Planting a seed: encouraging service users towards educational goals

Michele Jarldorn, Liz Beddoe, Heather Fraser, Dee Michell

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    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Some interventions by social workers, teachers and parents take time to develop but can produce, in the longer term, powerful and unexpectedly positive results. We were reminded of this in 2013, when we undertook a small qualitative study where we used feminist memory work to explore the experiences of 11 women from low socio-economic backgrounds studying social sciences at an Australian university. Of the eleven participants, seven were from social work. When asked to remember their journey into tertiary education, the women revealed memorable encounters with social workers, teachers and parents, the impact of which had lasted well into the future. We use the gardening metaphor of ‘planting a seed’ to refer to interventions that may not blossom in the short term but can bear fruit months or years later. Yet, we also note that ‘seeds of doubt’ can be planted too. We conclude by suggesting that planting seeds of possibility is a worthy but potentially overlooked professional activity. Yet, since ours is a small study, further research is warranted to explore the influence of social workers who plant seeds of possibility and whose actions help to recruit and retain socially disadvantaged students in higher education.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)921-935
    Number of pages15
    JournalSocial Work Education
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2015


    • Feminist memory work
    • Longer term interventions
    • Student poverty
    • Working-class women in higher education


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