Evidencing reflective practice in social work education: Theoretical uncertainties and practical challenges

George Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Reflective practice has become an increasingly influential idea in social work education and, in the UK context, it has recently been acknowledged as key to ensuring that social workers are better equipped to engage in complex decision making and effective practice. However, there remains a lack of clarity about how this concept is defined and operationalised in teaching and learning and there has been little systematic empirical examination of its utility in facilitating professional development. Drawing on research with undergraduates at Queen's University Belfast, this paper aims to develop understanding of students' experience of reflective practice. The results suggest that agency systems that have become over-reliant on rules and procedures present formidable obstacles to learning both at an individual and at an organisational level. The paper argues that the relationship between how reflective practice is taught and how it is enacted in practice needs to be better understood if such obstacles are to be overcome. The paper concludes by considering the implications of the findings for developing reflective practice in social work education and practice and highlights the challenges that need to be addressed if reflection and critical thinking are to become more firmly embedded within agency systems and practice cultures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-172
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number1
Early online date01 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)

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