Becoming a critical social work practitioner
Becoming a critical social work practitioner

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Becoming a critical social work practitioner

3.4 Sarah and John talking under a streetlight

Activity 7

1 hour 30 minutes

Read the Case Study ‘Sarah's story: Under the streetlight [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Using the approach taken by Cooper (2008) in the reading, and the case studies from this activity and Activity 6, sketch out some responses to the following questions:

  1. How would you now analyse what is being said by John and Sarah to each other?

  2. To what extent are Sarah and John able to ‘listen and respond’ to each other? What may be the different constraints?

  3. Is John taking the best approach? Do you agree with what John is saying and trying to do in the different sequences?

  4. What did you think of John's final question? Given the reaction, would you have pursued it further?

  5. Would you have taken a different approach in this situation? If so, what and why?

  6. In what ways has your understanding of the interaction between John and Sarah been influenced by the three readings in this course?


These are all complex questions that, in different ways, go to the heart of why social work is often a very difficult business! Consequently, there are few, if any, absolutely ‘right’ answers to these questions. Your responses are a matter of critical judgement for you in the light of the information available. You may feel that you haven't got enough information for ‘the full picture’ – but this is not unusual. In social work it is doubtful whether a ‘full picture’ is ever possible. You are often likely to be working in situations where the background is sketchy and incomplete or where the situation is unstable and changeable. In such dynamic scenarios there is a need to develop working hypotheses and understandings and maintain an approach that revises these in the light of your enquiries, interventions and other developments as they unfold.


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