Is there a place in social work education for men who use intimate partner violence? An evolving collaborative inquiry

Author Identifier

Rebecca Jury

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Supervisor

Naomi Godden

Second Supervisor

Julie Nyanjom


The research described in this thesis provides an exploration of power and knowledge in social work education, with a focus on service user involvement in social work education by groups with complex issues. The inclusion of service users in social work education can offer opportunities to rebalance power between academics, students, and service users. Yet there is a lack of inclusion of service users in social work higher education (Askheim, Beresford, & Heule, 2017). Service users who live with complex issues have a lower likelihood of inclusion despite evidence they may make important contributions to student understanding about complex social issues (Raikes & Balen, 2016). My research explored if there is a place and space in social work education for one service user group with complex issues, men who use intimate partner violence (IPV).

The epistemology that framed my research was feminism, social constructionism, and critical realism. Within this frame I designed a qualitative research project using a Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology with four action research cycles. In the first stage of this cyclical research process, I used questionnaires and focus groups to explore the perspectives of higher education staff, social work students and men who use IPV regarding service user involvement in social work education. For the second and third stages, I initiated two collaborative inquiries (CI) with groups of men who use IPV as co-researchers, where men who use IPV discussed their experiences of domestic violence services and then developed a learning resource for social work students. For the final stage, social work students participated in focus groups where they viewed the learning resource, providing feedback through questionnaires and group discussion.

The research findings suggest there are few policy-based or person-based barriers to service user involvement in social work education. The findings also suggest service users with complex issues and students can successfully engage the other using mediated approaches. Men who use IPV identified positive outcomes of service user involvement. These included the use of peer affirmations, increased responsibility-taking, and ongoing commitment to being involved in the education of social work students. Students reported decreased stigmatisation of men who use IPV, increased likelihood to use co-production approaches and an increased willingness to work alongside groups with complex issues in practicums and practice environments.

This thesis highlights the challenges and complexity that can arise when service users with complex issues are engaged in service user involvement in social work education. It also identifies this challenge as offering opportunities for the radicalisation of knowledges in higher education. As a contribution to fostering service user involvement, the thesis closes by proposing a new methodological approach to service user involvement in social work education, Evolving Collaborative Inquiry (ECI). ECI offers opportunities to create knowledge exchange between social work students, service user groups with complex issues and social work academics. By engaging with complexity, social work academics may build new knowledge for social work education, practice, and research.

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