Crafting a meso practice course using elements of authentic learning for undergraduate social work students in South Africa
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Many teaching and learning practices in higher education, including social work education in South Africa, tend to be characterised by a transmission mode of instruction, whereby knowledge moves from the expert educator to the student. This study investigates the extent to which an authentic learning framework can be used to improve the teaching of meso practice in social work to a class of 80 second-year students at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. A modified version of educational design-based research, was deployed which created a set of guidelines to inform future research and course design. Design-based research includes an iterative process, however, and the four-phased modified version of design-based research used in this study deploys just one roll-out of a redesigned course on meso practice, using the elements of authentic learning (Herrington, Reeves & Oliver, 2010). Phase 1 consisted of a review of the literature on meso practice education and the authentic learning framework. Phase 2 involved an analysis of practical problems identified by six educators and four field instruction supervisors, based on the way they teach and supervise students in the area of meso practice intervention. In Phase 3 the course was implemented and evaluated qualitatively and quantitatively by the student participants and four field instruction supervisors. Phase 4 consisted of a reflection on the entire process, to produce design guidelines using the elements of authentic learning and the inclusion of affect in course design. Mixed-methods research was undertaken, incorporating primarily qualitative data with quantitative data from a survey conducted with the students. Findings from this study have led to an augmented list of authentic learning elements, which includes the use of affect in meso practice and the development of guidelines for educators which have the potential to be relevant and applicable in other courses, contexts and disciplines.