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Knowledge for Social Work - SPY00069M

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Kelly Devenney
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20
    • See module specification for other years: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20 to Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims


This module is intended to provide students with an initial understanding of some of the main types of knowledge that are relevant to social work. The module has a twin track approach: it aims to provide accounts of relevant substantive knowledge, whilst at the same time it aims to encourage critical thinking about the status of such knowledge and its application to social work. The module begins with a primary emphasis on the substantive elements, particularly what we know about human development and what we know about theoretical concepts from various academic disciplines that are utilised in social work practice. As the module progresses, so the emphasis moves towards a developing critique of such theory and knowledge, and finally to the process of critical thinking itself.

Human Development

The module aims to develop an understanding of the psychological, social, cultural, spiritual and physical influences on people; to understand human development through the life span; and to explore how diversity characterises and shapes human experience.

Theory for Social Work

The module aims to introduce, explain and critique a variety of theories and methods of social work practice. It will introduce the fundamental principles of human rights and equality.

Examining Knowledge-Critical Appraisal

The module aims to encourage the critical appraisal of knowledge acquired on the module. The module aims to enable students to gain understanding of, and skills for, critically appraising knowledge claims from a variety of sources in social work. It aims to enable students to contextualise developments in social work within wider debates within the social sciences regarding the nature and status of knowledge, and understand the relevance of these to their practice

Relationship to the domains of the PCF

This module aims to contribute to the ability of students to demonstrate their readiness to practice in the following principle domains:

  • knowledge
  • critical reflection and analysis
  • diversity
  • rights, justice and economic wellbeing

and to contribute to their capabilities in these additional domains:

  • professionalism
  • values and ethics


Module learning outcomes

Subject content

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of core sociological concepts and theories, and their application to social work practice
  • An understanding of core psychological concepts and theories, and their application to social work practice
  • An understanding of core concepts and theories of human development, and their application to social work practice
  • An understanding and application of theories and methods of social work intervention with individuals, families, groups and communities, including the theory and practice of Social Work assessment
  • An understanding of the nature of social work research and its application to practice
  • Knowledge of some key research findings in relation to a variety of service user groups
  • An understanding of the expertise of service users, carers and professionals and its application to social work practice
  • An understanding of diversity in human identity and experience
  • An understanding and application of anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive principles in social work practice
  • An understanding of the principles of rights, justice and economic wellbeing, and theirsignificance for social work practice
  • An understanding of the variety of sources of knowledge that they can draw upon in making decisions and arriving at judgements in social work;
  • An understanding of the distinctive strengths and limitations of knowledge claims made in social work by policy makers, organisations, service users and carers, researchers, and other practitioners
  • Capability to use critical thinking in order to differentiate knowledge which ispotentially useful in practice from that which is not, according to appropriate criteria;

    Academic and graduate skills

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate their ability to appraise the strengths and limitations of arguments,
  • perspectives and knowledge claims according to criteria appropriate to the context
  • demonstrate the ability to critically apply different forms of knowledge to social work practice
  • demonstrate an ability to draw upon multiple sources of knowledge to assist decision-making in complex cases



Task Length % of module mark
Combined Human Development/Theories and Models for Social Work Essay
N/A 66
Examining Knowledge Essay
N/A 34

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Combined Human Development/Theories and Models for Social Work Essay
N/A 66
Examining Knowledge Essay
N/A 34

