Practitioner research reports available for download!

We are very pleased to showcase five of the PROP practitioner-research reports.  They can be dowloaded, along with copies of knowledge exchange presentations and images of the summary postcards through the individual practitioner profiles on this blog.

Direct links to the reports are available here

Abenet Tsegai and Becky Gamiz’s report “Carer’s assessment and outcomes focused approaches to working with carers

Gabrielle Colston’s report “Perspectives on personal outcomes of early stage support for people with dementia and their carers

Janice Caine’s report “Is music the best medicine? Using prescribed music to enhance quality of life for people with dementia and their carer

Kathy Litteljohn’s report “Assessment at Home pathway: the experiences of service users, carers and staff in South Glasgow during the early stages of implementation – July 2012 to January 2013

Catherine Robertson’s report “Analysis and review of staff training regarding care for older people”:


Making the most of practitioners doing research

Practitioners undertake a considerable amount of research, in fact Mitchell and colleagues estimate that ‘Practitioner research in social work probably occupies a major part of the total volume of research activity in this field’ (Mitchell et al, 2010: 8).

There is evidence to suggest that practitioner research can be a valuable approach for strengthening the use of research not just for the individual practitioner undertaking research but potentially for the organisation and perhaps even the sector in which they are based.  These benefits vary depending on the support available for the practitioner and how the research endeavour in structured; which can for instance involve support being provided by other practitioners, academics or research colleagues based in-house or in external organisations.   Some of the benefits of practitioner research for the practitioner and their organisation can include:

  • Delivers research of direct relevance to practice concerns
  • Improves research capacity of individual practitioners and organisations
  • Strengthens the active role of the practitioner in the research process
  • Brings the worlds of policy, practice and research closer together
  • Helps an organisation develop the capacity for critical inquiry and a “learning orientation”
  • Supports the desire for and the use of research done by “outsiders”
  • Reduces the distance knowledge has to travel from research to practice
  • Provides a starting point for further research-practice collaboration

(Armstrong and Alsop, 2010; Roper, 2002; Anderson and Jones, 2000: 430)

However, across social services and health we are are not necessarily maximising the impact of research undertaken by practitioners for several reasons, including:

1) practitioner researchers often lack professional support and training related to the use and application of research methods and theory.

2) practitioners struggle to access existing evidence related to their work, thus potentially affecting the quality of what they are able to produce.

3) practitioners engaged in conducting research into their own team, service or organisation do not usually have the time or capacity to disseminate their research findings or to support its use in other services or organisations.

Along with colleagues at Edinburgh University (Heather Wilkinson and Catherine-Rose Stocks-Rankin) at IRISS we’ve devised and supported a practitioner research programme, known as PROP (practitioner research:older people).  PROP focused on research about older people in an attempt to respond to some of the challenges outlined above – for further information see PROP involved practitioners undertaking small scale research projects, supported by research and knowledge exchange training, a research mentor, opportunities to engage with their peers (other practitioners undertaking research), support for disseminating materials (from a graphic designer and the project team) and a project fellow to talk to for support and advice. The PROP project has been incredibly well received, though the contribution analysis report currently being finalised will provide us with evidence of the impact of the project and the reasons for this.

We’re currently writing up some of the learning and reflections from this programme and are exploring how to build on this work. Our reflections are at an early stage and at the moment are more like questions than reflections, but include:

1) Research centric: We started from the idea that the lack of research use was a problem in improving support for older people.  Would this have been the key problem identified if we’d collectively devised our focus between practititioners, researchers, policy makers and older people themselves?  And did this focus encourage an unequal environment for exchange, with one group of collaborators bringing to the endeavour specific knowledge about research?

2) Peer support: Practitioners identified that they particularly valued and benefited from regular contact with their peers, and that they learnt a lot about other health and social care roles and organisaitons. One of the research projects we supported was conducted by two practitioners based across two organisations so we wonder could this type of approach further maximise the learning across sectors and organisaitons?


3) Skills based: Our approach focused on developing research skills and was less concerned with encouraging personal and organisational inquiry and reflection.  Would there be value in also exploring what a reflective, inquiring practitioner looks like and what behaviours and attitudes support this?

Any views or observations on this would be very welcome and we will share our more refined reflections and contribution analysis report once they are finalised on – watch this space…!


Anderson, G. and Jones, F (2000) Knowledge Generation in Educational Administration From the Inside Out: The Promise and Perils of Site-Based, Administrator Research in Educational Administration Quarterly (Vol. 36, No. 3 (August 2000) 428-464

Armstrong, F. and Alsop, A. (2010) ‘Debate: co-production can contribute to research impact in the social sciences’, Public Money & Management, 30 (4): 208-10

Mitchell, F., Lunt, N. and Shaw, I. (2010) Practitioner research in social work: A knowledge review. Evidence and Policy, 6 (1): 7 -31

Roper, L. (2002) ‘Achieving successful academic-practitioner research collaborations’, Development in Practice, 12 (3-4): 338-345

PROP on the Radio!

