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Find out about the workshops that Martin Kettle and Pearse McCusker ran as part of our pilot work in the west of Scotland that informed the approach to the NQSW supported year.

We are supporting the workforce to develop their capacity to embed personal outcomes approaches in their day-to-day practice and deliver better outcomes for people using services.

Find out about the work and the range of learning and development resources for you Personal outcomes – Scottish Social Services Council

Please note that these links will take you to external sources out of the SSSC NQSW website.

Find out more about this area of work and the resources that can support your learning and development Palliative and end of life care – Scottish Social Services Council

Developing professional knowledge

Supervision is an important component of shaping professional knowledge and development as an NQSW’s practice develops. Professional knowledge is drawn from theories, research findings and practice experience (Drury and Hudson, 1997); those forms of knowledge include: theoretical knowledge, personal knowledge, practice wisdom, procedural knowledge and empirical knowledge.

The SSSC guidance for professional learning is included on the NQSW requirements page. This reinforces the message that professional learning takes many different forms.

Feedback from the pilot work was that NQSWs wanted to move away from what feels like academic training and learning. Setting up and running a peer group (see the peer reflective practice section) with other frontline workers creates reflective and action learning. The SSSC refreshed approach to CPL is about recognising and recording when learning has taken place and logging this accordingly.  

IRISS, argues that practice wisdom integrates a wide range of knowledge. This will include theories and relevant research to our thoughts and feelings in response to casework. Study participants reported that evidence was relevant information from case histories, notes, observations and reports from other professionals but less from theoretical or research sources.

After qualifying, we can still benefit from support to maintain your awareness of research knowledge and to become more skilled at making connections between casework activities and the human factors that inform our decision making.

Supervision is not the only way for workers to develop their professional knowledge and other methods are often used to complement staff development. Tsui et al (2017), argues that a ‘future path of supervision will be a form of organisational learning, where social workers rely not only on supervision, but also mentorship, consultation and coaching’.

The SSSC approach to continuous professional learning (CPL) is about recognising and recording when learning has taken place and logging this.

Developing your knowledge may include visiting and creating learning accounts at resources such as Social Service Knowledge Scotland (SSKS). A specific guide for NQSWs is also provided by SSKS.

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Useful ideas

  • We recommend the SSSC MyLearning app which puts your learning at the centre.
  • This is a smartphone-based service available to anyone.
  • The app helps you record your learning whenever and wherever it happens.
  • You can get reminders to reflect on your learning activities.
Network of social workers

Shared by NQSWs

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Reflective questions

  • Reflect on how you record your learning from practice
  • When does learning happen for you?
  • What different ways of developing your knowledge and skills can you think of?
  • How could you evidence that in your learning logs?
  • How can you continue to access knowledge to support you to improve work with people who use services and contribute to your organisation’s learning?

Go to NQSW supervision resource 7 – NQSW wellbeing and resilience needs


As part of the suite of supervision information and resources, we include here some learning and development materials for managers, supervisors and employers.

Adaptable materials for your organisation

We offer some adaptable training materials which your organisation can use online or face to face to provide learning sessions to NQSWs.

These are notes for people facilitating learning sessions for each suggested half-day training session for either NQSW or their supervisors. These notes include some learning from themes arising from the presenters and participants in test sessions.

The intended audience for these materials includes experienced supervisors who wish to train others who are either new or established supervisors of NQSW.

This recognises that in smaller organisations or in rural or remote offices there may not be readily available social workers with a learning and development role.

The materials include an example of a simple one-page feedback form you may consider using locally to help you adapt the materials as you develop the training with an intention of creating an off-the-shelf option that could then be adapted to suit local needs.

These materials would not be suited to a mixed group of NQSW and their supervisors without significant revision.     

We would recommend that you take time to read the supervision and professional development overview along with the supporting materials on this website and integrate this information into your session.

In the test session that we ran, the overview for either NQSW or their supervisors was used as pre-reading to reduce direct input from the trainer and to create discussion applied to experience in practice and group work among the participants.

This session for NQSWs includes two experiential components around contracting and negotiating individual supervision and introducing a model for peer group supervision.

“The training made me think more about the supervision I give to everyone, not just NQSWs”

Experienced supervisor

The session for supervisors was developed following consultation with the sector and benefits from initial testing out. The training materials include a pack of suggested slides, trainer notes, a pre-reading overview and an evaluation template all of which can be adapted to local needs.

“The supervisors training session was helpful, delivering further sessions ourselves would be good as it is such a huge undertaking to roll that out and to ensure that everyone is getting the same standard of supervision”

Local Authority Manager

There are notes for the session included for you to download. You can download and adapt both the presentations and the notes. The content is for you to take and expand or apply locally as you wish within the wider framework of standards and ethics for NQSWs and the supported year. This approach is sometimes known as remixing and attributions/references within slides to original material need to be maintained in any remix. Although these materials are offered to be adapted locally, it is really important to note the context of these and the supporting information.

There are many more related resources allowing you to go into more depth should you wish to expand the training beyond the half-day session outlined.

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Useful ideas

  • We will be using these materials in the next stages of our national project and would love to hear about what you think.
  • Let us know how these might be used in your organisation

Training material downloads

This learning resource is from SSSC Learning Zone. Every day we have to make decisions relating to our roles. Some of these are straightforward and easy to make, while others are more difficult and may involve a range of options.

