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SP20025: Theories & methods in social work

[Page last updated: 01 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Intermediate (FHEQ level 5)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Assessment Group S: CW (100%) (CW 100% - Qualifying Mark: 40)
  • Assessment Group N: CW (100%) (CW 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Learning Outcomes: 1. To develop an understanding of a range of social work theories and methods.
2. To develop a critical, analytical and reflective understanding of the theories and methods used for intervention with individuals, families, groups and communities. PCF 5.8.
3.To equip students to engage in self-assessment and evaluation of learning and practice;
4. To clarify the links between theory and practice
5. To enable students to apply theories and methods to social work practice.

Aims: This unit aims to:
1. introduce students to the theories and methods having most relevance in contemporary social work practice.
2. enable students to demonstrate a critical knowledge of the range of theories and models for social work intervention with individuals, families, groups and communities, and the methods derived from them.
3. ensure that students meet both the Standards of Proficiency (HCPC) and Professional Capabilities Framework (TCSW) in relation to social work theories & methods.

Skills: Application of theories and intervention methods:
1. Demonstrate application of theories and intervention methods to example practice situations from the viewpoint of a social worker while paying particular attention to the various non-therapeutic settings in which social workers can practice. (taught and facilitated) PCF 5.8; 7.5
2. Examine the research and evidence base to determine the effectiveness of such interventions in particular settings with particular populations. (taught and assessed) PCF 5.1; 7.5
3. Critique how the theories and intervention methods either help or hinder in practising anti-oppressively (taught, facilitated and assessed)
4. Consider the cultural and ethical issues in implementing the intervention methods in different situations (e.g. substance abuse; mental health; caring roles) with different populations, ethnicities and cultures (taught, facilitated and assessed) PCF7.10
Skills necessary to implement and evaluate intervention methods:
5. Combine communication skills and relationship-based social work skills with the intervention method (taught and facilitated)
6. Critically analyse the usefulness of applying the theories and methods to social work practice with individuals, families, groups or communities, paying particular regard to empowerment and anti-discriminatory practice (taught, facilitated and assessed) PCF 2.2; 2.3
7. Critically assess the strengths and limitations of social work theories and methods (taught, facilitated and assessed)
8. Engage in critical reflection to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention methods, alongside obtaining service user and carer feedback (taught, facilitated and assessed) PCF 2.4; 6.2; 6.4

Content: The relationship between theory and practice is examined critically and the question 'what works in social work?' is posed. An overview of theories which impact upon social work is given and distinctions drawn between the broad theoretical perspectives which underpin practice and those theories of social work methods which more closely prescribe action. To meet the learning needs of future practitioners, theories and methods which have most relevance to present day social work are selected as the knowledge base most likely to inform future practice.
They include:
* Social Constructivism and critical theory
* Feminist, Radical, Anti-Racist and Black Perspectives
* Systems theory, ecological perspectives and family therapy
* Cognitive behavioural theory and motivational interviewing
* Strengths Perspectives and Narrative approaches
* Solution focused practice
* Psychodynamic theories
* Person centred approach and counselling skills
* Empowerment theory and application to practice
* Task centred approach and Crisis intervention
Aspects of relationship-based practice and anti-discriminatory practice will be woven into the fabric of the unit and throughout the lecture programme. Various styles of adult learning are used and students are expected to participate in small groups, role plays and other exercises. Placement experiences provide illustrations of theories and methods in practice and also case examples for analysis.

Programme availability:

SP20025 is a Designated Essential Unit on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB15 : BSc(Hons) Social Work and Applied Social Studies (Year 2)

SP20025 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
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