative in using their discretion and autonomy to act as a buffer against harsher objective forces like legislation and procedure and ensure that service users receive the best service possible within a context where there are often many constraints. Being a bit creative with the truth, but more creative in expression/writing in order to make the service user appear to fit a criteria more exactly than they do (I know it's a bit dodgy ethically, but I am sure you know what I mean when I say this is sometimes the right thing to do) − being able, in the very few words available on forms/referral letters and without being subjective or judgmental, to be able to bring the service user alive in the mind of the reader or the next social worker. i.e. to use creativity in writing to enhance person-centred practice by others. Competency clearly underlies the professional actions of the social worker but in some responses there is sense of using competency creatively. There are a range of identifiable skills that are used creatively as well as competently, for example a few are: • engaging with people in relationships: often with a whole range of people in society including many people whose behaviours can be complex to understand or whose communication modes are different from your own or where assistance is needed. • developing the capacity to understand the world view of the other across class, culture, religious perspective • being able to network effectively in a range of professional groupings and communities • the ability to make with others complex decisions about someone else's life course /situation • abilities in forming and co-ordination and facilitating meetings, groups etc. All these are areas where a certain level of basic and advanced competence can be taught: but because every person's situation is unique the challenge is to make creative use of your learned skills and own ability, and the abilities of others to come to innovative solutions that are good enough, the least damaging or destructive and preferably life enhancing in a particular situation. The applications vary according to setting but examples are: the best residential placement for an older person/support package at home; life story work with children looked after; maintaining children at home with parents in the community carefully and creatively when the risk of harm is to be assessed and monitored etc. There’s some creative work around this at the moment in the 10 solution focused approach. Sources of Stimulation From the views expressed above and throughout this document the primary sources of stimulation for creative thinking and action are the real world problems and challenges that social workers encounter every day of their lives. Examples of sources of inspiration/motivation: Stimulation from people and their individual problems • the infinite variety of human beings • working with people to help resolve their problems • seeking to engage and communicate with vulnerable people in a meaningful way • the need to make practical applications to life situations for each unique individual in their own unique context • close encounters with poverty and emotional deprivation • responding to constantly changing dynamics • bringing more order to the chaos of some people’s lives • helping students to become more self-aware stimulation from the subject • encounters with other social workers especially from other countries • the discursive nature of the subject • social sciences encourage/require creative thought stimulations from the system • engaging with the apparatus of the state to develop case law and argue for change • working out how to deliver/support new imperatives of the state • responding to continuous change in social policy and legislation • working within rigid systems (legal, NHS etc) on behalf of the individual, lead social workers need to be creative in getting around bureaucracy and seeking individualistic solutions • counteracting or actually making technocratic and managerialist approaches work It is the potential for infinite variety in working with human beings that can stimulate creativity. This can be sharpened by close encounters with poverty, and with emotional deprivation and abuse. I believe most of the social sciences encourage/require creative thought − or at least imaginative thought; the ability to literally think outside the box (it used to be more like blue skies) in both understanding and responding to constantly changing dynamics in whatever contexts people work. The subjects encourage students to think in new ways about 'old' problems and to reframe problems in different ways. There is never one service user, family, or group exactly the same as another and therefore different ways of working and communicating are always needed. Learning about yourself and how and why you behave promotes understanding of others and what’s more fascinating than yourself? Human behaviour is complex and varied – some are stimulated by a need to make a difference; a spiritual sense of the world ; others just want to see more order in the chaos of people’s lives and their own. I think social work is a subject that one cannot just objectively learn − one has to engage subjectively with the subject matter in terms of the knowledge, values and skills required. For 11 example, you have to be creative to help students to learn values − just telling them about them will never work so that requires us as educators to think creatively about how you help students to learn about self-awareness, reflective practice; their own attitudes and prejudices etc. The other motivation for creativity in social work is the current climate which can be so technocratic and managerialist that absence of a creative approach to learning is likely to result in social work education being dull and driven only by concern with