This unit aims to provide a structural foundation for understanding the development and the dynamics of youth work. It will explore the evolution of youth work within a sociological and cultural framework that discusses the links between health, agency and empowerment, as well as a diverse range of youth work models that support and inform reflexive practitioners. Topics to be covered include the following: concepts of youth: historic and global development of the role of adolescence and the development of specific youth work practices; social, cultural and biological constructs of adolescence; social determinants of health in relation to resilience, risk and protective factors; constructs of marginalisation and disadvantage; identity, agency and empowerment; case studies of significant people who are agents of social change; models of youth work practice – treatment, reform, advocacy; settings and context of youth work.

Unit details

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Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Discuss the role of youth work within the broader context and politics of social change, considering the evolution of youth work in a wide range of social and cultural contexts;  
  2. Analyse specific scenarios or situations; and apply appropriate youth work models and approaches;  
  3. Analyse the risk and protective factors within a range of settings and environments;  
  4. Outline strategies to enhance the agency and empowerment of young people; and  
  5. Communicate effectively, think critically and problem solve a range of issues related to youth work practice.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Other Reflection on evolution of Youth Work (700 words) 25%
Essay Youth Work values (1500 words) 40%
Other Community Map (Infographic) 35%

Required reading

Essential Skills for Youth Work Practice.
Sapin, K., 2013
London: Sage Publications.

Links to electronic readings posted on VU Collaborate.

Where to next?

As part of a course

This unit is studied as part of the following courses. Refer to the course page for information on how to apply for the course.

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