Module feedback

Students will receive written feedback within four weeks

Indicative reading

  • Adams, R, Dominelli, L & Payne, M (Eds) (2002) Social Work: themes, issues and critical debates. Palgrave/Open University.
  • Aldgate, J. (2005) The developing world of the child. Jessica Kingsley
  • Beckett, C. (2010) Human growth and development. SAGE
  • Bee, H. (2004) The developing child. Allyn and Bacon
  • Bilson, A (ed.) (2005) Evidence based practice and social work, Whiting Birch
  • Boyd, D. R. (2009) Lifespan development. Pearson/Allyn and Bacon
  • Chase-Lansdale, P. (2004) Human development across lives and generations. Cambridge University Press
  • Cowie, H. (2012) From birth to sixteen years :childrens health, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Abingdon : Routledge
  • Crawford, K. (2007) Social work and human development. Learning Matters
  • DCruz, H. and Jones, M. (2004) Social work research: ethical and political contexts, Sage
  • Evans, M. & Hardy, M. (2010) Evidence and knowledge for practice. Polity Press
  • Gambrill, E (2006) Social Work Practice: a critical thinkers guide.
  • Oxford University Press
  • Green, L. (2010) Understanding the life course: sociological and psychological perspectives.Cambridge : Polity
  • Henderson, S. (2006) Inventing adulthoods. Sage
  • Hockey, J.L. (2003) Social identities across the life course. Palgrave Macmillan
  • Ingleby, E. (2006) Applied psychology for social work. Learning Matters
  • James, A. (1997) Constructing and reconstructing childhood. Falmer Press
  • Keenan, T. (2009) An introduction to child development. Sage
  • Kehily, M. J. (2007) Understanding youth. Sage Publications
  • Kirk, S and Reid, W (2002) Science and social work. New York: Columbia University Press
  • Kroger, J. (2000) Identity development : adolescence through adulthood. Sage
  • Lishman, J (2007) Handbook for Practice Learning in Social Work and Social Care. Jessica Kingsley
  • Lymbery, M & Postle, K (2007) Social Work: A companion to learning. Sage.
  • McLaughlin, H (2006) Understanding social work research, London: Sage
  • Munro, E. (1998) Understanding social work: An empirical approach, Athlone Press
  • Munro, E. (2008) Effective child protection (2nd edition), London: Sage
  • Parrish, M. (2010) Social work perspectives on human behaviour. Open University Press
  • Newman, T, Moseley, A, Tierney, S, and Ellis, A (2005) Evidence based social work - a guide for the perplexed, Russell House
  • Orme, J. and Sheppard, M. (2010) Developing research based social work practice, Palgrave Macmillan
  • O Sullivan, T. (2011) Decision making in social work (2nd edition) Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Payne, M (2005) Modern Social Work Theory. Palgrave Macmillan
  • Pawson, R, Boaz, A, Grayson, L, Long, A and Barnes, C (2003) Types and quality of knowledge in social care London: Social Care Institute for Excellence
  • Penn, H. (2008) Understanding early childhood. McGraw-Hill/Open University Press
  • Shaw, I. (2011) Evaluating in practice (2nd edition), Farnham: Ashgate
  • Shaw, I., Briar-Lawson, K., Orme, J and Ruckdeschel R (2009) Sage handbook of social work research London: Sage Publications
  • Sheldon, B & Macdonald, G (2008) The Textbook of Social Work. Routledge.
  • Sheppard, M. (2004) Appraising and using research in human services. Jessica Kingsley
  • Sheppard, M. (2006) Social work and social exclusion: The idea of practice, Ashgate
  • Slater, A. (2011) An introduction to developmental psychology. Wiley Smith, D (ed.) (2004) Social work and evidence based practice London: Jessica Kingsley
  • Smith, P. K. (2011) Understanding childrens development. Wiley
  • Smith, R. (2009) Doing social work research, Basingstoke: Open University Press
  • Sudbery, J. (2010) Human growth and development. Routledge Taylor, B. (ed.) Professional decision making in social work practice, Learning Matters
  • Taylor, C. and White, S. (2001) Practicing reflexivity in health and welfare: Making knowledge, Open University Press
  • Trinder, L and Reynolds, S (Eds.) (2000) Evidence based practice - a critical appraisal, Blackwell
  • Webber, M. (2011) Evidence - based policy and practice in mental health social work. 2nd edition. Learning Matters
  • Webber, M. (ed) (2014) Applying research evidence in social work practice. Palgrave Macmillan
  • Wenar, C. (2005) Developmental psychopathology. McGraw-Hill
  • White, S. and Stancombe, J. (2003) Clinical judgement in the health and welfare professions: Extending the evidence base, Open University Press
  • White, S., Fook, J. and Gardner, F. (2006) Critical reflection in health and social care, Open University Press
  • Wilson, K, Ruch, G, Lymbery, M & Cooper, A (2008) Social Work: An introduction to contemporary practice. Pearson.


The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

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