benchmark statements and key roles. My most recent experience of students and teachers being stimulated to think about their practice, has been the involvement of young service users on the social work programme. Their questions, feedback, experiences and suggestions have made us all think very carefully about our practice. The students also helped the service users to make a video for inclusion on the course and for some, it was the first time they had worked alongside service users as colleagues. All sorts of ideas about practice came out in the discussion of the role plays. Creativity can be stimulated by encounters with social workers and social work academics from other countries (e.g. I know social work academics from Bombay/Mumbai who simply closed down their academy for four weeks and took their students off to work with gassed families in Bhopal). What stimulates me (and I hope students) − although I think that the recent history of social work and social work education has encouraged an emphasis on instrumentality rather than creativity which equation needs a bit of rebalancing − is the discursive nature of the subject and the need to make practical applications to life situations for each unique individual in their own unique context. Also as society itself changes and legislation responds there is a sense in which social workers are at the cutting edge of this interaction between the individual and the apparatus of the state- which again requires creativity as the case law can follow practice and this requires some effort by social workers, managers and academics to identify changes and argue for them. Sensible imperatives from government/GSCC etc can give impetus for creativity e.g. having to include service users, ECDL, multi-professional practice, evidence based practice − having it in black and white that you have to do it as well as the fact you want to, because it is good practice, focuses organisations to be creative. Maybe subject-wise, the fact that social policy and legislation change so frequently and the make up of society changes, makes you constantly re-evaluate and from that, creativity is likely to spring. Even some of the "change for change sake" things actually stimulate new thinking. Direct work with vulnerable people and the effort of seeking to engage and communicate with them in a meaningful way. The need to apply theory to practice requires creative thinking. Skills, methods and models teaching emphasise this. Ethics sequences are often dilemma based and require a problem- solving and therefore creative approach. It may also be that working within rigid systems (legal, NHS etc.) on behalf of the individual lead social workers to be creative in getting around bureaucracy and seeking individualistic solutions. A skeptical view! I find this hard. Has an assumption that there is something intrinsically present in social work that produces, potentially at least, something called creativity. We'd probably gets lots of answers about being reflective, facilitating, empowering and the like which may not take us very far. 12 Forms of teaching and contexts/conditions that encourage/enable students to be creative Social work teachers identify a huge range of teaching and learning methods through which students’ creativity can be promoted. The methods tend to be those that result in active engaged learning – students doing things to learn often collaboratively. They are methods that encourage open-ended exploration through problem working and story telling. They sometimes/often combine techniques, for example creative thinking/problem working with problem based learning or scenarios. They require forms of teaching that are facilitative rather than based on transmission. teachers of social work must adopt facilitative styles of working, they must model a creative approach for the students to develop more personal creative styles of learning and they must be prepared to take risks themselves with new teaching/learning resources, new methods of assessment and evaluation. Problem working • EAL/Problem based learning – students learning to problem-solve throughout. • Learning approaches such as PBL, EBL, community profiling, group work, use of arts (music, drama, literature) all have the potential for creativity. • EAL sequence involving service user visits brought surprises and thoughtfulness in big doses to students. • Chaotic environments exercises. • Group/problem working based experience is vital for this process. Teachers have a vital role in the facilitation process and the provision of resources to allow the students to think broadly in an informed way. Case studies and scenarios • Challenging scenarios/creative thinking/problem working techniques. • The opportunity to work on case studies and to exercise judgement and then compare and contrast with others. • Practice on real scenarios, case studies, inquiry reports etc. • Presentations, poster presentations (both in groups), live role play, VIG, Chaotic environments exercises, self awareness and many other kinds of exercises in skills teaching, portfolio and electronic portfolio work – all these methods encourage creativity in the responses of students. • Case discussions at college, during placement, can allow students to help each other think creatively. They share methods and interventions, plus articles, videos and other resources which can assist in their work with service users. • Discussion in small groups, case studies. • Challenging "Make do and mend" scenarios where students have to help a group/service user meet a need, then say you are taking away a particular service and they've got to do it without that, take away another one and so on. • A virtual client with a rather wild task to perform, like bungy jumping and then take away the unfortunate person's limbs/senses/faculties one by one − could introduce competition, another spur to creativity at this point, by having teams and the first team who can't find a way to help their service user bungy jump, loses. Story telling/drama/role play/self-observation • Group story telling, experiential exercises, including role play, more use of drama techniques in college. Case discussions, team meetings and good supervision in placement. • Use of video/drama. • Use of video for self observation; use of tasks completed and presented to others in group. • Helping students to see the 'whole picture' and the 'whole person' i.e. the service user as actor in their own lives and the contributions of a whole range of people when interventions are needed and planned. 