Critical Reflective Learning in Social Work Graduate Research: Learnings from an Australian Study in Child Protection Service Delivery
Abstract: Assumptions and worldviews shape social work research, particularly when influenced by settler colonialism in contemporary Australia. This article explores experiences from graduate research drawing on Ruch’s model of reflective learning and Fook and Gardner’s action-orientated approach to critical reflection. Written following PhD completion, it investigates significant learnings by reviewing reflective journal entries, feedback on draft manuscripts and supervision notes that were made during the time of the study. Deconstructing and reconstructing assumptions across all phases of graduate research show the trajectory from experienced social worker to novice researcher and the context within which this learning takes place. This process foregrounds graduate research influenced by Australia’s demographic, historical and political context in which the impact of colonisation continues to reverberate. Critical interrogation is required for socially just change. Currently, there remains a risk that graduate research produces knowledge that is founded on and shared through white perspectives, maintaining the status quo. Critical reflective learning needs a stimulating and safe learning environment that encourages hidden assumptions to surface and be openly questioned. This study concludes that personal and professional biases unconsciously influence graduate research and need to be identified in a constructive and supportive learning environment.