International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 18 - 20 July 2016
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Service user and carer involvement in education for health and social care: social justice and the ‘education questions’

Jill Anderson, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University


This paper takes Jenni Case’s think piece as a starting point for exploration of a relatively recent phenomenon in university departments of health and social care: the widespread involvement of people with experience of using services in the education of professionals; and emergence of an associated academic identity, the service user and carer development worker, to coordinate such work.  That phenomenon can, in many ways, be seen to align with a social justice agenda, as exemplified in this comment from a service user educator: ‘I never would have thought I’d be involved in a university’s teaching and learning.  Possibly sweeping the floor would have been the only way in’.  People with experience of using services, or as carers, diversify the knowledge base.  They change ‘what counts as legitimate knowledge and how it is transmitted’ (in Monica McLean’s words); bringing their own lived experience of injustice to bear on students’ understandings of their roles as future health and social care practitioners.  There is a growing literature on service user and carer involvement in education, based largely on small scale close-up studies.  It suggests that the above approach - highly valued by students, by people with experience of using services and by lecturers - can be transformative.  There are, however, increasing calls for more robust evidence of the efficacy of involvement initiatives; their impact, that is, on future practice. Jenni Case suggests that adopting a social justice stance can help us to recognise the ways in which the purposes of higher education are increasingly framed in ‘instrumental and economic terms’, with educational outcomes characterised in relation to the ‘evidence base’.   She enjoins us to turn from those concerns to the ‘education questions’.  This paper explores how, in service user and carer involvement in education initiatives, the ‘education questions’ may be being missed.  I argue that refocusing attention on such questions may unsettle our understandings of where social justice concerns currently sit in relation to involvement initiatives.  Drawing on the literature, and on my own small scale doctoral research, I consider how service user and carer development workers conceive of their work, reflecting on the absence of links between their own practice and that of another group of development workers - educational developers.  I contend that in the absence of such links may lie one explanation for why the ‘education questions’, in our context, often go unasked.

Professional education, academic identities, service user and carer involvement, public engagement, social justice, impact.


Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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