Team-based learning, assessing parental capacity to change, and evaluating impact
Geoff Owen, Research Officer for Research in Practice, blogs about his work co-ordinating the latest Change Project, Developing Child Social Care Workers Skills in Assessing Parental Capacity to Change and Evaluating their Impact. This blog focuses on phase one of the project.
What is a Change Project?
A Change Project is a method of intensive engagement developed by Research in Practice. It links professionals to a research process in order to promote evidence-informed practice. In short, we bring practitioners together, and as a group we work together to examine a topic in detail, always with a practical approach.
You can read more about how we run a Change Project here.
What is this particular Change Project about?
This Change Project is ambitious. It focuses on two major areas – as opposed to one key topic that previous projects have addressed.
Here the project group are working to develop training materials on the assessment of parental capacity to change. These will be delivered using two different training methods. The impact of the two delivery methods will then be evaluated.
In phase one of the project, social workers alongside learning and development professionals from different organisations  are currently working together to create a four module training programme using Dawe and Harnett’s C2C model  as guidance.
The programme will be delivered using the methodology of team-based learning (TBL). This will be a significant change for most (if not all) of the delegates on the programme.
The key differences between TBL and standard training are:
- Training is delivered to whole teams at once, including managers.
- Delegates are given work to do in between sessions.
- They will be tested on this work at the beginning of each session. Testing takes the form of a written test and feedback is given by the facilitator as a group.
Michaelsen, L., Sweet, M. & Parmalee, D. (2009)  highlight the key benefits of learning in this method:
In addition to ensuring that students master the basic course content, TBL enables a number of outcomes that are virtually impossible in a lecture-based course format and rarely achieved with any other small-group based instructional approach. With TBL:
1. Most students progress well beyond simply acquiring factual knowledge and achieve a depth of understanding that can only come through solving a series of problems that are too complex for even the best students to complete through their individual effort. Virtually every student develops a deep and abiding appreciation of the value of teams for solving difficult and complex and real-world problems.
2. Many students gain profound insights into their strengths and weaknesses as learners and as team members.
3. Compared to a traditional curriculum, faculty members in a wide variety of contexts have observed that introducing TBL enables the “at risk” students (probably because of the increased social support and/or peer tutoring) to successfully complete and stay on track in their course work.
The four-module training programme
During the four modules, learners will do their own research into standardised measures and evidence-informed interventions. They learn about goal setting and the analysis of change.
Much of the discussions during the development group meetings have focused on how teams will respond to this method of training, particularly the testing elements and the preparatory work in between sessions.
The project hopes to find real answers to the difficulties of transferring learning to practice while simultaneously providing quality learning opportunities for the key area of parental capacity to change. The project is an extension of the work we have already undertaken in these two areas .
A huge challenge – with great potential rewards
As a project group we are under no illusions as to the size of the challenge in front of us. But using this method of training to bring potential benefits to practice has united the group. We feel that there is very important work being done – and that feeling is something that will be sustaining us as our project drives onwards.
After phase one?
There will be more blog updates as the project progresses. As well as updating you on the progress from phase one, and reflecting on barriers and successes, we will also look at learning people can take from our project itself. For example, I will look at how wiki technology has been used to manage the project and encourage collaboration between meetings.
But most exciting, we will be following phase two – when our different sessions are actually being delivered.
Footnotes / Further reading:
 Leeds, Stockport, Cornwall, NSPCC, Devon, Swindon, Camden, Hull and Solihull
 The Essential Elements of Team-Based Learning. Adapted from Chapter 1 of Michaelsen, L., Sweet, M. & Parmalee, D. (2009) Team-Based Learning: Small Group Learning’s Next Big Step. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, 7-27.