Enabling Social Work Students to Deal with the Consequences of Political Conflict: Engaging with Victim/Survivor Service Users and a ‘Pedagogy of Discomfort’

Stephen Coulter, Jim Campbell, Joe Duffy, Isobel Reilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes the evaluation of an educational project, delivered in a Bachelor in Social Work degree (BSW) program in Northern Ireland. The project aimed to equip social work students to be more culturally competent in this divided society, with a central focus on including victim/survivor service users in social work training. A number of pedagogical approaches are noted, with particular consideration of Boler's ‘pedagogy of discomfort’ as a model that includes the multidimensional nature of the learning process when topics carry a high emotional tariff. The evaluation of the students' experience indicated that: there was strong support among students for the project; the unique contribution of service users was affirmed; and the project appeared to increase students' awareness and capacity to practice in a divided society. The evaluation of the trainers' experience highlighted key processes in the delivery of collaborative training. The authors argue that the lessons learned are broadly applicable to other forms of service user and carer involvement in social work training and in other societies in which health and social care professionals have to deal with the legacies of political conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-452
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number4
Early online date20 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013



  • Social Work Education, Political Conflict, Service Users and Carer Involvement, Northern Ireland, ‘Pedagogy of Discomfort’

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