Evelyn’s Story – Simulations in Social work
APRIL, 2019
Digital Innovation
Teaching & Learning

By Sophie Goldingay, Jodie Satour, Sevi Vassos, Selma Macfarlane, Beth Crisp, Sarah Epstein (all from the Social Work Team, School of Health and Social Development) and, Peter Lane, Brett Wilson, Tim Crawford (From the Health Pod, Deakin Learning Futures, Faculty of Health).



About our practice:

As a team, we are passionate about preparing the next generation of social workers for the realities and complexities of 21 Century practice.  To do this we created a case study character ‘Evelyn’ and developed a script based on our own practice experiences called ‘Evelyn’s story’. From this script, Evelyn makes a video diary of her daily life and challenges with impacts of imprisonment, substance addiction, child protection and family violence.  The video diaries therefore cover a range of fields of practice including mental health, family violence and child protection services. 

We created specific simulation rooms for these fields of practice to enable students to imagine they were part of these work places, needing to make decisions and practice in ways that are congruent with what is taught in the course materials.  One of the rooms also supports students to learn specifically how to work in culturally safe ways with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.

Our approach:

This approach is unique because it is service-user centred. We wanted social work students to imagine that they are Evelyn’s social worker, visiting her in her home and listening to her tell her story, with the view of practicing in ways consistent with social work knowledge and values.  Being exposed to a digital but realistic service user addresses the problem of the gap between classroom teaching and actual practice with service users.  It addresses the problem of exploring and managing ones’ own reactions to emotionally charged practice situations like family violence without harming real service users.

Above: Screenshot from ‘Evelyn’s Story’
The project is an immersive e-simulation experience with multiple pathways that students select and can be embedded into cloud sites, and assessment packages designed to evaluate students’ ability to work with realistic and complex service user situations. The case study is used across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate units within social work, with each one taking a different focus.  The units include undergraduate units: Social Work Methods in Context HSW118 and Social Work Processes and Interventions HSW212 and at the postgraduate level:  Challenging Poverty and Social Exclusion HSW705 and Addressing Violence and Abuse HSW707. Having the case study across multiple units and years means students follow the service user’s journey over time and explore the experiences and challenges, for both workers and service users, in depth. This helps bridge the gap between theory and practice, so that students could apply what they learn in class directly to working with Evelyn and her family.
“The digital case study ‘portray[ed] a realistic scenario’ so they could better ‘interact with the course material”
Careful designing, scripting, and recording was essential to the production of the resource so that Deakin Learning Futures could work with us to create an immersive experience. Scaffolding resources into various parts of both undergraduate and postgraduate degree offerings required ongoing teamwork and constructive alignment of the degrees.  Finally, adopting a service-user-centred and multi-unit approach when creating digital resources enabled students to feel they are emotionally engaged with the material.  In one evaluation of the resource, a student said they felt they knew Evelyn personally!  The resulting resource also enables students to be exposed to potentially distressing situations in safe and managed ways, thereby minimising the potential for harm to students or to vulnerable service users.  While developed in social work, this approach can be useful for a range of practice-based disciplines such as nursing and psychology.


Useful Resources on FeedbackFruits

Evelyn’s Story Excerpt


Simulating social work practice online with digital storytelling: challenges and opportunities (Research Paper)


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