This unit of study requires students to review and critically reflect in depth on social work theory and practice. It will take a critically reflective approach to further develop and consolidate students' generic knowledge, skills and practice theories by examining some of the newer developments in social work theory (critical social work including anti-oppressive social work, critical reflection, critical postmodernism, social constructivism, international social work and social movement activism). This unit will assist students to develop a practice for life-long learning and critical reflection in order to be able to respond to more complex issues in practice. A critical framework for evaluating effectiveness of self as well as knowledge and practice skills will be explored in the current debates about social work's efficacy and its future role in the helping professions.

Unit details

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96 credit points of first year core ABSW units.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Contextualise key critical theoretical perspectives and place these in settings such as historical, cultural, political, economic and social environments;  
  2. Critique a range of critical social work theories and analyse their efficacy in social work practice contexts;  
  3. Discuss critically, the complexities, ambiguities, uncertainties and challenges of the contemporary social structures that impact on clients' lives and the implications for social work practice; and  
  4. Contextualise a critical practice framework to a specific situation to demonstrate professional-appropriate reflexivity.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Review Review of readings linked to current issue (1,000 words) 30%
Project 'Whiteness' Inventory and reflection: 10 examples of social practices that convey ‘white is the norm’ or ‘white is superior’ (1,800 words) 45%
Presentation Group film study (12-minute presentation), 1000 word equivalent) 25%
To gain a pass in this unit students must attain a minimum overall grade of 50% and attempt and submit all assessment tasks. Each assessment task covers discrete areas of knowledge and skill required for the successful completion of the social work course.

Required reading

Engaging with Social Work 2nd ed.
Morley, C., Macfarlane, S & Ablett, P., (2019)
Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne

This textbook will be used in other units, including field work (ASW4002 and ASW4004) and the course capstone unit. This textbook will be used in other units including those related to field work and the course capstone unit . Additional reading materials are documented in the Unit Guide and provided 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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