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Introducing social work: a starter kit
Introducing social work: a starter kit

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Introduction and overview


This course is called a ‘starter kit’ because it assumes that the average learner will not have very much, or maybe will have no previous background, of formally studying about social work. It may be though that many starter kit learners will have previously acted in a helping capacity to other people in lots of different ways. It is likely therefore that many learners will bring to this course a wide range of hugely relevant practice-wisdom resulting from their own direct experience.

Whatever your background to date, hopefully this course will provide you with a series of new ideas and new ways of thinking about many of the key aspects of social work. By definition, starter kits get you up and running. They include a highly selected and slimmed-down collection of items that when constructed and used, provide a reasonably realistic working-model of what a more fully developed version may feel like. Hopefully, you will find that this starter kit does not have too many odd-looking levers and buttons to get in the way of you learning about some of the core elements of social work practice.

This course provides an excellent overview of the kinds of thinking and the styles of reflection that are required and take place ‘under the hood’ of professional social work today.

The course is split into four sessions:

  • Session 1 What is social work?: Here you will look at definitions of social work as well as social work roles and what social workers do.
  • Session 2 What makes a good social worker?: In this session you will explore the importance of communication, empathy and creating rapport in social work. You will also look at how to communicate with children and working with families.
  • Session 3 Understanding social divisions and diversity: In this session you’ll look at the subject of poverty, social exclusion and diversity, and why social workers need to appreciate the influence of these issues in their work.
  • Session 4 Understanding human development: The final session explores why a knowledge of human development is essential for working in social work and social care.

Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • appreciate in greater depth what professional social work is, and what it is not, and learn that on occasions you are able to ‘think like a social worker’
  • identify some of the principal components of the communication skills applicable to social work and to understand that social work is based on a series of clear values and ethical principles to which professional social workers subscribe
  • understand why social workers hold as central the direct involvement of service users in decision making regarding their lives
  • appreciate the impact of oppression and social exclusion in the lives of individuals and communities, and why it is important for social workers to take these factors into account in their work
  • understand some of the ways in which the patterns in human development offer important clues for understanding the nature of people’s motivations, choices and behaviours.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course K832 Developing social work practice [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .