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“Walk a mile….. and/or sit a while”, with


both/and in mind Alison Burgess


I am an experienced trainer for the Scottish Institute of Human Relations Family Therapy Project. I attended the research and refl exivity module provided for students in years 3 and 4 of the MSc course. I needed to learn more about the subject for myself. However, the opportunity to refl ect on the trainee experience also provided feedback to the project. This is an abridged overview.


Introduction “Walk a mile in my shoes”: this Native


American saying relates to the need to consider the experience of others before presuming to off er an opinion. It underpins one part of my motivation to subject myself, and/or to participate in, the module. T ese dimensions of experience were playfully and helpfully underscored in relation to quantitative and qualitative research at various points over the four training days. T is module posed signifi cant questions


for the training project about how best to deliver it, and refl ections on why it hadn’t led to more trainees actually undertaking research (and gain their MSc). Rob Wrate and Liz Forbat (2008) recently wrote of the contextual infl uences behind what was a “new approach” for the Scot ish Institute of Human Relations in delivering such training to years 3 & 4 trainees, and the key teaching strategies to support learning within the formal sessions and beyond. T is edited account is of my refl ections


and, by implication, suggestions as an experienced trainer undertaking training – the subject being suffi ciently new to me that I could indeed ‘walk a mile’ in encountering new learning (and therefore off er refl ections from this context rather than from that of merely an observer). Cutcliff e (2003) suggests that, “Excessive emphasis on refl exive activity might inhibit intellectual entrepreneurship”, and comments on the notion of exploring the world of ideas ‘boldly’ as constituting the conscious and deliberate at empt within intellectual entrepreneurship. Nothing so grand is claimed here … it is, as I said, an overview of my refl ections as a trainer/ participant.


Literature review/background literature


Unlike my co-trainees, who would need to undertake a literature review to inform


Context February 2012


their assignment, because I was refl ecting on process, I was free from having to do it. However, I did learn how to undertake a literature review. I also learned why and how I have more than the average number of legs. A literature search in this general


fi eld would have invited me to consider studies such as Kniskern & Gurman (1979, 1988), Street (1988, 1997), Avis & Sprenkle (1990), Liddle (1991) for what were comprehensive overviews of family therapy training – “with an emphasis on the process of the teaching and acquisition of certain concepts and skills” (Nel, 2006). Other than Nel’s study, he also notes that, in his ‘extensive literature search’, only two studies reported on students’ views of their training (Dowling et al., 1982; Green & Kirkby-Turner, 1990). T ese studies were on the ‘totality’ of family therapy training(s), from foundation to completion, rather than the discrete focus I considered. T at said, Nel’s piece considered, “it’s overwhelming”, “it’s deskilling”, and the “impact on relational identities”, and “professional identities” amongst other factors. Comments about the impact of the module, similar to those cited above, were mentioned, to a greater or lesser extent, by students in informal time.


Methodology/methods used I see refl ection on process with


refl exivity in mind, and therefore from the accrued learning, as being situated in the qualitative domain. Nothing further is claimed regarding research and refl exivity methodology other than stating I have learnt about the varying methods, for example and at a minimum, regarding subject or participant in the diff erence between quantitative and qualitative research – this diff erence was playfully underscored by the trainers – each more identifi ed with one or the other co-trainers.


So, what now follows is like process


recording of taking a “ four-day module and at endant requirements” where the topic is one that I, the “subject/participant”, needed to learn about (but not for the same reasons as my fellow participants). In seeking to match assignment expectations, I wrote it up to track the dimensions they would be required to consider. Isomorphism being a key construct for me in my work as trainer and therapist and project member, such tracking seemed apt. T e structure of my commentary was therefore originally determined by the provision of the grid used for assessors’ marking. I was pleased this was provided, in that it demonstrated transparency and, in part, implicitly for me at least, acknowledged something of the power dynamic operating when work is subject to summative assessment.


“Findings” T e research and refl exivity module


was, and remains, a challenging aspect of the training. T e answer to the question, “Is research required or not?” is a huge determinant in how one positions oneself to the material. At time of writing, participants could apply at successful completion of the four-year course to AFT for registration as a family therapist via APEL. T e research component, if successfully achieved, led to the MSc. T us, for those wanting to pursue clinical training, the research dimension could be regarded as ‘too costly’ to be warranted (in time or intellectual rigour) when a work/ life balance is considered. T e module therefore had, minimally,


to give suffi cient for AFT requirements to be met and, optimally, to inspire the additional work involved in undertaking research, both for its value in its own right as well as resulting in an MSc for those who otherwise might not have signed up for a degree course.


9


“Walk a mile….. and/or sit awhile”, with both/and in mind


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