Leeds Beckett University
TransformationsInSocialWorkPedagogyAnalysisOfImmersiveWorldsAndAuthenticLearning-LLEWELLYN.pdf (3.18 MB)

Transformations in social work pedagogy : analysis of immersive worlds and authentic learning

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posted on 2022-11-14, 10:43 authored by Anne Llewellyn

The research explored the hypothesis that students can develop knowledge, skills and confidence for professional practice within a simulated learning scenario in the virtual learning environment. It was carried out through the lens of cultural historical activity theory (CHAT), located within the socio-cultural context of activity systems and expansive learning. The research explored the problem that traditional pedagogical approaches are not preparing students effectively for social work practice in complex situations. 

A practical action research approach was used, merging action with a research process of collaborative inquiry. There were three phases of action and research designed to address the central problem of how to improve the education of social work students in the area of child protection work. The first phase involved development of the Learnscape (mediating artefact), collaborating with subject matter experts, instructional designers and social work practitioners. In the second phase, the mediating artefact was piloted with a small group of MA Social Work students and data was collected using questionnaires and interviews. The third phase involved a wider evaluation of the use of the Learnscape within the context of a core module for all Year 1 MA Social Work students and Year 2 BA Social Work students. Data was collected through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with students and staff involved in the module where the Learnscape was used. 

The Learnscape provided students with situated understandings of social work theories and practices across a range of knowledge domains. This virtual learning environment provided a valuable learning approach that is difficult to achieve with more traditional teaching and learning methods. Learners engaged with a process of adaptation to scaffold their knowledge through engagement with the environment, to resolve conflicts and make decisions in a safe environment. Learning was transformed through reflection on the case study in the virtual learning environment. 

The research drew on a number of different theories to explore the nature of learning in the virtual environment as well as the nature of knowledge that is constructed and the affordances of the mediating artefact. Using a constructionist perspective, eLearning theories have been integrated with theories of learning design to form a new pedagogical understanding of immersive learning, which helps students to develop process knowledge as well as a range of knowledge domains for professional practice. Through the research I found that accessibility in eLearning is not only related to the technical aspects of the tool and the instructional design, but also individual learner and teacher levels of knowledge and engagement. The findings from the research are drawn together in a new model for developing and embedding eLearning approaches, integrating technological and pedagogical issues with teacher and learner agencies within cultural and historical contexts.


Qualification name

  • Professional Doctorate


Moss, Dorothy

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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