Understanding day to day social work teaching, learning and practice during COVID-19: a global perspective
COVID-19 has impacted society on many levels, such as the functioning of health systems, the effective shutting down of national economies, and schools' closures impacting many young people's wellbeing. In practice and pedagogy, social workers play an important role in the delivery of many of necessary social services and hold critical positions in the safeguarding of children and adults and in the education of future social workers. Today's social work students have been impacted by how they have received their education.
Therefore, we must understand the impact on social workers, educators, and students from a number of perspectives. We asked those involved in social work about their experiences because by doing so and understanding their responses, the social work community can rebuild from this disaster and prepare for future ones.
The research project, supported by the IASSW (International Association of Schools of Social Work), used a questionnaire survey with a series of closed, open and multiple-choice questions. The questionnaire aimed to capture the words of as many members of the IASSW community as possible. In the end, over the 4-week data-gathering period, we received 152 responses spread across many regions, as indicated in Figure 1 below.
To provide a timely follow-up to the IASSW community, we provide an overview of relevant findings. The respondents were predominately women (80%) and evenly spread across the ages of 25-61. Nearly half the sample had doctorate degrees in social work or social work-related subjects. Over half the respondents were either full-time or part-time educators. Together with another 15% of respondents who considered themselves to be a combination of educator/practitioner, the sample had a higher representation of educators than students and practitioners. This result in 22% were practitioners, working part-time or full-time and 14% were full-time students. The most common areas of work for practitioners were children, addictions, mental health and community-based work.
Of those surveyed, 6% had contracted COVID-19. The most common symptom reported was a loss of smell and taste. Over 13% of respondents had lost a close friend or family member to COVID-19. Over 53% of respondents had either a family member, colleague or close friend succumb to COVID-19.
Stress levels, psychosomatic symptoms & relationships
Over 55% of those surveyed considered their stress levels much higher now than before the pandemic. Only 7% of those surveyed believed that they have very low-stress levels. Over 55% had issues with sleeping during COVID-19, ranging from 'some levels of difficulty' of sleeping to 'significant issues' (22%). Over 50% felt that increased time spent working from home has negatively impacted their home life.
Having adequate access to remote technologies was acknowledged by 72% of respondents, with only 2% considering that this was an issue. Over 94% felt that their broadband was either somewhat suitable or adequately suitable for their needs. The majority believed that social media wad not useful for either their practice, work or study. However, 13% felt that social media was beneficial.
Only 48% of respondents used blended learning which combined online learning with face-face learning. Nearly 70% of respondents were positive to practising, teaching, or learning using remote or online education. However, 40% of respondents had encountered ethical problems with the use of technology. Over 70% of respondents were aware of inequalities related to access to technology. However, 80% of respondents stated that they had had issues finding placements for students.
The impact of Covid-19 has had important impacts on social work education, practice and study. However, these respondents indicate a resilient social work community was able to adapt to the challenges they faced.
The respondents from the IASSW community provided data that was rich with insight and details, and we thank them for sharing these with us, and with the wider social work community through the further publications which we intend to compile over the coming months.