Attitudes, Perceptions and Concerns of Student Social Workers: First Two Years of a Longitudinal Study

Redmond, Bairbre, Guerin, Suzanne and Devitt, Catherine (2008) Attitudes, Perceptions and Concerns of Student Social Workers: First Two Years of a Longitudinal Study. Social Work Education, 27 (8). pp. 868-882. ISSN 0261-5479


A longitudinal study was initiated by the authors in September 2001 to monitor the changing attitudes, perceptions, concerns and experiences of 32 social work students during their two?year MSW training at University College Dublin, subsequently following the students into their first three years of practice. This paper reports on the findings from the first two years of the study, exploring how much the attitudes of the respondents changed towards different areas of social work practice while they were full?time students. Both quantitative and qualitative data have been collected by means of mixed method questionnaires, taken at four points over a two?year period, and a focus group. Issues examined included the students' changing perceptions of stress, job satisfaction and levels of expertise in different areas of social work practice. The study also monitored their willingness to work in specific areas of social work after graduation. Statistical analysis revealed that students consistently rated social work in the areas of child protection and welfare as requiring high levels of expertise, but they associated the area with higher levels of perceived stress and lower levels of job satisfaction. These attitudes remain relatively stable throughout their two?year professional training. However, the study revealed greater changes in the students' willingness to work in different areas. For example, specialist family services such as fostering and child/adolescent became more popular choices for future work settings. This change was noted to have occurred between the start and end of the course. Also noteworthy was that general medical, probation and welfare showed the most negative change.

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