As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.
Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning (for example preparing and delivering presentations with your classmates).
To begin with you may find this way of working challenging, but rest assured that we’ll enable you to make this transition. You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues, and a formal transition review during your first year to check on your progress and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support.
Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions to workshops on a range of topics including note taking, reading, writing and presentation skills.
Service user and carer involvement
Service users, carers and practitioners work alongside academics to create a dynamic environment, both within the department and during supervised practice. The department values highly the contribution service user and carer colleagues make, and feedback from students confirms just how important the user perspective is in helping them to develop greater insight into the role social work can play in people's lives.
Involving service users and carers in all aspects of admissions and the development and delivery of our social work qualifying programmes is a priority for us. We believe it offers students the opportunity to have a thorough grounding in service users' and carers' experiences and expectations from the very start of their social work training.
The Guardian 2013: "Service users, carers and practitioners work alongside academics to create a dynamic learning environment, both within the department and during supervised practice. The department values highly the contribution service user and carer colleagues make and feedback from students confirms just how important the user perspective is in helping them to develop greater insight into the role social work can play in people's lives. Birmingham's close working relationships with service users - a key plank of recent social work reforms. In what is seen as a gold standard for other universities, 'survivors' - who include care-leavers, users of mental health or drug and alcohol services, people with physical and learning disabilities, and carers - are involved in all aspects of the course, from admissions to role play, assessments and presentations at conferences and workshops."
More information about service user and carer involvement in social work education
Meet some of our contributors
It is Birmingham’s focus on service user involvement that attracted me to this particular course. Service users should be involved in shaping the services that they need. Service user involvement in delivering this course will produce social workers who will be more effective in their practice”.
A journal article on 'Involving Service Users and Carers in Admissions for Courses in Social Work and Clinical Psychology: cross-disciplinary comparisons of practices at the University of Birmingham' was published in the British Journal of Social Work (Matka, E, River, D, Littlechild, R and Powell, T, 2009).
Due to its location and strong links with partner placement agencies, the University of Birmingham is able to provide a wide range of practice opportunities within statutory, voluntary and independent social care settings. The Social Work Department is also fortunate to have a range of exciting new small student units and innovative practice projects, and we regularly receive excellent feedback from students about these. The learning gained from these placements support and build on the learning taking place at the University.
Whilst on placement all students will have a practice tutor and a practice educator, they might also have a day to day supervisor called a practice supervisor. Students all have 2 placements: the first for 70 days and the final is for 100 days. During both placements the practice educators will be qualified, registered social workers; for the first placement the practice supervisors may come from a variety of professional backgrounds related to social care, such as nursing, teaching, youth work etc. For the final placement you will have a practice educator who will be a qualified, experienced and registered social worker. The practice educator will provide you with support and guidance and will have overall responsibility for both the ongoing and final assessment of your ability throughout the placement. Hear what some of our social work students say about their placement at Core Assets and the SWEET Project:
Blended learning approach to teaching and assessment
You will learn about social work practice and online professionalism through a blend of learning methods. These focus on promoting independent learning and include a mixture of engaging life-like case studies, formal lectures, small group work, research and skills development through role-play and joint working with service user and carer colleagues. Social media, interactive web-based study and other self-directed activities also add a real-world perspective to the learning you will undertake.
You can see an online study skills module at www.skills4uni.bham.ac.uk .
Assessment methods include written assignments, group presentations, video assessments, examinations, portfolios and research projects.
Combining Facebook and enquiry-based blended learning to teach social media skills
The following short film outlines how Facebook and an enquiry-based blended learning design were used to help students develop professional social media skills, knowledge and approaches. The film also include student feedback about their experiences of engaging with this learning design. As educators, we are aware that students who connect using Facebook during their studies can maintain these social networks once they leave University. They can also potentially use these social networks to discuss future work related issues. To enable students to learn about the potential and pitfalls of sharing, communicating and collaborating using social networks once in employment, this learning design was developed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge required to use these tools professionally. This film provides an illustration of the commitment social work staff at the University of Birmingham have in continually striving to ensure their students are equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge necessary for their future roles.
The following video, Child Protection Blended Learning, demonstrates one of the innovative approaches used at the University of Birmingham to teach social work students. It explores an enquiry-based learning approach to teaching child protection processes. Using a mixture of face-to-face teaching, technology-supported, online enquiry-based activities and role play, students explain how they were able to develop the planning, recording, assessing and communication skills required to respond to a child protection referral. The video demonstrates the commitment of social work academics at Birmingham to remain at the cutting edge of innovation in learning and teaching in social work education.
Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.
Assessment is through assignments, presentations and portfolios with some exams and live practice scenarios.
During your first year you will undergo a formal ‘transition’ review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.
At the beginning of each module, you’ll be given information on how and when you’ll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You’ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You’ll be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.