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BA (Honours) Social Work (England) - Learning outcomes

Educational aims

The degree aims to equip students as competent beginner social workers.  In order to do this your studies will:

  • prepare you for work with individuals families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals
  • instruct you how to plan, carry out, review and evaluate social work practice
  • provide you with the necessary skills needed to support individuals to represent their needs, views and circumstances
  • instruct you on how to manage risk to individuals, families, etc.
  • show you how to manage and be accountable, with supervision and support, for your own social work practice within your organisation
  • enable you to demonstrate professional competence in social work practice.

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes are described in four areas. Within these four areas we emphasise achievable outcomes for students who have chosen a degree in social work and who are learning at a distance and in the workplace.

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will have knowledge and understanding of:

  • issues and trends in modern public and social policy, and their relationship to contemporary practice and service delivery
  • social processes such as racism, poverty, poor health and other sources of disadvantage, and how these are associated with processes of marginalisation, risks of crime and exclusion
  • competing explanations for the characteristics and circumstances of people who use services and for the range of perceived needs, including psychological and physiological
  • theoretical ideas and evidence from research on effective human services, including critical and competing explanations from social work theory and other relevant disciplines
  • the legal basis of human services and the role of professions, such as social work in relation to such social processes
  • the roles and significant inter-relationships between a range of services, including social services, education, housing, health and criminal justice
  • the complex relationships and ethical/practical dilemmas surrounding justice, care and control in social welfare and community justice
  • the significance of interpersonal and sociocultural factors in the delivery of human services in a diverse society
  • the nature of professional judgement and processes of risk assessment, including an understanding of nature of risk and harm
  • approaches and methods of intervention in a range of family, community-based or group care settings
  • up-to-date legislation defining the rights of people, equal opportunities legislation, measures to tackle discrimination, and the roles of statutory agents, such as social workers, with a duty to uphold the law and protect the public
  • codes of practice, the regulation of professional conduct, practice guidelines and the values underpinning them.

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • gather information from a wide range of sources, taking account of different views and being able to analyse and evaluate critically
  • consider and evaluate specific factors relevant to practice, such as risk, rights, identity and vulnerability
  • synthesise knowledge from contributing disciplines in order to apply it to an understanding and analysis of the situation and circumstances
  • critically evaluate evidence from research and be able to apply it and to think logically, even under pressure
  • review and evaluate policies, judgements, decisions and interventions designed to be effective in mitigating personal and social disadvantage and risk.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to fulfil the Professional Capabilities Framework for social work, at a qualifying level
  • demonstrate an understanding of the ethical basis of social work and the underpinning values of social work practice
  • have knowledge of the theoretical basis of social work and apply this to practice
  • demonstrate an awareness of current research in both theory and practice; to have the ability to critically evaluate research evidence
  • work within the legal framework for practice
  • work in partnership with users and other professionals
  • practise critical self-reflection and engage in professional development.

Key skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to demonstrate the following skills:


You will be able to:

  • communicate effectively with individuals, groups and organisations, in a range of formal and informal situations
  • present information and arguments verbally, in writing and using electronic communications, in a structured form that is logical, coherent and appropriate to the audience
  • gather, select and manage information from a wide range of sources and in a variety of ways, for a range of purposes.  These methods should include electronic searches using the internet, use of electronic databases, reviews of written materials and face to face, written and telephone contact with individuals and groups.

Application of number

You will be able to:

  • calculate, analyse figures and interpret data in both statistical and financial contexts.

Information technology

You will be able to use:

  • digital literacy skills at a level required for social work graduates
  • information and communication technology methods and techniques for a variety of purposes including professional communication, data storage and retrieval, information searching and resource management.

Learning - how to learn

You will be able to:

  • critically evaluate information, arguments and assumptions, being aware of different viewpoints, the authority of source, the limitations of techniques and the limit of their knowledge
  • manage your own learning through the identification of learning needs, objective setting, monitoring progress by critical reflection, identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve, and responding to feedback.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Core knowledge and understanding are acquired via the use of specially prepared distance-learning materials, including specially written study materials, learning guides, reference texts and web-based resources with integrated audio and video material. Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning, and you will be required to complete scheduled assignments, which may take the form of essays, case studies and so on.

Cognitive skills are promoted by the critical approach of the prepared texts and the other module resources. You are encouraged to develop your own skills through the materials and workshops. As you progress through the levels of the programme, you will be expected to demonstrate a capacity to describe and articulate key understandings, then to examine, evaluate and compare different accounts and competing evidence.  At honours level you will be expected to analyse critically, taking account of the basis of any evidence and reviewing the level of risk and implications of any consequent actions. These skills are assessed through the assignments.

Key skills development and assessment will be established through OU level 1 modules, with digital literacy skills being particularly prominent in order to lay down a foundation capability for using digital literacy skills to a standard required for social work graduates and developing further information literacy and learning skills in later modules. The key introductory OU level 1 module assumes that you are new to degree level study and offers carefully paced and structured support in developing study skills and basic information handling and communication skills. It is complemented by the first practice module, which develops the skills and knowledge necessary for readiness for direct practice. The OU level 2 practice module will require you to build and apply key skills in undertaking a series of learning activities/assignments centred on social work practice situations. By level 3, the relevant key skills will be expected to be integrated into your performance, demonstrating your ability to fulfil the key professional roles, with emphasis on consolidation of information literacy and collaborative learning skills development to equip you for continuing professional development.

Practical and professional skills will be developed on the three practice learning modules at each of the levels. Teaching will be delivered in workshops and during practice. Each workshop will include participation in activities to develop ability to understand key concepts and develop practice skills: full attendance at all workshops is expected. Written assessment will require demonstration of an understanding of the theoretical basis of social work and how this applies to practice. It will be necessary for you to show an ability to reflect on your practice. The written assignments will be an opportunity for you to show integration of the learning across the programme. Practice learning opportunities will be assessed by a practice educator, who will make an assessment of practice using the College of Social Work Professional Capabilities Framework.