Janice Caine gave a lovely interview last night on the BBC programme ‘Get it on with Bryan Burnett‘ as part of the programme’s special for Dementia Awareness Week.

Janice spoke about her research on music therapy for people with dementia.  This research focuses on the use of music to improve the quality of life for both the person with dementia and their carer.  As Janice says, selecting music ‘that fits the person’ is central to the success of kind of support.  Janice’s research was participatory, and so the participants in her research chose the songs that they would like to listen to.  In order for the music therapy to have an impact, the music should be familiar to the person with dementia.  By including carers in this research, Janice was able to support the selection of music that was important to both the carer and the participant in the project.

As Janice says, ‘the beauty of is that it sparks off all over the brain’.  This means that it can provoke memories from 40 and 50 years ago.  Janice talked about the importance of music for linking people to significant periods in their life – first love, marriage, their first house.  At the end of the interview, she selects a song which is important to her own life: Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye‘.  Well done, Janice!



Presentations from the May KE Event!

We had a wonderful knowledge exchange event on May 9th at the University of Edinburgh!

The practitioner-researchers on the PROP project produced powerpoint and prezi presentations to summarize their research.  These are available for download on the biography pages for each individual practitioner. We also recorded their presentations and have made the audio from these recordings available.

Links to these pages and the presentations can be found here:

In preparation for this event, we created a set of postcards which summarize the research findings from these projects.  PDF copies are available for download through the links above.  If you would like hard copies, please drop Catherine-Rose a line at or get in touch with the practitioner-researchers directly.

Upcoming Knowledge Exchange Event – May 9th 2013

We’re looking forward to our next knowledge exchange event on May 9th 2013 at David Hume Tower in the University of Edinburgh.  We’ve arranged the different PROP research projects into three panels:  service review, service improvement and experiences of older people. This event gives us a chance to share the findings from these projects and develop strategies for the use of this research in practice and policy development.

We’re also delighted to share a set of postcards which capture the key findings from each of the projects.  We hope these will be a useful knowledge exchange tool which the practitioners and their organisations can use to prompt discussion of this research.  More details to follow on these!


Lessons Learned from Practitioner-Research

We have written a short briefing note which captures some of our on-going learning about practitioner-research. Its contents are based on evaluations from previous practitioner-research programmes: (1) Engaging with Involuntary Service Users in Social Work project carried out by The University of Edinburgh in 2010, and (2) Older People, User Involvement and Families and Relationships carried out by The University of Edinburgh in 2008.  These evaluation materials from these projects have been summarized by Catherine-Rose Stocks-Rankin, the research fellow on the PROP project.

The material in this brief is indebted to practitioners involved in those projects who gave thoughtful feedback on their experience with the practitioner-research programme.   For more information, please see the related publications and resources at the end of the document, particularly the article ‘A collaborative approach to defining the usefulness of impact’ by Heather Wilkinson, Michael Gallagher and Mark Smith.

PROP’s First KE Event!

We had our first knowledge exchange event on Monday, October 22nd, and by all accounts it was a great success!  The event focused on two key themes: the experience of doing research as a practitioner and the eight research projects which are underway.

The first set of presentations centered on the research process.  The practitioners grounded their perspectives in a variety of images, each of which gives some insight into the opportunities and challenges one faces when undertaking a new piece of research. In addition to the ripple image here, we were shown pictures of an iceberg, a nebula, a mountain climber and the Tardis from Doctor Who!  Each of these suggests the depth and complexity of the research process.

We also had a discussion about the role of research in organisations.  We were particularly interested in how and why research might be used when planning and delivering health and social care to older people. The key themes from this discussion were (1) improving services for older people (2) using resources better and (3) fostering change and development.

After a short break, we joined the practitioners again for a second set of presentations.  This time, the focus was on their rationale for doing research.  We learned about the motivation for doing a piece of research, the opportunities which being a practitioner has brought to the research process and their aspirations for creating improvement in the delivery of health and social care for older people.

A summary of the different practitioner research programmes can be downloaded here.  Further detail on each of the practitioners-researchers can be found on our blog here.  And more information on our knowledge exchange plans can be found here.


Knowledge Exchange Event, October 22nd, 12:30-4:30

Our first knowledge exchange event is scheduled for this coming Monday, October 22nd from 12:30-4:30 at IRISS in Glasgow.  We’re keen to share some of the early insights about practitioner-led inquiry and hope that you can join us for an informal discussion about the eight PROP research projects.

This afternoon session will give you the opportunity to engage with new research, discuss the use of research and evidence in health and social care, and learn new things about practitioner-led inquiry. An overview of the day and map to the venue can be found here.