Abstract: The Application of Simulation-Based Learning to Promote Diverse Learning Experience in School Social Work: Developing Competencies in an Engaging and Experiential Approach (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

The Application of Simulation-Based Learning to Promote Diverse Learning Experience in School Social Work: Developing Competencies in an Engaging and Experiential Approach

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Capitol, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kevin Tan, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Jeanna Campbell, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Background and Purpose: Considerable evidence supports the use of simulation-based learning (SBL) to prepare social work students for clinical practice but SBL has yet to be studied within the field of school social work (SSW). This presentation features SBL as a pedagogical approach for teaching SSW students the skills, competencies, and values that are required for effective schools-based practice. Based on the Conceptual Framework of Understanding Simulation in Social Work Education, we feature the ways SSW learn from SBL through three pathways: holistic competence, experiential learning, and curriculum as engagement.

Methods: Twenty-four master-level SSW students participated in SBL in one of four school social work-related case scenarios. Twelve were voluntarily recruited for participation in two (N=6) hour-long focus group discussions regarding their learning experiences with SBL. All participants consented to being recorded for the duration of the focus group sessions. The transcriptions were analyzed using latent thematic analysis. Accordingly, coding was theoretically driven by the three learning pathways of SBL. Analysis was completed using NVivo version 1.3.

Results: Ten comments were coded for holistic competence, including aspects of performance, meta and cognitive competence. Regarding performing professional procedures, students shared that they thought in vivo practice of Individualized Education Plans (IEP) helped prepare them for professional practice, as well as with job interviews, “I think it helped me in my interview and being able to talk about what an IEP looks like because before that, I had no idea.” Twenty references were made to the experiential learning code. Students felt SBL helped broaden their understanding of social work practice beyond traditional learning environments, “...you don't know how you're going to react in the moment to...using those skills...you don't really think about that at all just sitting in the classroom. [SBL is] a test of...what you do know, what you can use in the moment, and how flexible you are with change.” Twenty codes were attributed to curriculum as engagement. Students shared that SBL provided ample opportunities for cognitive and affective changes; for example, students discovered cues to look out for when engaging with clients in different environments and how those cues can impact the professional interaction. “I think it was good to see the difference between entering someone else's space, their home and then them having to enter yours and seeing how that affects how nervous the client is vs how that affects how nervous you are.” Overall, SSW students reported their experience with SBL as positive and versatile, noting that they could “...see how [SBL] could just be applied in almost every class.

Conclusions and Implications: This presentation discusses the use of live SBL as a model of SSW curriculum. From this approach, students learned about SSW practice through creating new meaning and understanding from their lived simulation experiences. Preliminary findings support the integration of live simulations in the classroom as an effective pedagogical approach for SSW instruction.