Experiential Learning in Dementia Care for Social Workers

Experiential Learning in Dementia Care for Social Workers

Academic Year:
2013 - 2014 (June 1, 2013 through May 31, 2014)
Funding Requested:
Project Dates:
Chair Uniqname:
Overview of the Project:
This project will evaluate the experiential learning of social work students as they engage in an aging- related research intervention, the Couples Life Story Project (CLSP). The CLSP focuses on older couples in which one partner has memory loss, to help them review their shared life together, learn and practice communication techniques, and focus on their strengths as partners. Student interventionists are involved in this project both as practitioners and as researchers. We will examine the extent to which student interventionists' participation in the CLSP influences their understanding of dementia, clinical skills, research, and critical reflection. To address this research question, the co-investigators will conduct in-depth interviews with student interventionists at the end of their participation in the project and analyze their responses using qualitative analysis. Findings from this project will contribute to developing creative ways of incorporating experiential learning into social work education.
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:

To examine the ways in which the Couples Life Story Project is influencing student research assistants’ critical reflection skills and application of coursework to practice. To answer the following research questions: 1. Which parts of participation in the CLSP contribute to critical reflection abilities and self‐awareness? 2. To what extent does the CLSP experiential learning approach increase students’ interest in and knowledge about working with couples and with issues related to dementia? 3. To what extent does the CLSP experiential learning approach enhance students’ clinical skills?

Project Achievements:

This project has had an impact on both students and faculty as we have discussed and analyzed concepts related to critical reflection abilities. The graduate students who participated in exit interviews commented often about the value of team mentoring and the ways in which the project reinforced classroom learning. For the faculty co-directors, this was affirmation of the power of this approach to impact student learning and reflection. Beth Spencer has used some of the lessons learned and literature reviewed in her new mini-course on reflective social work practice. Berit Ingersoll-Dayton has talked about this critical reflection process in lectures that she has presented. There were two doctoral students (now both assistant professors in Schools of Social Work) who analyzed the data and worked with the project co-directors on the posters and the paper. One of the doctoral students, Minyoung Kwak, replicated CLSP in Korea after her graduation. She shared the CLSP experiential learning approach with other investigators in the project and used the learning approach when she worked with MSW students in Korea. The other doctoral student, Sojung Park, made a direct application of what she learned from the project in her new role of mentoring master and doctoral students as an assistant professor. In her research group meeting, she made sure to establish co-mentors or a group mentoring structure in which there is proactive engagement of all participants in group learning.

It has continued as we have worked on the paper cited below.
We have disseminated our work in our lectures as well as in conference poster presentations and paper submissions:
Poster: Embedding Reflective Practice in a Dementia Intervention. Presented at 5/14 CRLT Conference.
Revised poster: Embedding Reflective Practice in a Dementia Intervention: Effects on Student Learning. Presented at Gerontological Society of America Annual Conference, 11/14.
Paper: A Model for Team Mentored Reflective Practice in Social Work Education, has been submitted to Journal of Teaching in Social Work.