Foundations of Social Work Theory and Practice

The details
Health and Social Care (School of)
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
18 March 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

DIP L50017 Social Work,
MA L50021 Social Work

Module description

This course is designed to enhance students’ critical understanding and awareness of the intricate interplay between power dynamics, social structures and social processes that shape the lives of people and communities in our world. It provides an exploration of fundamental principles, theories, and practices that underpin the field of social work, with a particular focus on fostering social justice, embracing diversity, and addressing oppression. Emphasizing ethico-political considerations and practices, the course equips students with the tools to navigate the complexities of social work, promoting inclusivity and empowering them to advocate for positive change in diverse and marginalized communities and people. Through this lens, students will use theory and research knowledge to engage with critique in challenging preconceived ideas and assumptions related to historical and contemporary forms of oppression, and in informing social work practice for change.

Learning is organised around practice themes, such as: social justice, human rights, anti-racist and anti-oppressive social work, strengths- and asset-based approaches in working with individual and communities, radical and critical social work, decolonisation of social work, LGBTQ+ social work, etc. There is a specific focus on the development of the profession in response to the evolution of social justice and human rights thinking and the complex relationships the vocation entails between social control, social change, advocacy and the promotion of wellbeing across diverse populations.

Module aims

The module aims to provide the students with opportunities to critically examine the role and function of social work and consider how these have developed in response to evolving conceptions of human rights. This broader understanding will inform a more focussed exploration of a range of intervention strategies used in the promotion of independence and the safeguarding of vulnerability as a way to think through tensions and contradictions between social control and empowerment inherent in the social work vocation

Module learning outcomes

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

  1. Critically examine the development of the role and function of social work provision.

  2. Distinguish between and identify the impact of theoretical approach/perspective on professional conceptions of and responses to human rights.

  3. Critically analyse and evaluate social work methods, interventions and theories of practice.

  4. Plan, implement and evaluate work to promote independence and/or safeguard vulnerable service users.

Module information

This module considers social work's rich and contested history and the evolution of its core values. It does this by examining a range of sociological and psychological theories, models and perspectives of human behaviour and some aspects of human growth and development that are dealt with in more detail in the Life Span and Development module. The Social Work Theories and Methods module is intended to furnish students with some of the underpinning knowledge they will need to engage in effective practice. As with other modules in the social work programme there will be specific consideration given to the role of human rights, collective responsibilities and respect for diversity that have informed the development of social work as a field of enquiry and vocational practice.

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures: As noted above it is expected that lectures will be incorporated within the scheduled days of teaching and learning activity as outlined in the attached timetable. Independent: The taught sessions will be followed by a period of observed practice as students prepare for and complete the assessment requirements for this module. Online: A range of materials and resources relating to this module are available through the MA Social Work Moodle site. Students should upon registering for this module be able to access this Moodle course by going to https://moodle.essex.ac.uk or by accessing Moodle via the 'my study' section of the main University of Essex website. If you are experiencing any technical difficulties with Moodle then please contact; helpdesk@essex.ac.uk Tutorials: On commencing the course students will be allocated an Academic Supervisor, (usually the module leader). Academic Supervisors will support the student in the preparation of the module assessment. Students will be expected to meet with their Academic Supervisor on a regular basis throughout the course. Arrangements for supervision will be the responsibility of the student. Any student may elect to change his/her Academic Supervisor following discussion with the module or programme Leader or the Director of Education. Students are expected to maintain contact with their academic and practice Supervisors throughout the module. Tutorial sessions will be negotiated between student and supervisor. It expected that tutorial support and supervision will total no more than 2 full days over the period of the module.


  • Oko, Juliette. (2011) Understanding and using theory in social work, Exeter [England]: Learning Matters Ltd.
  • British Association of Social Workers. (no date) British journal of social work, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • (1999-) International social work, London: Sage Publications.
  • Ingleby, Ewan. (2010) Applied psychology for social work, Exeter: Learning Matters.
  • (no date) Critical and Radical Social Work.
  • Lundy, Colleen. (©2011) Social work, social justice & human rights: a structural approach to practice, North York, Ont: University of Toronto Press.
  • Robbie Duschinsky. (2013) 'Fluency in social work essays', in Social Work and Social Sciences Review. vol. 17 (1) , pp.49-63
  • Llewellyn, Anne; Agu, Lorraine; Mercer, David. (2015) Sociology for social workers, Cambridge: Polity.
  • Harris, J. (2008-04-15) 'State Social Work: Constructing the Present from Moments in the Past', in British Journal of Social Work. vol. 38 (4) , pp.662-679

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay    100% 

Additional coursework information

Essay (2,500 words)

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Konstantinos Roussos, email: k.roussos@essex.ac.uk.
Jakub Kulesza Student Programme Administrator pgsocwork@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Mrs Karen Jane Hubbard
University of Hull
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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