This paper examines learning from an inter-professional distance learning MA in advanced child protection which brings together diverse practitioners from around the world; a cohort of adult learners. A core component of the MA is bi-weekly assessed forums and an analysis of 108 forum posts from 12 students who have now completed the programme, has offered a unique insight into complex child protection education in the online sphere:
- Increasing ability to critique existing paradigms of practice e.g. challenging existing practices around direct work with children;
- Changing perceptions of practice e.g. engaging more effectively with male family members;
- Conceptualisation and expression of multiagency practice – e.g. addressing impact of ineffective organisational support and supervision;
- Increased integration of theory into practice e.g. strengthening risk assessments through a theoretical lens;
- Strengthening peer to peer learning – e.g. respecting yet challenging fellow professional perspectives;
- Engaging with forums from a learner perspective – e.g. perceiving forums as a safe place in which to reflect.
This abstract demonstrates how students have ‘shaped learning’ in inter-professional child protection practice, creating what Ryan and Young (2014) term a ‘new type of educational construct’. Optimising the opportunity for experiential learning, through which adult learners thrive (Chen, 2014), the results have been quite astounding. The asynchronous format (as opposed to the immediacy of synchronous) has particularly facilitated high critical thinking, sometimes felt to be lacking within forums (Hsaio et al., 2013). The format has particularly provided learner opportunities for reflection and deep thinking and very much demonstrates the value of situated learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Rather than perceiving inter-professional child protection forums as simply an important cog in the wheel of online learning technologies, this paper discusses how the potential for both learning and changing practice, is much greater.
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