The Use of Fictional Literature in Undergraduate Social Work Teaching

By: Dara Sampson  

A key focus area for this PhD research project is, how, if at all, does a capacity to relate to, critically analyse, and engage in an emotive journey with fictional literature improve the understanding and practice of undergraduate social work students? Relationships, community, and social justice are key social work concepts. Research shows fictional literature to be useful in developing critical reflection; generating alternate stories; and exposing the reader to a range of human experience and emotion. It is this synergy which supports the development of social work students to become practitioners who are more able to excel at relationships-based practice. This paradigm (that of placing relationship building as key to success) becomes, then, a direct challenge to the hegemony of economic rationalism and neoliberalism which values output and pecuniary measurement. Methodology comprises: 1. Extensive literature review of current utilisation of fiction in undergraduate teaching, both within the realm of Social Work and cross-disciplinary; 2. Creation of a 'Book Club' with students within a framework of Participatory Action Research (PAR). Results suggest a breadth of disciplines (nursing, medicine, business, ethics, psychology, sociology) to be utilising the arts in teaching, however little systematic research has been done on the use of fiction in social work teaching. When literature was used as part of assessment tasks by the researcher, in particular a task relating to grief and loss, results were favourable in terms of student understanding of complex emotional and theoretical terrain.

Fiction, teaching, relationships
Reading, Writing, Literacy, and Learning
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dara Sampson

Academic, Social Work, University of Sydney, Australia