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Dr Gillian Ferguson

Dr Gillian Ferguson

Profile summary

Professional biography

Gillian Ferguson is a lecturer in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) and is currently involved in work on the Social Work professional programmes and Health and Social Care modules. She has worked in a broad variety of settings including direct practice, workforce development, advisory and regulatory roles, including as a social worker, community learning worker and academic. Gillian worked in her early career as a support worker in the Rape Crisis movement, subsequently working as a youth worker, adult learning worker and health promotion practitioner. She managed a third sector addictions counselling service for many years, remains involved in supporting learning and continues to undertake direct practice in this field. Gillian has also worked in local authority roles and was an associate lecturer with The Open University for about sixteen years.

Research interests

Gillian is an educational researcher integrating different areas of her own learning and professional experience. 

Gillian is interested in research into learning, education and practice in social work and other professional areas including service and project evaluation. Her doctoral thesis focused on workplace learning in relation to social workers: titled, “When David Bowie Created Ziggy Stardust” The Lived Experiences of Social Workers Learning Through Work. The study explored the unique lived experiences of social workers’ learning in the course of their work activities, through an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study. The findings from this qualitative study sit at the intersection of knowledge about workplace and professional learning, offering new insights into how social workers learn through daily work. The thesis shows the nature and complexity of individual social workers’ experiences and how understanding these can help design more effective workplace continuing professional learning opportunities. 

Gillians's current research projects include:

  • Developing an experiential learning pathway for social work child protection
  • Exploring effective workplace practices that support social workers' learning
  • Responsibility to act on climate emergency: a Document Analysis of social work educational and professional standards across the UK and an Exploration of Postgraduate Social Work Student perspectives on climate change with Lindsay Giddings
  • Writing in Professional Social Work Impact Phase with Dr Lucy Rai, Ann Flynn, Lindsay Giddings 
  • Knowledge Landscapes a PRAXIS funded project exploring how professional doctorate researchers negotiate academic and professional epistemologies led by Dr Azumah Dennis

Gillian is actively involved in supporting doctoral research at the Open Unviersity with support for learning around methodologies and supervision of doctoral students. She is open to contact in relation to examination of doctoral work and external examination roles. Gillian is a member of the Lifelong Learning Research Group, Social Work Research Group, a lead for the Climate Justice and Social Work Special Interest Group. Gillian is also involved in supporting the Open Societal challenge Existential Dis/Connections (open.ac.uk).

Gillian has a particualr interest in phenomenological research, and use of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) particularly in relation to the social work field. Gillian leads the Open University Social Work IPA network (SWIPA) with Professor Sarah Vicary. 

Gillian is currently a peer reviewer for:

Qualitative Social Work; British Journal of Social Work; Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning; Social Work Education; Practice: Social Work in Action

Teaching interests

Currently Gillian is Practice Lead for Social Work and is involved in production and presentation of social work and health & social care modules at The Open University. She has previously been an Associate Lecturer and been involved in teaching across a broad range of modules, including widening participation, social work, health and social care, working with children and families.

Current teaching responsibilities include:

Previously Gillian led the delivery of the Practice Learning Award for a partnership in Scotland. She remains interested in learning through and in professional practice, and how this can best be facilitated. 

Impact and engagement

Gillian's professional experience in third sector and local authority settings continues to inform her teaching and learning activity. She remains close to professional practice through involvement in services in Scotland in direct work.

Recent conference presentations

Ferguson, G., (2024) Introducing a holistic model for Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for social work practice and research Authentic Care in Health and Social Care Conference, University of Greenwich

Ferguson, G. and Giddings, L. (2024) Social work regulation and responsibility to act on the climate emergency British Association of Social Workers Conference, Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh

Ferguson, G., (2021) ‘Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers’ 13th International Conference on Practice Teaching and Field Education in Health and Social Work

Ferguson, G (2022) 'When David Bowie Created Ziggy Stardust: Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers' Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board, 9th Annual Social Work and Social Care Research Conference

‘Writing in social work’ presentation to British Association of Applied Linguistics PAWBL SIG with Dr Lucy Rai February 2022

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers presentation to Open University Social Work Research Group April 2022

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers presentation to Strathclyde University Lunchtime Seminar Series November 2022

