Social work training or social work education? An approach to curriculum design

Article English OPEN
Ring, C (2014)

Population ageing, economic circumstances, and human behaviour are placing social welfare systems under great strain. In England extensive reform of the social work profession is taking place. Training curricula are being redesigned in the context of new standards of competence for social workers – the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). Students must be equipped on qualifying to address an extensive range of human problems, presenting major challenges to educators. Critical theory suggests an approach to tackle one such challenge – selecting the essential content required for areas of particular practice. Teaching on social work with older people is used to illustrate this. Habermas’ theory of cognitive interests highlights the different professional roles served by the social work knowledge base - instrumental, interpretive, and emancipatory. Howe’s application of sociological theory distinguished four social work roles corresponding to these. It is suggested that curriculum design decisions must enable practitioners to operate in each. When preparing students to work with older people, educators therefore need to include interpretive and emancipatory perspectives, and not construct social work purely as an instrumental response to problems older people present. This approach provides one useful rationale for curriculum design decisions, which is applicable to other areas of practice, and to contexts outside England.
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