Inter-personal and critical-thinking capabilities in those about to enter qualified social work: A six-centre study

Michael Sheppard, Marian Charles, Paul Rees, Mark Wheeler, Richard Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The 'process' of intervention is understood to be fundamental to social work-evident in, for example, the literature on reflexivity. Little work, though, has focused on the detailed excavation of the cognitive processes of reasoning in decision making. This is widely recognised as requiring considerable analytic and critical abilities. Although this is long established, its importance is contemporarily apparent at the policy level from the rationale underlying current initiatives such as Frontline. However, it is also long understood that the reasoning capabilities underlying these processes cannot be considered in isolation from the inter-personal-emotional, encapsulated in a longterm theoretical concern for both Heart and Head. Furthermore, terms like 'capability' or 'proficiency' in professional qualification imply some standard to be reached in practice. This invites measurement. This novel study seeks to bring together three dimensions of the (i) measurement of (ii) the inter-personal-emotional and (iii) critical thinking-measurement of key facets of both Head and Heart. A six-centre, six-university collaboration, it focuses on those at a crucial point: where individuals are about to enter qualified practice. The findings show they score highly on most interpersonal measures (with room for improvement), but show huge variability in criticalthinking capabilities. The implications of this are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1855-1873
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Critical thinking
  • expertise
  • inter-personal skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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