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Home > Arhiva > 2010 > Numar: 4 > Self-evaluation of Social Work Practice Through Reflection on Professional Mistakes. Practice Makes “Perfect”?

 Self-evaluation of Social Work Practice Through Reflection on Professional Mistakes. Practice Makes “Perfect”?

  • Alessandro Sicora (University of Calabria, Department of Sociology and Political Science, Via P. Bucci, Cubo 0/B-1/B, 87036 Arcavacata di Rende (CS) – Italy, phone number: + 39 0984492531, E-mail:

Although criticized by some authors, self evaluation through reflective practice is of great importance in providing better professional services. Day after day social workers face situations that are largely unique and unrepeatable and for which solutions cannot be found in textbooks. For this reason the development of an adequate expertise though systematic and structured reflection is of primary importance. The result of a qualitative research undertaken in some Italian services shows that sometimes social workers “need” to make mistakes because paradoxically in many cases it is the only way to help the client in a long term perspective and to learn how to reduce negative outcomes in health and social services. The metaphor of Columbus discovering America “by mistake” while looking for a new route to India can help develop a better comprehension of the potentialities of this kind of reflection and help social workers find new ways to face the complex problems of the users. Furthermore, both intuition and rational reasoning are needed in social work practice, but they often produce systematic errors. Reflecting on these mistakes makes us better understand how we think and feel and help to correct our practice. This activity can be empowered by the use of conceptual tools like reflective frameworks (i.e. Borton’s key questions, Gibbs's reflective cycle) and techniques of analytic or creative reflective writing. At the same time open and structured discussions with colleagues about mistakes improve the quality of “learning organization” where people can express and receive criticism using effective strategies.

Keywords: evaluation, reflective