I thought it would be good to encapsulate what has worked for me in writing a practice analysis, the often-dreaded assignment all social work students studying in Britain have to write following the end of their placement.
- Work consistently.
Above all, I think consistently working on your practice analysis has been one of the best methods of ensuring a good practice analysis. Why? For one, it allows you the chance to reflect immediately on what you do each week. It gives you the opportunity to pick out what you have done well, and what you could improve. It is an invaluable practice.
Many of my friends tell me that they do not have anything interesting to write about. To different people, ‘interesting’ means different things. But I have also realised that this can often be an excuse to put off the start of a practice analysis. Even if you do not have anything ‘interesting’ to write about, reflecting about the cases you are working with is a valuable exercise. So, next time you’re tempted to wait for an ‘interesting’ case to appear, try remembering – you can’t determine the cases you get, but you can easily determine how well you choose to delve into a case.
In essence, consistency is key. Each week, try to pick out at least 1 hour where you write out a paragraph. I was returning to the university’s library each day after my placement, but you certainly don’t have to be as crazy as I was.
Talk to people about what you are writing. Your supervisor. Your colleagues. Your fellow classmates. They give you precious ideas. I got the chance to share about my analysis with my mentor and she asked me to explore the strengths-based approach pioneered by Saleeby, and recently emphasized by Lyn Romeo, the Chief Social Worker for Adults.
We are constantly asked to reflect, but it’s often last on our list of priorities. There’s just too little time, and much to do.
I found this method by Daniel Wong quite useful. It’s called the bullet point journal.
For example, at the end of each day, write down two things you are happy with and one thing you think you can do better. This focus on progress, instead of perfection, allows us to celebrate the small things we are working on, instead of constantly focusing on the negatives. Here is an example.
ÖTook the time to celebrate the qualities of X today, encouraging him about the things he had achieved recently despite him feeling rather down of late.
ÖBravely asked questions during team meeting today, even though some of the questions initially seemed stupid.
X Arrived 5 minutes late for work! Try to schedule in buffer time in future!
In my 6000 word practice analysis, I included 5 pages of references. It added up to 47 references. The thing about references is that they show the marker that you have clearly put in great effort in evidencing every argument you make. Each time you make an argument, ensure that you have evidence from your references to back up your argument.
To make those references even better, adapt it into your essay, rather than merely copying it word for word. Paraphrase it.
My tutor once suggested that the best use of references were those that combined ideas from different sources, and combined them to form a concise argument. Here is an example.
To make meaning of my experience, I realised that I had emotionally distanced myself to prevent myself from being overwhelmed by Y’s emotions. During emotional labour, Hochschild (2012:20) argued that the worker could ‘become estranged or alienated from an aspect of self—either the body or the margins of the soul—that is used to do the work’. In my use of self as the vehicle of intervention (Ward 2010:48), I actively detached my professional self and my personal self to ‘protect (my) own psyche, whilst remaining responsive and engaged’.
- Keep writing.
Let’s face it, we will never get it right the first time round. But what matters is not being perfect the first time. Instead, it is about getting those initial ideas onto your document, and then slowly refining and making it better. Next time, instead of trying to do plan after plan, simply start writing. You can always refine it thereafter.