13 Group work • Through focused small group work that uses a variety of methods (e.g. buzz groups, fish bowl exercises, quizzes, set case study tasks, policy development exercises etc.) and where learning from these exercises is facilitated through good feedback, encouraging students to write up their discussions and share them, etc. Relating to professional practice/work environments • Practice Learning enables students to work on 'live' cases and provides the opportunity for creative (or risk taking) teachers to offer flexible learning that responds to such scenarios, rather than slavishly following set curricula. • The Practice Learning Log, worked on throughout the programme, provides a stable stem on which to develop and engender creative learning. Learning rich in experience Study visits − abroad for preference − taking people out of known environments is bound to stimulate creativity, because you get a wider variety of opinions, see different ways of looking at things and have to be creative in achieving what you have to do in a new environment e.g. overcoming communication barriers, finding your way around etc. Specific creative approaches • Creative writing. • Use of creative arts. • Sculpturing. • Creative thinking techniques like brainstorming, and problem solving techniques. Strategies that can no longer be used • The residential weeks on the old CSS course were wonderful, now lost, opportunities for students to develop creativity and share it. • We used to have creative days! On such days students would share creative parts of their lives in and out of work. • We train more social workers, but we do not use poetry, Mozart and modern novels in the ways that we once did. Conditions that support students’ creativity • Confidence and a positive drive from staff about the value and practical usefulness of what is delivered and the ability to accept and respond honestly to students queries and reservations. • Willingness to move with live and new issues as they come up (and they will). • The attitudes and values of teachers and the extent to which their practice is reflective and in partnership (as above). • Teachers need to model creative attitudes and practices when they work with their teaching- related problems and show students this. • Trusting relationships: an atmosphere of trust and a contained environment - also a pleasing environment are important: willingness to expose own feelings and beliefs. • A climate of openness and discussion about knowledge for applied social work, especially around values and especially the relationships between the personal and professional. • Perhaps a grounding in ones own experience helps people to stretch enough to engage in material creatively. I also think people need to feel emotionally safe and that their views or contributions are valued before many of them will venture into creative territories. • Practices that enable students to understand clearly their role and remit in society and to understand and live with the risks. • Praising success rather than criticising failure is the key to unlocking creativity. • Supportive and engaging environment. To achieve space for creativity, use of effective on-line 14 resources is crucially important and helpful − by using on-line resources, you can provide students with a range of materials to read before class, you can give basic information leaving room for discussion in class etc. Online communication through discussion forums is another example of potential for creative learning alongside face-to-face encounters. Self-directed (but properly supported) student learning is also highly effective, I find. • Well-resourced small group teaching pursuing imaginative learning outcomes helps. • Students have to be helped to buy into the notion of an organic learning environment, where everything is not screwed down and predictable. • University classrooms do not generally foster a creative spirit i.e. rows of desks, awful chairs, the whiteboard in dominance, etc., etc ...I take students away from the university setting if possible − to art centres, to creative departments in hospitals to the sculpture and art departments • Giving students the time to learn basic skills well: interviewing; report writing; administration; court presentation etc. • Creating opportunities to simulate practice; use of video for self observation; use of tasks completed and presented to others in group. • Giving time to personal dilemmas, especially ethical ones. • Providing the means to understand research process and the use of research outcomes relevantly and the nature of evidence. • Time on discussing the nature of informed judgements and decision making and accountability. Practice on real scenarios, case studies, inquiry reports etc. • Helping students to appreciate the boundaries and constraints within which they will work then showing them that they can still be creative and work across or shift the boundaries a bit. • Humour definitely stimulates creativity − comedians are incredibly creative in the way they juxtapose things or look at things from a different angle, so listening to comedians must be...