Dr Johanna Woodcock Ross

Lecturer in Social Work
+44 (0)1634 888927
Dr Johanna Woodcock Ross


Johanna Woodcock Ross is a keen published researcher, using creative visual methods to push knowledge boundaries and enhance practice strategies in matters of specialist social work communication and professional social work practice with parents. Over the past ten years she has developed the use of forum theatre methods as teaching and research methodologies. Her doctoral study (UCL, University College London) was an empirical study of the communication between social workers and parents of religious faith undergoing parenting assessment, for which she used critical realist principles to uncover deep issues and tensions underlying and influencing the communication processes.

Johanna is a passionate teacher with over twenty years’ experience (from across three Universities) teaching qualifying social work, health, police and education students at postgraduate and undergraduate levels, as well as post-qualified social work and health practitioners (CPD levels). 

Johanna is a registered social worker (HCPC) and holds the Practice Educator (Stage 2) qualification, regularly assessing qualifying students and qualified social workers undertaking specialist level CPD for different councils and independent sector organisations (as consultancy). It was as a social worker, working in the area of child protection within a busy inner-city social work team in Plymouth, that she first became aware of the complexities of practice strategies in working with parents to safeguard and support their families. 

Johanna was awarded her PhD from the UCL Institute of Education. She has an MSc in Social Research (distinction) and BA (Hons) Social Policy and Administration (first class) with the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work, both from the University of Plymouth. She also obtained a Postgraduate Certificate of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education from the University of Plymouth. 

Research interests

Johanna’s current research concerns specialist social work communication with parents of practising Christian faith undergoing parenting assessment by a social worker in statutory Children’s Services. It is a critical realist investigation, using an Archerian interpretive framework to identify theoretical linkages at the interface of structure and agency. 

She is interested in making this project a platform for bids for research funding. She has experienced success in writing and securing bids, including being PI for the competitive Department of Health funded ‘Evaluation of the Impact of the Choosing Health Financial Commitment’ (NIMHE) and subsequent ‘NW Region Boost’ (CSIP NW), as well as PI for the local government funded ‘Redesign of Infant Mental Health Services’ (Plymouth PCT). 

Johanna's published research programmes in peer-assessed journals and books include: 

  • Specialist communication skills’, including secondary analysis of qualitative data to identify systemic barriers to social work communication with parents and the use of street theatre as a research method to elicit communication in different settings. 
  • Social work assessment of parenting’, including the still widely cited quantitative study of the influence of maternal depression and substance use upon parenting and the British Journal of Social Work published qualitative interview study of ‘the social work assessment of parenting’. 

Interested in sociological critique, Johanna has published journal papers identifying professional normative constructions of parenting. Moving onto research of practice strategies in different parenting situations, examples include the qualitative focus group study of child care professionals’ constructions of infant mental health (published in the BJSW) and the Adoption and Fostering journal paper analysing private fostering.


Johanna teaches modules on undergraduate and postgraduate social work programmes.

Johanna’s approach is to bring the reality of frontline practice into the classroom, and she enjoys making use of street theatre techniques, role-play and visual media to do so. She was awarded Fellowship of the Centre for Excellence in Professional Learning (CEPPL) in recognition of innovation funding grants to use street theatre methods to research and teach specialist communication methods 

Johanna has experience of teaching didactic (conference style) lectures to large audiences; discussion orientated seminars with accompanying study tasks (online as well as face-to-face); practical theory-to-practice workshops; and individual supervision/tutorials (via Skype and face-to-face), including those with postgraduate students and research fellows. She supports her teaching with intranet material, such as preparatory study tasks and podcasts posted on Moodle, Blackboard and Tulip. 


Johanna has reviewed research for international funding bodies (ESRC and Israel Research Council) and peer-reviewed journals (Journal of Social Work). 

Johanna has disseminated her research through 'practice guides' for online practice journals such as Community Care Inform and the Social Work Toolkit.


  • HCPC - a registered social worker 
  • UCU - Union member  

Think Kent Lecture Video

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