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Facilitated Practice-Based Research (FPR) Programme – delivered by the University of Sunderland

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Facilitated Practice-Based Research (FPR) Programme – delivered by the University of Sunderland

Following on from the success of the 2022 / 2023 Facilitated Practice-based Research (FPR) programme NESWA (North East Social Work Alliance), the University of Sunderland and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North East and North Cumbria, are pleased to announce that Dr Lesley Deacon will be hosting a second research teaching programme for social work practitioners interested in developing their careers towards Practice Researcher / Expert in Practice.

This Training Programme has been developed to teach practitioners a specific way to develop practice / services by framing research within existing practice knowledge, experience and skills.

The implementation of this programme is aimed at social workers currently working in either Children’s or Adults Services within a Local Authority / NHS Trust partnership, who have at least two years’ post qualifying experience.

Please see below for more details on this seven-session training programme, with three supporting supervision sessions.

About the programme

FPR has been developed by Dr Lesley Deacon to teach practitioners a specific way to develop practice/services by framing research within existing practice knowledge, experience and skills. This is achieved through the process of ‘doing’ practice research which not only empowers practitioners to complete the research themselves, but to also do this in a way that encourages participatory research, accessing the voice of experts by experience. The approach developed is interactive and collaborative whereby the practitioners and teaching facilitators work together to identify, design and conduct a piece of practice research relevant to the lived experiences of people who access statutory services in the region. Together, a Practice Research Report is completed to feedback into practice across the partnership.

The implementation of this programme is aimed at current adults or children’s social work practitioners working at any of the Local Authority and NHS Trust partners in NESWA (plus three places are available for practitioners from Cumbria Council) who have at least two years’ post qualifying experience. It is suggested that in completing this programme practitioners can develop towards becoming Practitioner Researchers and be able to access further funding opportunities for development in this area.

Teaching format:

The FPR programme consists of three parts: Teaching, Research and Networking

  1. Teaching – there are seven (2-hour) taught sessions to facilitate the identification of an area of practice research relevant to the cohort of practitioners on the programme.
  2. Research – there are three (2-hour) supervision sessions to support the implementation of a group practice research project.
  3. Networking – having completed FPR Parts 1 and 2, practitioners and their organisations will be invited to be part of an emerging practitioner-led practice research network to enable greater access to research support for writing for publication and presenting at conferences.

Parts 1 and 2 will take place in person at Gateshead Civic Centre. The teaching elements are taught as part of a University of Sunderland module SWKM43 Reflexive Practice Research, on which participants will be registered. (To pass this element each practitioner will submit an additional reflective piece (pass mark = 40%).) However, it is expected that practitioners will engage in reading, writing and allocated tasks related to the project, outside of the teaching hours.

The programme is aimed at not only developing the practitioner but also supporting Local Authorities to engage in practice research which emerges from, and feeds back, into practice. It is therefore essential that those applying for this programme understand the level of commitment needed from themselves and their organisations. They must be able to commit to the teaching, supervision, practice research project and university module (i.e. Parts 1 and 2).

Summary of course details:

Session Date Time
1: Reflecting on Practice and Research 6 September 2023 10–12
2: Thinking about Research and Knowledge 20 September 2023 10–12
3: Understanding Previous Research 4 October 2023 10–12
4: Emancipatory Practice Development 18 October 2023 10–12
5: Meaningful Research 25 October 2023 10–12
6: The Chosen Approach 8 November 2023 10–12
7: Ethical Research 15 November 2023 10–12
Supervision 1 10 January 2024 10–12
Supervision 2 7 February 2024 10–12
Supervision 3 6 March 2024 10–12

Completion of individual reflexive piece (assessed) – 22 November 2023

Completion of Final Practice Report – 31 May 2024

About the programme leader:

Dr Lesley Deacon is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Sunderland. She is a qualified social worker who worked in children’s safeguarding before becoming a lecturer. Since completing her PhD in 2015, she has collaborated with a range of organisations in the North East of England to design and develop an approach to support practitioners to engage in research to improve practice (FPR). This has resulted in a range of journal and practice outputs relating to a topics including harmful sexual behaviour, dyslexia, isolation and loneliness, parent-carers and psycho-social support, youth homelessness, multi-agency working and experiences of ASYE. She is also the lead author of Social Work Theory and Practice. What is key to her work is to bridge the gap between social work research and social work practice to empower practitioners to utilize their existing skills to enact practice research.

To apply for your place:

This is a small group programme with only twelve spaces available for practitioners, from either Children’s or Adult Services, from across the NESWA partnership. We therefore expect demand to be high, so ask those interested to apply no later than 5pm Friday 4th August 2023

To apply, please email the following details to [email protected]

  • name, job title, local authority / NHS Trust
  • date of social work qualification
  • name and e-mail confirmation from your manager, that you will be supported to attend; and
  • a personal statement (max. 500 words) explaining why you are interested in the programme, and your views on the relationship between research and practice including some of the challenges social workers may face in engaging with it


Please note, we are particularly interested in applications from practitioners who are members of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities as we are aware service user, practitioner and student social work experiences are relatively under-researched.


Successful candidates will be contacted via email by 5pm Tuesday 15 August 2023.


There are no fees for this cohort as it is co-funded by NESWA, ARC, University of Sunderland and the European Social Fund.