This unit of study introduces students to a range of theoretical approaches underpinning social work practice, from the conventional or traditional to the progressive or critical. It examines how all practice approaches incorporate theoretical and ideological assumptions - and how therefore, the construction of solutions to address disadvantage and create social change demands social work practice that is informed by theory. The application of theory to practice will be explored through the extensive use of case studies. The unit will introduce critical social work theories and frameworks that will be covered in more depth in the Critical Social Work Theories (ASW2104) unit of study.

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. Critically reflect on how social work theories have been constructed within the historical and global context of social work practice;  
  2. Discuss social work theories and their practice principles for use in the current context of social work practice;  
  3. Evaluate different theoretical approaches for application to a series of case-studies;  
  4. Differentially apply selected theoretical approaches to a case study.  


Attendance at lectures and tutorials in this unit of study is compulsory. This means that students are required to attend at least 80% of classes. If they miss more than two weeks of classes they must apply for and be granted Special Consideration in order to pass the unit of study. This attendance requirement contributes to the Bachelor of Social Work meeting the attendance requirements specified in the Australian Association of Social Workers accreditation guidelines.
Assessment type Description Grade
Review Review of weekly readings (800 words) 25%
Test Written answers to questions on a case study in open book test (1800 words) 40%
Case Study Group presentation of theoretical perspective and written reflection on a case study (1,000 words) 35%

Required reading

Students will be asked to read more widely than the required text.

Social work from theory to practice, 2nd ed.
Connolly, M and Harms, L., (2015)
Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne

Additional information regarding required and recommended reading is provided in the Unit Guide and through 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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