The reconfiguration of CPD for social care practitioners in Ireland : an activity theory approach
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Social care practitioners at the frontline require specific Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Many changes affecting practitioners have occurred in Irish society since the start of the 21st century, resulting in the need for new types of reflective CPD. Previous research has explored the social care profession, but with little research conducted specifically on the CPD training provided to practitioners in residential child care centres. This thesis addresses this gap by providing an insight into the issue of CPD through the voices of practitioners. It is informed by Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), advanced by Engeström as a way to study learning phenomena within the complicated, ill-structured, and contradiction-laden world of adult professional life. Primary research was in the form of semi-structured interviews with 18 participants: 15 practitioners and three social care managers. A CHAT-informed intervention was conducted in the form of a sequence of change laboratories (CLs) in relation to Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) – a key technique adopted in state-funded residential care. A follow-up questionnaire study took place with six of the eight participants who took part in the TCI CLs. The outcomes of the CLs indicated that the CHAT approach could be adapted to a small-scale work setting; a follow-up survey was conducted with six participants who originally took part in a TCI intervention. Secondary research includes a comprehensive review of relevant literature in the field of contemporary social care and in that of CPD. The findings reveal that practitioners do not have a competency-based training framework; some participants said they had not received their mandatory training. In the follow-up, questionnaire participants reported they had subsequently received additional CPD. While structured formal supervision is offered, most expressed disappointment with it and suggested external supervision. Team reflection was the norm as opposed to personal reflection, with practitioners citing work constraints, staff shortages and depleted resources as the barriers to non-participation. Above all, professionals identified a lack of communication between them and their senior, external management and trainers; they all called for a change in their professional CPD training. In light of the findings, recommendations and avenues for future research are discussed.
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