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Assignment Guidance for MA in Social Work Module

What is the documentary and where can I find it?

You will be required to pass this assignment to successfully complete the module, and in order to have the opportunity to progress onto a practice placement, and you cannot pass the MA Social Work without passing the module.

Assignment Guidance (presented here in the format of Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the documentary and where can I find it?

You are required to watch Episode 2 of the BBC documentary ‘Protecting Our Children’. You will find this by copying and pasting the following URL into your browser:

The BBC described the documentary as follows:

“[The documentary team] followed Bristol's child protection teams over the course of a year to see frontline work first-hand and explore how the crises of the last decade have had an impact on their ability to safeguard children. Social worker Annie must ensure the protection of the unborn child of Shaun and Marva, a couple who live far beyond the realms of normal society. However, she can only see them with two security guards in support. A heart-rending story that goes to the core of the issues facing a modern welfare system.”

What are you looking for?

The marking criteria is provided at the end of this document (and in the Module Guide), but I am going to give you some pointers here.

First, I am looking for how well you can make sense of the professional role and professional approach/behavior/actions of Annie, the social worker, as she seeks to support the young couple Shaun and Marva by drawing on some ideas/concepts from the sessions in the module. Consider what aspects you thought were ‘professional’ and why. What ‘professional behaviour’ did you see? To do this, you should draw upon some of the knowledge that you have gained from this Module but also the Programme so far, concerning the knowledge base for social work, social work values and interpersonal and communication skills. Ask yourself: ‘What aspects do I think were ‘professional’ and why?’ ‘What professional behavior did I see?’ ‘In what ways was her professional role influenced by legislation about ‘risk’, and how were the things (‘vulnerabilities’) that she was worried about balanced against strengths (‘protective factors’)?’ ‘To what extent did adult services also have a role in the child protection situation, such as supporting parents with mental health and substance misuse problems?’ ‘How did the organisational context influence the social work task (like procedures, caseloads, cuts, team-culture)? ‘What about power and oppression - how well were the service users engaged in the task?’ ‘How did Annie manage the power dynamic?’ ‘Did the service users experience her management of it in a positive way?’ ‘What do service users say they want from social workers, and did you see any of those things here?’ ‘What core communication skills were used?’ ‘Did Annie respond appropriately, with the right skills, and why?’ ‘Now, on reflection, what skills might have been better suited for this moment of communication?’

What are you looking for?

Make sure you explain/define all the concepts that you use (with reference to sources). For higher marks, be critical and analytical by looking to see if some sources support, reinforce, expand or contradict other concepts (in relation to the point that you are making).

Second, a key aspect of this assignment is your capability to engage in reflective and reflexive practice. Indeed, the last 300-500 words should be your critically reflective evaluations of ‘self’ and your learning. Reflective practice is about you looking back, describing (drawing upon thoughts and feelings), analyzing (drawing links to theory), and then identifying what you have learned and how you will change your own actions. Reflexive practice is about your ‘self-awareness’, in terms of recognizing that you are ‘self-situated’ in each and every social work ‘social situation’, and that every social work ‘social situation’ is often emotionally charged. In other words, as social workers, we are inevitably influenced/affected by each social situation, and we also potentially influence it ourselves. Social work is an emotionally charged profession, and we have to recognize and deal with emotional dynamics skillfully. At the end of the documentary Annie is upset, and talks about how she manages such situations. Ask yourself: ‘What have I learned from how Annie managed it?’ ‘On reflection, what have I learned for myself about how I usually manage such kinds of emotional situations, and what can I do differently to show more emotional intelligence and to be more emotionally resilient?’

Third, I am looking for your awareness and integration of the Professional Capability Framework Domains. At the end of each key point (a key point might be a couple of sentences, or the end of a paragraph), you should make the links to the relevant PCF Domain(s) pertinent to that point. You should put these references to the PCF Domains in brackets. A conscientious student will also use the correct PCF colour font for each PCF Domain too! Ask yourself: Have I read and referred to the PCF Domains in my work? Am I showing understanding of how social work practice is about developing professional capabilities?

Fourth, I am looking for your work to be presented in a professional way: coherent with clarity in your expression, and as free as possible from typographical errors and grammatical errors. This includes making appropriate in-text reference to sources, and providing a ‘Reference List’ of all sources used at the end of the commentary, using an appropriate Harvard referencing style throughout. Proof-read your work. Do not use quotations instead of your own words. Rather, paraphrase and put in your own words and then cite the source at the end of the sentence.  Ask yourself: ‘Is this document professionally presentable? Does it show me off as a professional person?’

How should I structure my assignment?

How should I structure my assignment?

You should start with an introduction that sets out the subsequent format to your reflective analysis (‘first I will do this, then I go on to do that, this is followed by…., and then I …., and finally I…).

You should then (i.e. in the main part of the assignment) set out the important parts that you want to focus on from the Documentary. Use paragraphs (containing several sentences) for these different points. This main part of the assignment should be critical, analytical, and with depth (think deep not broad).

Your concluding section should summarise the important points you have identified in your analysis. You might identify what you have learned from doing the task that you will take into your future social work practice. Include the 300-500 word critically reflective evaluations of ‘self’ and your learning. Ensure that you provide a reference list that contains full references to all the sources that you have used.

Can I use sub-headings?

Yes, you can. It could be helpful for you to use questions as sub-headings to show your reasoning processes, e.g. ‘How well did Annie manage the power dynamics within this situation?’

Should I write in the ‘first person’?

Yes, it’s a Reflective Commentary, so writing in the first person (using ‘I’) is the appropriate academic style.

Should I anonymise my work

Ensure you anonymise references to any individuals (you, your fellow students and university tutors). Neither your front sheet, nor the main document should contain your name.

What if I have not chosen the ‘right way’ to understand the scenario?

Stop worrying! I am more interested in your reasoning of how you came to the understanding that you did and how you used the module learning and relevant Programme learning to arrive at it (i.e. the reading, seminars, lectures, handouts, podcasts and workshops).

I need more word space – can I concentrate on particular aspects of the Documentary? Can I go over the word limit by 10%?

Yes, you can focus on particular aspects but make sure that you say why you are doing this at the beginning of your work. The whole Reflective Commentary, (except for the list of references) must be kept within 10% of the word limit. The number of words must be stated on the front sheet.

Should I explain the case scenario regarding the service users in the Documentary at the beginning?

No, you do not need to describe this. I have seen the documentary and I know the situation. You do not have the word space to do this.

Can I send you a draft of my work?

No, not a whole draft, but I will give you feedback upon a plan if you email it to me in enough time. Obviously I will not answer emails at the weekends or the day before submission.

What is the Assessment Marking Criteria?

This has been set out in the Module Guide. It is this that I will use in marking your work. I have reproduced it below, alongside some helpful guidance about what a good essay or reflective analysis should ‘look like’ at MA Level (with the different MA classifications/bands).

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