Students’ learning reflections when using works of fiction in social work education

Laura Tarkiainen, Eveliina Heino, Maria Tapola-Haapala, Hanna Kara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


This article focuses on the analysis of 14 social work students’ MA course assignments using Lucia Berlin’s short story entitled ‘Good and Bad’. Our focus is twofold: We ask 1) How do social work students describe their learning when analysing Berlin’s short story; and 2) what kinds of skills do they identify as resulting from this learning? Our analysis indicates that social work students view the use of works of fiction in social work instruction as useful for their education in two key ways. First, in most cases, students found that analysing fiction enhanced their analytical strategies, such as advancing their ability to think critically and apply theoretical knowledge in practice. Second, students viewed the analysis of fiction as helpful in adopting skills relevant to social work practitioners, referring, for example, to emotional labour and to operating in situations that involve conflicting interpretations. We conclude that the use of fiction in social work education is beneficial when students are given explicit guidelines regarding how to place fiction into the context of academic theories, scientific knowledge and epistemological considerations. In addition, to enhance students’ learning, encouraging students to self-reflect is vital to discussing their reflections and interpretations in face-to-face encounters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1722-1734
Issue number8
Early online date17 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • fiction
  • learning
  • Literature
  • social work
  • student perspective

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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