Playing for Real: towards higher fidelity simulation in preparation for practice learning

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


There is a strong evidence base that effective interdisciplinary education enables effective collaborative practice. Empirical studies confirm that students who have been exposed to pre-qualification interdisciplinary experiences are more confident in inter-professional relationships, communicate more effectively and are also more respectful of other professions.
More specifically there is a growing evidence base for the use of the arts in health and social care. The innovative approach presented in the abstract describes a collaborative initiative between arts and social work developed in QUB Social Work programme.
The Bachelor in Social work (BSW) first year module ‘Social Work Theory and Preparation for Practice Learning; Skills’ includes a series of role play examinations used to assess students’ interpersonal communication skills. Whilst, service-user involvement has been an established feature of this module, collaboration with the School of Arts, English and Languages, provided opportunity to utilise and evaluate the BSW student experiences of working with both drama students and service users.
To establish and evaluate a sustainable interdisciplinary model of teaching through the inclusion of drama students in social work students’ skills development.
Principal Objective:
To develop intellectual and practical dimensions of advanced approaches to role-play in challenging scenarios through the combined use of drama students and service users in SW student education.
Main content
This collaborative approach was underpinned by the development of an interdisciplinary teaching team comprising lecturers from Social work and Drama. Initially, drama students were coached to take on the role of service-users in scenarios based on real life experiences. The BSW students then conducted a series of assessed role-plays based on these real life experiences working with both drama students and with service users or carers. Following each role play, constructive feedback was offered to the students, commenting on their communication skills, self-awareness and ability to convey empathy.
Evaluations and outcomes
Ethical approval was sought and a formal evaluation completed The research was designed to compare the learning experience of social work students when they were performing role plays with drama students with when they were working with service users.
A crossover design between drama students and service users was initiated (Weeks 4 and 7). Students evaluated their experiences via online survey. Wider perspectives were gathered through Focus groups with the drama students, tutors and service users. This innovative and unique approach with the combined use of both drama students and service users provided students with excellent opportunities to develop their interpersonal skills within a board range of scenarios. Strengths and limitations of each approach were highlighted.
The development and evaluation of this innovative teaching approach has highlighted the value of working collaboratively with drama students and service users in preparing social work students for practice. This approach can inform the multi-disciplinary learning needs of other professions, and could also contribute to innovations in Virtual Reality.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 06 Mar 2019
Event6th Annual Social Work and Social Care Research in Practice Conference - Belfast Castle, BELFAST, United Kingdom
Duration: 06 Mar 201906 Mar 2019


Conference6th Annual Social Work and Social Care Research in Practice Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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