Research Pods: Breaking down Barriers, Demystifying Research for Social Work Students and Practitioners in the Practice Setting


  • Cherie Appleton University of Auckland
  • Matt Rankine University of Auckland
  • Jenny Hare University of Auckland


Field placements, Research communities, Social work education, Research pods


Demystifying research for social work students and practitioners in practice is a necessary, and challenging, proposition for social work educators. Research pods have been established by the University of Auckland to facilitate integration of placements with continuous research opportunities for students and practitioners. The research pod concept in partnership with community social service organisations offers opportunities to robustly examine areas
of practice significant to service development and research competence. The student’s research work is augmented alongside their daily connection with clients on placement, assisting the dual purpose of exploration and evaluation for organisations and research learning “by doing”.

This study explores perspectives of students, practitioners and tertiary providers in the research pod partnerships. The following discourse represents the treasures uncovered from eight interviews with these stakeholders which focused on the research pods journey. Key findings include the strengths of research partnerships, the potential barriers to the sustainability of research pods, and development of future research pods towards enrichment of services for clients. Implications arising from this study reinforce the need to continue to develop a social work research culture and collaboration with key stakeholders in evidence based practice in the social services field.

Author Biographies

Cherie Appleton, University of Auckland

Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

Matt Rankine, University of Auckland

Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

Jenny Hare, University of Auckland

Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand


Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. (2015). Code of ethics. Christchurch, NZ: Author. Retrieved from www.

Beddoe, L. (2011). Investing in the future: Social workers talk about research. British Journal of Social Work, 41(3), 557–575.

Beddoe, L., Fouché, C., Harington, P., Light, G., Lunt, N., & Yates, D. (2006). Growing research in practice: The story so far. Social Work Review, 19(1), 39–50.

Beddoe, L., & Harington, P. (2012). One step in a thousand-mile journey: Can civic practice be nurtured in practitioner research? Reporting on an innovative project. British Journal of Social Work, 42(1), 74–93. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcr035

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2013). Successful qualitative research: A practical guide for beginners. London, England: Sage.

Cameron, P. J., & Este, D. C. (2008). Engaging students in social work research education. Social Work Education, 27(4), 390–406.

Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process. London, United Kingdom: Sage.

Drisko, J. (2014). Split or synthesis: The odd relationship between clinical practice and research in social work and in social work education. Clinical Social Work Journal, 42(2), 182–192.

Fouché, C., & Lunt, N. (2010). Nested mentoring relationships: Reflections on a practice project for mentoring research capacity amongst social work practitioners. Journal of Social Work. 10(4), 391–406.

Fouché, C., & Bartley, A. (2016). Teaching data analysis to the data-averse: A framework for educators. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 1–14. doi:10.1080/08841233.2016.1125231

Gibbs, A. (2012). What do social work students think social work research is? Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 24(2), 19–26.

Gibbs, A., & Stirling, B. (2013). “It’s about people and their environment”: Student social workers’ definitions of social work research. Social Work Education, 32(3), 317–330.

Hardcastle, D. A., & Bisman, C. D. (2003). Innovations in teaching social work research. Social Work Education, 22(1), 31–43.

Hewson, J. A., Walsh, C. A., & Bradshaw, C. (2010). Enhancing social work research education through research field placements. Contemporary Issues in Education Research (CIER), 3(9), 7–16.

Lunt, N., Fouché, C. B., & Yates, D. (2008). Growing research in practice (GRIP): An innovative partnership model. Wellington, NZ: Families Commission.

Macintyre, G., & Paul, S. (2013). Teaching research in social work: Capacity and challenge. British Journal of Social Work, 43,

–702. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcs010

Maidment, J., Chilvers, D., Crichton-Hill, Y., & Meadows-Taurua, K. (2011). Promoting research literacy during the social work practicum. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Review, 23(4), 3–13.

McLaughlin, H. (2011). Understanding social work research. London, UK: Sage.

Orme, J., & Powell, J. (2008). Building research capacity in social work: Process and issues. British Journal of Social Work, 38(5), 988–1008.

Plath, D. (2006). Evidence-based practice: Current issues and future directions. Australian Social Work, 59(1), 56–72. Rubin, A., & Babbie, E. (2008). Research methods for social work (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Social Workers Registration Board. (2016). Core competence standards. Retrieved from assessment/core-competence-standards

Wells, M., Maschi, T., & Slater, G. Y. (2012). Integration of research and practice: Innovations and challenges in social work programs. Social Work Education, 31(3), 331–346.

Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved from COPCommunities_of_practiceDefinedEWenger.pdf