From beginner to graduate social worker: Preliminary findings of an Australian longitudinal study

Martin Ryan, Jan Fook, Linette Hawkins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    39 Citations (Scopus)


    Summary: A central issue for social work educators is to delineate the process of how social work students become competent practitioners. Previous literature has tended to concentrate on value and attitudinal change as a result of education. The authors are currently engaged in a five-year longitudinal study of a cohort of 39 Victorian social workers which explores this issue, as well as the changes in knowledge, skills and theory use. The study also explored whether the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition was applicable in social work. This paper describes the study and its preliminary findings at mid-point in the study with respondents having completed two years of social work education and now practising as social workers. Participants have been interviewed twice yearly and data consists of participants' descriptions of critical incidents from their course experience and responses to case vignettes. After content analysis, preliminary findings indicate that some stages similar to the Dreyfus model, can be identified. Particular themes emerged including a predominantly individualizing approach to problems, a reluctance to deal with men and situations involving conflict and a disillusionment about the nature of social work. Some implications of these findings, including competency-based education, are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)17-35
    Number of pages19
    JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 1995


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