Learning together to break down professional barriers

4 Nov 2022

Two University of Queensland educators have combined their law and social work classes to break down professional stereotypes and better ready their students for working life.

Professor Tamara Walsh at the School of Law and social work lecturer Dr Jemma Venables say the results of their pilot education project, still under evaluation, are very promising.

Professor Tamara Walsh

“Our students will need to work together after graduation, yet each discipline doesn’t really understand the other,” Dr Venables said.

“We could also see that shared future clients of our students would benefit if some of the silos between the professions could be broken down.”

Embodying the theme of UQ’s Teaching and Learning Week, Learning for Life, Professor Walsh and Dr Venables designed joint learning tasks to examine the pros and cons of working together, to work through stereotypes and build understanding of each other’s roles in a case study scenario.

Professor Walsh said through sheer luck, she and Dr Venables had courses that aligned in the Semester 1 timetable, allowing the pilot to proceed.

“Working in multidisciplinary teams is important but can be difficult,” Professor Walsh said.

“We want our students to graduate knowing how to work in a way that is respectful, collegial, and collaborative and that's a difficult thing to achieve if there are stereotypes that portray social workers as emotional or lawyers as detached and formulaic.

“The students responded really well to the tasks and reached a good awareness of each other’s perspective.”

Dr Venables agreed the students acknowledged how their roles could complement each other to get the best outcome for a shared client.

Both educators want to use the experience and the positive feedback from the students to embed something similar into future courses.

“We’d like it to become a core part of the curriculum, but some structural and institutional barriers like timetabling would need to be resolved,” Professor Walsh said.

“We're also trying to think of ways we could make the interdisciplinary experience attractive to students outside the classroom.”

Media: UQ Communications, communications@uq.edu.au+61 (0)429 056 139.