Developing Professional identity in social work students in social media environments

Sam Miller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


A small-scale, empirical study was undertaken using an evaluation study, an on-line survey and a focus group involving Year 1 social work students at Huddersfield University, examining the use of social media in the context of an emerging professional identity. What emerged was the need for a more nuanced understanding of students’ use of social media across a number of domains that traverse personal, academic and professional life. Much of the writing around the use of social media and learning experiences rightly highlights policy, noting the ethical and practical concerns of developing and maintaining a professional social media presence (most visibly when social workers fall-foul of the Health and Social Care Professions Council (HCPC) conduct policy, the regulator for social work registration in England and Wales).

However, studies thus far have neglected to examine how students `learn about, and experience the use` of social media and its impact upon the more tangible aspects of developing a professional identity on-line focusing on the management of their current work roles, and within friends and family relationships.

The data analyses so far suggests:
1. more support is needed to help students reflect upon their use of social media; past, present and future, in both the professional/academic and `friends and family` domains (for example, closing down on-line relationships);
2. The development of learning through the use of reflective skills and a more refined value-base and knowledge grounded insights for the on-line environment is needed to overcome naïve or ambivalent practice: detailed policy and abstract ethical guidance is not enough!

The emerging picture within the data also indicates that a focus on service user needs and ethical practice is important within a framework of student-centred learning: the question should be, `How should Social Media and Social Networking Sites be used with service users?` and not `whether` social media can be used. There is an emerging requirement to consider how social media and social networking sites can be used with service users. The findings from this study are provisional and it is recognised what areas for further research need to be undertaken within the analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN16 Proceedings
Subtitle of host publication 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
PublisherIATED Academy
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9788460888604
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2016
Event8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 4 Jul 20166 Jul 2016
Conference number: 8 (Link to Conference Website)


Conference8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Abbreviated titleEDULEARN
Internet address


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