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Using the resource in education and training

Setting the scene

As stated above, it is important for tutors and trainers to know why they wish to use the resource; it’s also important to have some sense of how they might use it. In many ways its structure, which permits use in both linear and non-linear ways, creates endless possibilities for both educational and staff development use. Some of the ways in which the resource development team envisage the resource being used include:

  • As a full or partial replacement for theoretical and conceptual teaching about research mindedness in social work/care qualifying courses
  • As a resource for agency staff development and training
  • As a general source of information, reference resource, etc. within practice settings
Successful use of any resource depends to a great extent on being able to integrate it with other aspects of the study course, training programme or organisational culture with which it is associated. Here are some suggested uses for the resource:
  • As a primary information source for teaching research literacy within a research module at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels
  • As part of a post-qualifying/ CPD course, either face-to-face or by distance learning
  • As an integral part of an agency’s information and communication strategy

Helping learners to get started

It must not be assumed that learners who are familiar with computers are already skilled in e-learning. Even though they may routinely use computers to access the Web or for social purposes, they will not necessarily view them as a tool for learning.

Therefore, in advance of any session working with the resource, it is helpful to try and gauge how learners feel about the prospect of e-learning, and any relevant experiences they may have. This might usefully include not only on-line learning, but also the use of CD-ROMs, computer-assisted learning, computer-based training etc.

An initial session with the resource might take the form of a tutor/trainer-led presentation on its key features, designed to highlight how it can support key areas of a course of study or staff development programme. This might then lead to focusing on a specific topic within the resource – e.g. ‘Why be research minded’, followed by a discussion of the key issues involved. If time permits the session can then involve individual learners in either staff- or self-directed tasks.

As with any education and training method, helping learners to begin using the resource requires planning. Simply issuing users with the URL of the resource is unlikely to stimulate more than passing interest in its value and potential usefulness. It may be helpful, then, as you view the resource yourself to keep brief notes on any ideas that occur to you for introducing it to learners.

Helping learners to stay engaged

Whilst some learners will quickly spot the value of the resource and develop an active interest in using it, for others the novelty of e-learning will soon wear off. Evidence from many e-learning developers suggests that one of the keys to maintaining engagement lies in ensuring that learners don’t just use resources passively. This in turn requires tutors and trainers to:

  • Identify appropriate aims and learning objectives
  • Devise tasks to engage users in relevant learning, and;
  • Direct users to elements of the resource with which to undertake learning activities

So, by way of example, you may decide that the learners for whom you are responsible need to understand the role which Research Governance will increasingly play in shaping research activity in social care. You may then set a task such as:

‘Using the Research Mindedness learning resource as your starting point, carry out the following tasks:

a. In relation to a piece of your own research, or research you are familiar with, identify the main issues which relate to the concept of Research Governance
b. Discuss how the implementation of the Research Governance framework is likely to impact on the issues you identified and why?

The above task could be undertaken by learners working alone, or in pairs. Outcomes from the task could form part of a formative assessment, or contribute to a learning portfolio.

Activities and tasks such as the example above which will help users of the resource to process information, thereby creating personal and professional knowledge in the area of research mindedness.

Using the resource to support learners between on-line sessions

In an already crowded curriculum or staff development programme, scheduled on-line sessions involving the resource are likely to account for a small amount of learners’ time. As with all forms of education and training, the ways in which learners are supported during off-line time can play a crucial part in ensuring that learning objectives are met and that learning momentum is sustained.

The resource itself can be used in a range of ways to support learning during off-line periods, as follows:

  • The resource contains some 50 links to other resources and information sources, from most of which materials can be downloaded and stored for reference and study off-line.
  • Individual sections of the resource core materials can be printed off and used as study materials for seminars, learning sets, group discussions, team meetings, etc. For students whose practice teachers may lack easy access to the resource on-line, this facility can enable sharing of the materials with them, thus helping to integrate college and agency based learning.

As tutors and trainers become familiar with the resource, its contents, structure, navigability and links to external sources, so we believe they will also develop their own ways of using it to support learners.

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