Some experimentations

Italian experience

Full Day Meeting: an italian experience between Social work students and Experts by Experience »


Full Day meetings are part of a core module, Social Work Orientation Workshop for first year undergraduate students of the Catholic University of Milan (Italy). In this activity the students can meet and dialogue with a service user in the University.


This activity helps students overcome their stigmatizing attitudes in relation to service users.Providing students with direct exposure to stigmatized people in roles that emphasize their humanity and stranghts, rather than their deficits can be a useful to change their prospective and establish the groundwork for helping relationships based on mutual trust and the development of people’s empowerment.


The Full Day programme is divided into two parts. In the morning, each student is randomly matched with a service user. The student and service users then share a two-hour face-to-face conversation. It is made clear to all the participants that this conversation is not a professional assessment or a research interview, but a simple conversation aimed at getting to know one another and exchanging life experiences. Following the two-hour conversations all participants eat lunch together in the university canteen. After lunch, two-hour group meetings occur with a mixture of students, service users and academics. The group meetings can be facilitated by academics or service users. In the group meetings, all participants are asked to express their thoughts and feelings about the Full Day experience.


Full day meeting is enriching for students as well as for the service users and academics.For service users, involvement has inspired them to positively revisit their experience as service users or carers; to learn new skills and to have a valued role; to be heard and build self-confidence; as well as have the opportunity to critically revisit their personal story.The collaboration with service users has created opportunities for academics to develop innovative approaches for re-shaping social work education in effective and concrete ways. Furthermore, engagement with service users for both students and academics, can ‘minimize othering as “us” and “them”, counter the idea of the social worker as expert, contribute to more egalitarian relationships and enable us to truly be for the Other’ (Sewpaul and Henrickson, 2019:10).


Organizing an activity for an existing group service users – A pedagogical activity involving Service User from the Social Work program at Artevelde Ghent University



In the second year of the social work programme, students will develop an activity in a purposeful, process-oriented, and reasoned way for an existing group of service users.


In subgroups of 3 to 5 students, students develop an external activity. They work together with an organization from the field.


  • What matters is that the students get to know the diversity of the target groups and contexts.
  • It is the intention to participate with the stakeholders and to focus on increasing the self-managing capacity of the target group.
  • Students should create an empowering space and integrate the elements of an empowering basic attitude into the counselling process.


For the students :

  • students learn how to programme an agogic activity
  • students learn how to guide groups
  • students learn how to collaborate professionally with fellow students and stakeholders
  • students learn how to incorporate group roles and tasks

For the service users :

The service users will experience that they are being heard, that they are allowed to participate, and that they are equal.


French experience

An Ocellia project on service users’ involvement in social work education

Reception of asylum seekers : sharing knowledge with service users


This pedagogical programme, which lasts for 12 hours, is designed for social work students (bachelor degree) in their second year. During their studies, students are given some inputs on public policy (concerning this programme, these inputs are related to immigration policy and national reception system for asylum seekers). Following these presentations, this project aims to enable students to understand the effects of this system on service users. Students meet people who have user’s expertise of this system, i.e. who have experienced the asylum system in France.


The main objective is to share experiences and to support professionalization of the students, by allowing them to learn from those who have built up knowledge from user’s expertise. Some students have worked with asylum seekers during their internships. These experiences can also be referred to during the discussions.


In the back office : 

– Professionals (ideally « alumni » who have already experimented the programme during their education) formulate problem-question that will initiate discussions. 

– Speakers/ stakeholders are selected and a team is set up. They are paid for their working time. 

– Three meetings (before, during and after the programme). The first meeting clarifies the aims and the framework. Then, lecturers allow each speaker to choose « selected pieces » of experience to share with students, in relation with what they want students to understand.

– Lecturers, as facilitators, prepare methodological guidelines for each step.

In the front office : 

– Two sessions are planned with students (one before and one after the encounter with service users) to present the programme and to initiate a reflexive process, by making representations more explicit all along the programme.

– The programme takes place in a remote environment, to move away from what the educational institution can implement in terms of roles, both for students and speakers.

The collaboration with speakers takes place in 3 steps: 

– Getting to know each other: based on various questions, a time is set up for all the participants to get to know each other. 

– Then, the students, in groups of 5 or 6, talk to each speaker. At the end of these interactions, the group of students identifies and takes note of what they remember, what surprises them and what they do not understand. Lecturers are not present during discussions with speakers.

– The closing time is a « role play » which aims to make explicit the learning achievements for students. A member of each group presents a proposal to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in turn. These proposals have been discussed with speakers before presentation.


Through this type of pedagogical approach, under the form of an enquiry (Dewey, 1993), students put themselves in a posture of learning from vulnerable people, not in a posture of needs assessment. By interacting with stakeholders, they learn to « see from below » (Haraway, 2007), from the perspective of stakeholders. They can share various points of view on social workers’ role and question their professional postures, particularly the attention given to the user’s discourse. In this way, by considering experience as a legitimate epistemological starting point, this programme can enable future social workers to renew reasons for their commitment to this profession, with a view towards epistemic justice (Fricker, 2007).

Swedish experience



“What’s best for Esther?” is the name of a case-based pedagogical activity implemented within the Social Work programme at Jönköping University, Sweden. Based on a case about an elderly married couple, social work students had the possibility to develop a care plan for an elderly person in need of social services.





A fictive case about the married elderly couple Esther and Erik was developed in collaboration with elderly service users.

Students spent a full day of pedagogical activities at a care home for elderly people. Apart from social work students and lecturers, this pedagogical activity included elderly service users and professionals. A service user played the role of Esther and described her, and her husband’s living conditions and needs of social services. Based on Esther’s narrated story and a written description of the case students work in groups on the common task to develop a care plan for Esther and Kalle. They were told to continuously ask the question: What’s best for Esther?

To help the students develop a care plan in line with Esther’s own understanding of the needs and solutions, they had the possibility to ask Esther questions (played by service user). Students also had the possibility to ask their social work colleagues and other professionals questions.

When the students were almost finished with their care plans, they got information about major changes in Esther’s life. These changes demanded that the care plan was reconsidered and modified.

During the last part of the pedagogical activity, students presented and motivated their care plan towards Esther and their peers. Esther gave feedback on the care plan from her point of view.


Students learned the following skills:

  • to consider what is best for service users
  • to collaborate professionally with fellow students, service users, and other professionals
  • to be flexible and to reconsider and modify initial plans

Service users participated as follows:

  • As co-producers of pedagogical material

  • Played the character in a fictive case

  • Interacted with students

  • Gave feedback one student’s tasks