This year, we launch a project titled 'Navigating evidence' which aims to equip newly qualified practitioners with the skills and confidence to access evidence relevant for practice, improvement and learning. As part of this, we will create a tool that supports practitioner knowledge of, and influence their attitudes around, the importance of evidence-informed practice in the first year.
Using evidence in practice is considered a critical professional social work skill. The skills associated with using evidence in practice - such as information retrieval, evaluation and synthesis - have been found to support problem-solving and decision making. The ability to interrogate evidence for its complexity and ambiguity is also essential for all social workers (Diaz and Drewery, 2016).
An evaluation of the standard benchmarks for newly qualified social workers in Scotland found that their use of research-based evidence was very weak (Daniel and colleagues, 2016). Social work students and professionals are often pressured to endorse evidence-informed practice without the knowledge or resources to access and make use of research findings.
Why a tool? Rice and colleagues state in our Iriss On...tools (2016), 'We believe that tools have the potential to transform how we work. Just like the DIY tools many of us keep in a cupboard at home - tools used in interactions between people have the power to save us time. They can also reduce effort, substantially increase the quality of our work, and aide and facilitate interactions and discussion between people.'
The 'Navigating evidence' tool will build on the work of our three-week online course, 'Finding evidence' where we asked practitioners to reflect on the values, confidence and creativity that underpins their evidence-informed practice.
We'll keep you in the loop as the project progress. Questions or queries can be directed to Josie Vallely, project lead.