 

Recent presentations to social work organisations

Scottish Social Services Council, Newly Quaified Social Workers Supported Year in Scotland Test Sites - Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers presentation to Social Work Scotland, Learning and Development National Network, December 2021

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers to South Ayrshire Council March 2022

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers presentation to Dundee City Council May 2022

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers presentation to Dumfries and Galloway Council April 2022

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers presentation to Falkirk Council, Social Work Conference December 2022

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers presentation to Scottish Association of Social Workers Community of Practice Session December 2022

Workplace learning for social workers presentation to Highland Council, March 2023

Workplace learning for social workers presentation to North Ayrshire Council, March 2023

Workplace learning for social workers presentation to East Dunbartonshire Council, March 2023

Workplace learning for social workers: a complex web, Joint Social Work Education and Research Conference, Glasgow, June 2023

Writing for your life: resources for social work practice and education, Joint Social Work Education and Research Conference, Glasgow, June 2023

An extraordinary job and an incredible profession, Highalnd Council Social Work Forum, October 2023

Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers, Stirling University, Practice Eduation Forum, October 2023

Learning to do an extraordinary job, Perth and Kinross Council, Social Work Forum, March 2024

Publications

Professional doctorates reconciling academic and professional knowledge: towards a diffractive re-reading (2024)
Dennis, Carol Azumah; Aubrey-Smith, Fiona; Álvarez, Inma; Waterhouse, Philippa and Ferguson, Gillian
Higher Education Research & Development ((Early access))


Embedding Learning as a Practice of Value: Learning from the Experiences of Early Career Social Workers in Scotland (2024)
McCulloch, Trish; Grant, Scott; Daly, Maura; Sen, Robin and Ferguson, Gillian
The British Journal of Social Work ((Early access))


"When David Bowie created Ziggy Stardust" Reconceptualising workplace learning for social workers (2023-03-02)
Ferguson, Gillian
The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning: Papers from the International Conference on Practice Teaching and Field Education in Health and Social Work, 20(1) (pp. 67-87)


[Book Review] Out of the shadows: the role of social workers in disasters edited by Angie Bartoli, Maris Stratulis and Rebekah Pierre (2023-01)
Ferguson, Gillian
Social Work Education: The International Journal, 42(1) (pp. 161-162)


Social Work Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: A Methodological Approach for Practice and Research (2024-01-23)
Vicary, Sarah and Ferguson, Gillian
ISBN : 9780335252374 | Publisher : McGraw Hill, Open University Press


Learning environments (2024-07-02)
Wareing, Mark Philip and Ferguson, Gillian
In: Wareing, Mark Philip ed. Practice Supervision and Assessment in Nursing, Health and Social Care (pp. 27-39)
ISBN : 9781032415383 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon


Practice education in social work (2024-07-02)
Ferguson, Gillian and Sicat, Sherwyn
In: Wareing, Mark Philip ed. Practice Supervision and Assessment in Nursing, Health and Social Care (pp. 116-126)
ISBN : 9781032415383 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon


Learning in non-assessed, virtual and alternate environments (2024-07-02)
Page, Sarah; Ferguson, Gillian; Shanley, Kirsty and Horton Ifekoya, Ayana
In: Wareing, Mark Philip ed. Practice Supervision and Assessment in Nursing, Health and Social Care (pp. 194-203)
ISBN : 9781032415383 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon


Introducing a holistic model for Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis in social work practice and research (2024-06-28)
Ferguson, Gillian and Vicary, Sarah
In : Authentic Care in Health and Social Care, and Education Conference (28 Jun 2024, University of Greenwich: Institute of Life Course Development, London, UK)


Social work education, regulation and the climate emergency – responsibility and action (2024)
Ferguson, Gillian and Giddings, Lindsay
In : BASW Conference 2024: A Sustainable Future for Social Work (18-19 Jun 2024, Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh)


Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), social work education, continuing professional learning and development (CPLD) (2024)
Ferguson, Gillian and Vicary, Sarah
Social Work and IPA (SWIPA) Research Network, The Open University


The importance of workplace learning for social workers (2022-12)
Ferguson, Gillian
Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, Glasgow, Scotland.