Cultivating Practice-based Research
Confidence, Capacity and Capabilities in the Non-statutory Child Protection Sector
Keywords:Practitioner research, Child protection, Non-government organisations (NGOs), Research placements, Research capacity, Research partnerships
Research-informed practice is important for quality outcomes for service users, service provision and for local communities. If social work and welfare workers incorporate research knowledge into their practice, better outcomes are possible. However, practitioners can be ambivalent about undertaking practice-based research – they may lack confidence and skills or be too time-poor – particularly in grassroots non-government child protection services.
This article reports on a small study undertaken with 22 practitioners in the non-statutory child protection sector in North Queensland. This population was chosen due to the com- plexity of child protection practice, changes proposed after the Queensland Carmody enquiry, and the minimal literature discussing these practitioners’ research interests. The study aims were to explore the workers’ interest, experience and capacity to undertake research and to support social work research placements. Findings reveal that more confident practitioners were able to perceive the range of research resources available. Research confidence was more evident when workers had prior exposure to research. Further, practitioners with confidence in their ability to undertake research were more likely to take a student on a research place- ment. Unsurprisingly, available time was a factor impacting on their capacity to undertake research. Increased opportunities for undergraduate students to be involved in research can contribute to graduates’ confidence in doing so. Research placements may offer opportunities for practitioners to engage in research with students, confirming the benefits of practice-based research that, in turn, can contribute to organisations’ research capacity.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Welfare workforce. Release Date: 11 Sep 2019. Retrieved from https://www. aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/welfare-workforce
Australian Research Council. (2017). Engagement and impact assessment pilot 2017 report. Retrieved from https://www.arc.gov. au/file/5946/download?token=chR9gwjD
Australian Research Council. (2018). Research impact principles and framework. Retrieved from http://www.arc.gov.au/research- impact-principles-and-framework
Appleton, C., Rankine, M., & Hare, J. (2016). Research pods: Breaking down barriers, demystifying research for social work students and practitioners in the practice setting. Advances in Social Work & Welfare Education, 18(2), 107–122.
Beddoe, L. (2011). Investing in the future: Social workers talk about research. The British Journal of Social Work, 41(3), 557–575. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcq138
Beddoe, L., Yates, D., Fouché, C., & Harington, P. (2010). Practitioner research made easier: A report on the GRIP project.
Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 22(2), 22–36.
Blakemore, T., & Howard, A. (2015). Engaging undergraduate social work students in research through experience-based learning. Social Work Education, 34(7), 861–880.
Brun, C., & Lund, R. (2010). Real-time research: Decolonising research practices or just another spectacle of researcher– practitioner collaboration. Development in Practice, 20(7), 812–826.
Carmody, T. (2013). Taking responsibility: A roadmap for Queensland child protection. Retrieved from http://www. childprotectioninquiry.qld.gov.au/ data/assets/pdf_file/0017/202625/qcpci-final-report-web-version.pdf
Child Protection Systems Royal Commission. (2016). The life they deserve: Child Protection Systems Royal Commission Report. Volume 1: Summary and report. Retrieved from https://www.agd.sa.gov.au/sites/default/files/preface_summary_and_ recommendations.pdf?v=1491456705
Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). New Delhi, India: Sage Publications.
Department of Jobs and Small Business. (2019). Australian jobs. Retrieved from https://docs.employment.gov.au › system › files › doc › other › australianjob.
Fouché, C. (2015). Practice research partnerships in social work: Making a difference. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
Gehlert, S., Hall, K. L., & Palinkas, L. A. (2017). Preparing our next-generation scientific workforce to address the grand challenges for social work. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 8(1), 119–136.
Gravetter, F., & Wallnau, L. (2013). Statistics for behavioral sciences. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Gray, M., Sharland, E., Heinsch, M., & Schubert, L. (2014). Connecting research to action: Perspectives on research utilisation.
The British Journal of Social Work, 45(7), 1952–1967.
Hameed, M. (2018). Challenges and opportunities for innovation in child abuse and neglect research within the child welfare system in Australia. Children Australia, 43(1), 57–66. doi:10.1017/cha.2017.49
Harder, J. (2010). Overcoming MSW students’ reluctance to engage in research. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 30(2), 195–209.
Hart, S. N., Lee, Y., & Wernham, M. (2011). A new age for child protection – General comment 13: Why it is important, how it was constructed, and what it intends? Child Abuse & Neglect, 35, 970–978. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.09.007
Harvey, D., Plummer, D., Pighills, A., & Pain, T. (2013). Practitioner research capacity: A survey of social workers in Northern Queensland. Australian Social Work, 66(4), 540–554. doi:10.1080/0312407X.2012.754916
Harvey, D., Plummer, D., Nielson, I., Adams, R., & Pain, T. (2016). Becoming a clinician research in allied health. Australian Health Review, 20, 562–569. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH15174
Healy, K., & Lonne, B. (2010). The social work & human services workforce: Report from a national study of education, training and workforce needs. Strawberry Hills, NSW: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
Hewson, J. A., Walsh, C. A., & Bradshaw, C. (2010). Enhancing social work research education through research field placements. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(9), 7–16.
Hughes, M. (2016). Research engagement and impact challenges and opportunities. Australian Social Work, 69(4), 385–387. doi: 10.1080/0312407X.2016.1219976
Maidment, J., Chilvers, D., Crichton-Hill, Y., & Meadows-Taurua, K. (2011). Promoting research literacy during the social work practicum. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 23(4), 3–13.
McBeath, B., & Austin, M. J. (2015). The organizational context of research-minded practitioners: Challenges and opportunities.
Research on Social Work Practice, 25(4), 446–459.
Poulin, J., Silver, P., & Kauffman, S. (2006). Field notes: Serving the community and training social workers: Service outputs and student outcomes. Journal of Social Work Education, 42(1), 171–184.
Queensland Government. (2013). Queensland Government response to the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry ﬁnal report. Taking responsibility: A roadmap for Queensland child protection. Retrieved from https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/ resources/reform-renewal/qg-response-child-protection-inquiry.pdf
Smith, M., Cree, V. E., MacRae, R., Sharp, D., Wallace, E., & O’Halloran, S. (2016). Social suffering: Changing organisational culture in children and families social work through critical reflection groups – Insights from Bourdieu. British Journal of Social Work, 47(4), 973–988.
Tilbury, C., Hughes, M., Bigby, C., Fisher, M., & Vogel, L. (2017). A comparative study of Australian social work research.
British Journal of Social Work, 47(8), 2217–2237.
Tsey, K., Lawson, K., Kinchin, I., Bainbridge, R., McCalman, J., Watkin, F., ... & Rossetto, A. (2016). Evaluating research impact: the development of a research for impact tool. Frontiers in Public Health, 4(160), 1–11. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2016.00160
Vrentas, C., Freiwirth, C., Benatti, S., Hill, C., & Yurasek, A. (2018). Bridging the divide between the research and practitioner sectors. Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, 8(1), 93–103.
Wessells, E. (2015). Bottom-up approaches to strengthening child protection systems. Placing children, families and communities at the centre. Child Abuse & Neglect, 43, 8–21.
Zuchowski, I. (2019). Five years after Carmody: Practitioners’ views of changes, challenges and research in child protection.
Children Australia, 44: 146–153. https://doi.org/ 10.1017/cha.2019.14
Copyright (c) 2020 Australian and New Zealand Social Work and Welfare Education and Research
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.