Social Work Students Take a Research-Based Approach to Social Action

Social Work students at St. Thomas used their Social Action Field Placement to evaluate the program’s structural framework.


Carley Hegarty, of Charlottetown, PEI, Adam Lerette, of Sackville, NB, and Monnah Green, of Fredericton, NB, took a research-based approach to social action to assess whether the Social Action Field Placements are pairing students with agencies that allow them to apply theory, knowledge, and skills.


“A lot of our research has found that field education is vital in learning how to apply knowledge,” Hegarty said. “It will be interesting to see what students aimed to do and what was accomplished through their field placements.”


The trio analyzed the students’ learning contracts, which highlight their goals for the placement, the agencies’ description of the field placement, and the students’ feedback on the placement.


This research, conducted under the supervision of Bob Eckstein and Dr. Raluca Bejan, gave the group a deeper understanding of what makes up structural social work.


“Rather than creating a band aid fix for what’s going on, structural social work aims to address the root of the issue,” Hegarty said. “To see the areas and agencies where structural social work can be applied has been really cool. Small things can make a change structurally, and that’s something I wouldn’t have picked up on before.”


Their work also demonstrated the role research can play in creating social change.


 “People don’t often see research as a form of social action, but this research will contribute to bettering the program if there are shortcomings,” Lerette said. “At first it wasn’t obvious what we were doing was social action, so it was an interesting realization.”


Once they receive their data—they reached out to the 52 current Bachelor of Social Work students as well as alumni from the past five years—they will complete an analysis which they hope to publish.


“What we’re trying to do is see if we’ve been able to narrow the gap between practice and theory,” Green said. “If we haven’t, we’ll be able to see what’s been done and what we can do to improve moving forward.”


The group will present their findings at the School of Social Work Social Action Fair, June 20 in the Great Hall. The fair runs from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm and will showcase the work students completed in their 22 social action placements.