Project Investigator(s): Kelly Allison, Instructor, School of Social Work; Marie Nightbird, Instructor, School of Social Work; Charles Grant, Associate Professor, School of Social Work
Interpersonal and verbal communication skills are central to effective social work practice. Social workers often rely on communication and interviewing skills to make sense of complex situations including difficult behaviors in diverse contexts. Consequently, active listening, paraphrasing to convey understanding, empathic responses to attune to emotions and how to ask effective questions are all essential communication skills for social work students to learn. Anecdotally, students have told us that the feedback they receive from other students during their practice session has helped them improve their skills. Therefore, we would like to investigate the impact of peer learning on the development of communication skills for social work students. Peer learning can be defined as “students learning from and with each other in both formal and informal ways” (Boud et al., 2001; p 4). While there is a plethora of literature regarding the benefits of peer feedback in composition work (written work), we would like to know if peer learning is an effective pedagogical tool in oral communication skill development. This project proposes to inquire about the perceived benefit of using both informal verbal peer feedback as well as a formalized peer written feedback assignment using the Collaborative learning annotation system (CLAS) on the development of social work student communication skills.
Does a peer feedback process enhance learning of communication skills for social work students? Does a formalized peer feedback process (CLAS assignment) have more of an impact on learning than informal verbal feedback? Why? What aspect of the peer feedback process (providing or receiving feedback) has the greatest impact on the learning? How did the students use the feedback to evaluate their own skill level? Were there any other benefits emerging from the peer feedback processes?
Impact on teaching and learning at UBC
Interpersonal and verbal communication skills are fundamental skills for many professional disciplines. This project can potentially contribute to improved pedagogy for teaching these necessary professional skills in both social work and other disciplines. This study may support using a video fragment rating tools (CLAS) to enhance learning of verbal communication skills in a variety of disciplines. This type of pedagogy also allows students to be introspective and make judgements about their own skill development. Cheng and Warren (2000) suggest that students who engage in this type of learning experience deeper learning and become more reflective and autonomous learners. Self-reflection and self-determination are important professional skills that will benefit both social work and other professional discipline students as they transfer their classroom learning to the professional work environment.