Professional identity formation and voluntary sector social work
Keywords:‘flexible learning’, professional identity formation, voluntary sector, social justice, social work education
At its core, ‘Flexible Learning’ provision in Northern Ireland lacks a coherent developmental focus. Conversely, this paper presents an evaluation of a dedicated Voluntary Sector ‘Flexible Learning’ Programme, which demonstrates the efficacy of facilitating student social workers in critically reflecting upon the formation of their respective professional identities with explicit reference to the economic determinants of social justice. Moreover, Programme participants registered their strong support for a strengthened role for the Voluntary Sector in formal social work education. Consequently, and modeling key design features of this Programme, this paper proposes a systematic reform of ‘Flexible Learning’ provision premised upon a dedicated focus on professional identity formation. The latter may usefully also inform a critical re-positioning of social work’s core curricula, anchored by an explicit anti-poverty focus, to ensure that the profession’s commitment to social justice is tangibly embedded in the developmental journeys of students.