Workshop on Practitioner and Research Teams


Robert Abramovitz, Chief Psychiatrist, Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, New York, NY

What Makes for Successful Practitioner and Researcher Collaboration


Denise Burnette, Assistant Professor, Columbia University School of Social Work, New York, New York, NY; Audrey S. Weiner, Director of Mental Health Services for Older Adults, Jewish Board of Family and Children's services, New York, NY

Dr. Burnette, A university-based researcher, and Ms. Weiner, an agency-based practitioner, described their collaborative experience, developed under Center Auspices. They presented the status of and gaps in relevant practice knowledge in a substantive area, the evolution of their respective roles and responsibilities, and the advantages and obstacles to collaboration. As practice-research partners, they were interested in building practice-relevant knowledge in the field of aging. Heir first project wa s to develop a research proposal to improve the delivery of mental health services to older adults to the partnership as well as shared professional interests, mutual regard for complementary talents and strengths and compatible personal characteristics. Among its advantages, this type of partnership 1) capitalizes on individual strengths and diverse agency resources; 2) expands conventional university-based research to a more grounded practice arena and a wider community audience; 3) demonstrates to the community and potential funding sources about the seriousness of an agency's commitment to program development and improved practice; 4) provides case-based and agency-based material for classroom and fieldwork education; and 5) provides support for educa ting master's and doctoral students in agency-based research.


The Practitioner-Researcher Team: A case Example


Rita Beck Black, Associate Professor, Columbia University School of Social Work, New York, NY; Virginia N. Walther, Senior Assistant Director of Social Work Services, The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Instructor, the Mount Sinai School of M edicine, New York, NY

A four-year practitioner-researcher partnership served as the basis for Dr. Black and Ms. Weiner, this ream discussed a partnership marked initially by informality, brought together by colleagues in common. Emphasizing that their collaboration consiste ntly has been marked by flexibility in roles, they noted that Dr. Black is an academic who not only thinks like but also sometimes is a practitioner, while Ms. Walther is a practitioner/social work administrator who not only thinks like but also sometimes is a researcher. Dr. Black and Ms. Walther identified six themes in their collabnoration:1) mutual professional respect for each other's expertise and recognition of the partnership as reciprocity in action; 2) equal involvement in all phases of project creation and execution; 3) shared commitment to inquiry, with freedom from political or institutional agendas; 4) open recognition that social work research can, and often will serve multiple masters and achieve multiple goals; 5) commitment to relevance to practice; and 6) supportive context conductive to collaborative research efforts. They described their evolving process of "grounded theory-reflection-in-action," in which research grows out of listening to clients and reflecting both about research qu estions and appropriate methodologies for guiding inquiry