Anna Schmid, lecturer at the ZHAW School of Social Work, Institute of Management and Social Policy, reports about the visit from guest lecturers from Cornell University, New York.

From October 10 to 12, guest lecturers Martha J. Holden and Jack Holden from Cornell University, New York, joined nine bachelor students in our seminar «Perspectives of International Social Work». Martha is director of the Residential Child Care Project (CARE) and Jack consultant at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

The seminar was organised by Clara Bombach, Samuel Keller (from the Institute of Childhood, Youth and Family) and I, and in collaboration with FICE Switzerland. Its goal was for the students to get to know the CARE practice model with its six principles to create positive change in residential care organisations. They were interested to learn that the model is research- and practice-informed and contains a detailed «theory of change» to support implementation. The model’s effects in practice are being researched since 2006, with very good results. This may be one of the reasons for its latest success: The Residential Child Care Project has received a $ 2.8 million grant from the U.S. government to establish a Centre for Creating Trauma-Informed Residential Settings and share two of its programs with organisations across the country.

On the basis of the CARE model, the students reflected about the use of models in practice, the assumptions behind different approaches in child and youth care and their own attitudes. They also discussed how to implement a model and the change of mindset required in an organisation. Finally, they exchanged ideas and learnings with three practice experts from different residential care homes in Switzerland who all have international experience in the field, among them the president of FICE Switzerland and two former students of our school, one of them also from FICE.

The seminar is highly participatory and led as an expert dialogue between students, lecturers and guests. Among other things, the students prepared questions about the model to guide discussions, documented and evaluated the seminar days, and autonomously prepared and moderated the workshop with the external guests. This is my favourite way of working. I very much believe that when you provide diverse people with a good space, useful materials and helpful moderation, they will be able to create rich discussions, collaboration and results and enjoy the process. I am happy that this happened in this seminar. The students evaluated the seminar as exciting, varied, well-structured and considered the expert exchanges, didactics and group dynamics its highlights. In fact, they said that the teaching style was different from their everyday experience at ZHAW. The Swiss guests experienced the exchange with the students as enjoyable and valuable. Martha and Jack found the interaction inspiring for their own work and hope to return next year.

Will you join us next year to create a new learning journey with us? I hope so!