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Critical Reflective Learning in Social Work Graduate Research: Learnings from an Australian Study in Child Protection Service Delivery

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posted on 2023-11-09, 01:08 authored by Corina ModdermanCorina Modderman, Mishel McMahonMishel McMahon, Lynne McPherson, Guinever ThrelkeldGuinever Threlkeld

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.


Publication Date



The British Journal of Social Work






18p. (p2296–2313)


Oxford University Press (OUP)



Rights Statement

The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact

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