On the transformative power of research projects for students

Worker resiliency salem state university school of social work research msw

Salem State University School of Social Work MSW Research Abstract Awards 2012 (I was so proud that my group came in third place!)

Last weekend, the School of Social Work at Salem State University held a Graduate Social Work Research Symposium.  Twenty-four groups of MSW students presented on their year-long (mostly) community-based research projects.  While the palpable pressure of pre-presentation anxiety ran rampant through the corridors of our buildings, the glow of success followed closely behind.

After nine months of consternation, worry, group dynamics in full swing and lots of learning – finally the lightbulbs were starting to go off.  As one of my students said “now I get it, now I get why we have to do this project – this solidifies our professional self as we graduate – it pulls all aspects of the curriculum together. I can’t imagine doing it any other way.”

While within-faculty debates about the Council on Social Work Education‘s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) language related to research-informed practice and practice-informed research rage on – and while our own faculty wonders whether you need to DO research in order to truly “get it” as a critical consumer of research and/or as an evaluative/reflective practitioner, clearly something magic in the world of learning went on last Saturday.

In order to up the rigor ante, so to speak, we offered Best Research Abstract Awards – and I was just *thrilled* that one of my own MSW student teams won in the category of child, youth and family research.  Their work explored factors that predict resiliency amongst direct care workers in a residential treatment center for girls.  Specifically, using the ecological model as their guide, they conducted linear regression analysis to predict worker resiliency, and found that their model (individual coping style, perceived peer support and agency/workplace culture) explained 44% of the variation in resiliency scores.  I was so proud of them!

Embrace the power of “live” research projects for your MSW students!