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An Evaluation of an Innovative Audio Tape Method of Keeping Social Care Staff Up To Date with the Latest Research Findings


Social care staff find it notoriously difficult to fit professional reading into their busy schedules. With the current emphasis on evidence-based practice, this is a problem as they need to keep up to date with research findings. Research in Practice, a national organisation for promoting evidence-based social work with vulnerable children and families, has developed and promoted a series of audio-tapes for social workers to listen to, in an innovative attempt to help them to abreast of research developments.

The fifth tape in the series was on helping young people who are leaving care. The Nuffield Foundation funded the Policy Research Bureau to evaluate the use and impact of this particular tape by exploring its reception in a set of four social care agencies.

What did the research focus on?

The evaluation explored (a) the experiences of the staff in using the tapes, (b) the extent to which the audio-tape raises knowledge about issues at an individual level and (c) subsequent changes in agency practice in terms of discussing and sharing literature-based information over a period of several months.

What did the research involve?

The study was conducted in four RiP member agencies, selected to reflect the range of agencies with whom RiP works. The research project lasted ten months in total. PRB worked with a nominated link person in each agency to ensure smooth data collection. The study was primarily qualitative in approach, allowing us to explore themes and issues in a systematic way through discussions and open-ended questions, although there was also a more structured element. The main stages of the project were:

  • An initial pre-tape questionnaire to assess existing levels of knowledge about the topic area on which the tape is based
  • Four focus group discussions with small groups of social care staff in each agency (one in each agency), just after introduction of the tapes
  • An email follow-up questionnaire approximately four months after initial listening to the tape to assess broader impact issues

Timescale and final products of the research

The study ran from November 2000 until the end of August, 2001. Data collection was undertaken during the first half of 2001. A final report was submitted to Nuffield in 2001, and was submitted to Child and Family Social Work journal for publication in 2004.

Hagell A and Spencer L (2004) An evaluation of an innovative audio tape method of keeping soical care staff up-to-date with the latest research finding. Child and Family Social Work, 9, 2, 187-196.

Last updated July 2004