We are all accountable for the decisions that we make in our roles, so making a ‘wrong’ choice could mean that you have to justify why you made it, particularly if it leads to poorer outcomes for people who use your services. This learning resource provides you with some challenging decisions, which enables you to see how your decisions might affect the outcomes of people if you had to make them in real-life situations.

In this learning resource, you will find a number of scenarios that relate to your work role. All the scenarios reflect real situations and dilemmas in which workers have made ‘wrong’ decisions that have led to investigations about their actions. They include aspects that commonly arise in such cases.

It is important that the scenarios reflect real situations as closely as possible to enable learners to relate to these. Therefore, a few of the scenarios contain language and terminology that may offend some people, however, this must be placed in the context of providing realistic issues and dilemmas for learners to develop their decision making skills.

There are five pathways – Managers; Supervisors; Social Workers; Adult Care; Child Care. Choose the pathway that most closely relates to your current role.

Peer support and mentoring

Peer support has been consistently identified as one of the most significant sources of support for NQSWs.  Employers and supervisors will make arrangements for formal peer support for an NQSW with an identified peer.  They will also encourage a culture of wider informal peer and colleague support. Peer support and mentoring are a core element of an effective approach to the NQSW supported year in Scotland.

NQSWs can learn informally from colleagues and peers through offers such as shadowing, informal debrief or general assimilation of the ethos and culture of an individual or wider team.  They also have a valuable contribution to make to the learning of others through the exchange of knowledge. 

Where employers have an existing mentoring scheme, NQSWs may benefit from provision of mentoring during the NQSW supported year.  Mentoring provides opportunities to discuss work-related issues and generate possible solutions to challenges. There are several definitions of mentoring, many evolving to suit the context and purpose of the individual setting, however, all models will have the mentee firmly at the centre, with reflective practice the cornerstone.  If mentoring is used, there needs to be clearly defined roles for the mentor and the supervisor.   

What is peer mentoring for NQSWs?

Meetings with a mentor can provide NQSW with additional peer support during their supported PRTL first year in practice period and an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings in relation to their NQSW role, in a confidential, safe and supportive environment.

The relationship should support the NQSW to identify key aspects of their NQSW role and provide a protected and dedicated time/ space to review their practice through reflection and discussion. 

If a mentor is formally agreed to support a NQSW this is usually to provide a: collegial relationship based on a shared professional experience; dynamic process which can support the sharing and exchange of knowledge, skills and experience; less formal relationship which allows the NQSW to develop their professional identity; safe environment in which the NQSW can share thoughts, feelings and anxieties regarding their role.

Mentoring allows an environment for NQSWs to explore experiential learning related to your organisation; policy, procedure and culture; and explore application of theory and research to support social work practice. We have included some ideas about the kinds of topics that mentors might discuss with NQSWs.

NQSW avatars

Examples of topics for peer discussion

  • Initial impressions of the team and organisation
  • Day-to-day practiceAreas of anxiety
  • Challenges and areas of work which have gone well
  • Familiarisation with the local area (where required)
  • General discussion of thoughts/ feelings of being a NQSW
  • Reflecting on workload and managing time pressures
  • Working with organisational policy and procedure
  • Accessing local resources
  • Working in partnership and inter-professional contexts

Encouraging the NQSW to reflect on their work practice experiences is the key to a positive mentor relationship. Appropriately sharing your own professional experiences as a Social Worker – your own successes and areas you struggled with can be supportive to a NQSW. 

As your relationship progresses you might want to discuss: What were the challenges?; What succeeded and why?; What has been key learning?; What theories or research have they used to analyse their practice?

NQSWs can engage with their mentor through willingness to develop a learning relationship; agreeing to mentor meetings; willingness to be open and honest about their work practice successes and areas for development; willingness to share their thoughts, feelings, anxieties about their role as a NQSW; willingness to participate in discussions which examine use of self in the social work role.

Different people are involved in supporting NQSWs. These include team members, managers, supervisors and mentors.

Reflective questions for you as a mentor

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  • Thinking about different roles of people involved in supporting NQSWs.
  • What are the main similarities and differences? 
  • What skills do you value in those that support you in the different roles?
  • What skills do you bring to the role that you have in supporting NQSW?
  • What skills or knowledge do you want to develop for this role?
  • We would encourage you to think about your responsibility for the wellbeing of the NQSW, reflect on relationship building, communication and consider aspects such as confidentiality.

We have developed material to support peer-group reflective practice as part of the suite of supervision resources for NQSWs, Managers and Supervisors.

You can also find out more about mentoring and how to support mentoring in your organisation:

We will be developing information and examples of mentoring with NQSWs as part of our national project. Please get in touch if you would like to share your experiences or examples.

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Reflective questions

  • What is your role in any team you are part of?
  • How do you contribute to meetings?
  • How would you like to be contributing to these meeting?
  • What have you learned from any of these meetings?

Please note this is under development and suggested content information as this website evolves as part of our NQSW national project in 2020-21. Your feedback is welcome on additions and amendments to the information and resources included here.You can contact us on nqswproject@sssc.uk.com